*In the last week in the county where I live four boys in junior high school were accused of sexually assaulting two girls aged twelve and fourteen.
The crime that they are accused of is especially heinous involving repeated offenses over a number of days in which the boys entered the girls’ residence illegally and physically restrained the girls so that one of their cohorts could commit the primary crime.
Inevitably someone used this incident to draw conclusions about society in general saying that the United States today operates in a rape culture.
I am not about to defend the boys because I don’t know any of the facts of the case outside of what I’ve read in the newspaper. But I will defend the country at large.
As much as there is that is wrong in this country, a rape culture is not present. Anyone who would make such a claim gives the impression that our society accepts the actions of boys and men who would force themselves on females. But that is hardly true. In fact men living in today’s American are more likely today to be convicted of sexual assault than in any other time in recorded human history.
Consider that a few generations ago women had no recourse when they were sexually harassed in their workplaces. Men could defend themselves against charges of rape by asserting that the woman was not a virgin. Women in this country have been banned from voting, forbidden from owning property in some states, and generally made to be an accessory to men. But none of these things are true of contemporary society.
While claiming American society operates within a rape culture is incorrect, it would be accurate to say that our current culture is over-sexualized. There is a critical difference to note though. Our society expects that people will have sex and produces images that correlate to this expectation. This is different from a society that turns a blind eye to sexual assault. Also noteworthy is that men and women are equally expected to have sex, even if our reaction to both is different.
But the commentators I read did not complain about the double standard in terms of the sexual conduct of men and women. Indeed such a complaint would have been inappropriate. Nevertheless that does not absolve them of asserting falsehoods that are reflect badly on our country and culture.
These types of generalizations are typical in our society because of the need to blow things out of proportion. Any good deed is said to be the greatest ever. Any negative is a sign of how doomed our country is. The truth is the United States is humming along and not the best or worst at anything. Generalizations to the contrary are lazy.
The truth is that the boys in this case, if they really committed these crimes, are indicative of poor morals, not a morally corrupt society. And that is all that need be said.
Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War. His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @historictrev.