“So-Called Rape” or Richard Cohen is an Embarrassment.

Remember what I said the other day about mainstream publications and the publishing of rape apologia?

Here’s Richard Cohen of The Washington Post to back me up.


Presumably, Cohen is here to explain why Miley Cyrus shouldn’t twerk and how twerking leads to becoming a victim of rape.

That would be ridiculous enough, but along the way he makes the case that the Steubenville rape wasn’t a real rape.

The first thing you should know about the so-called Steubenville Rape is that this was not a rape involving intercourse. The next thing you should know is that there weren’t many young men involved — just two were convicted. The next thing you should know is that just about everything you do know about the case from TV and the Internet was wrong. One medium fed the other, a vicious circle of rumor, innuendo and just plain lies. It made for marvelous television.

The so-called rape.

The New Yorker piece was done by Ariel Levy, a gifted writer. When I finished her story, I felt somewhat disconcerted — unhappily immersed in a teenage culture that was stupid, dirty and so incredibly and obliviously misogynistic that I felt like a visitor to a foreign country. That country, such as it is, exists on the Internet — in e-mails and tweets and Facebook, which formed itself into a digital lynch mob that demanded the arrest of the innocent for a crime — gang rape — that had not been committed. It also turned the victim into a reviled public figure, her name and picture (passed out, drunk) available with a Google query.

According to Richard Cohen, the boys who were shot on video, seen in photographs, witnessed by numerous peers, arrested, tried, and convicted were innocent! And, worst of all, the photographic evidence that a rape had been committed turned the victim into a “reviled public figure,” never mind that it also lead to the conviction of her rapists.

The existence of Google and public knowledge of the story is a clearly bad thing because society obviously can’t handle treating the victim with respect. And the answer to this, I assume, is to simply not talk about the case or prosecute the rapists using photographic evidence. Because if we just sweep it under the rug, the victim won’t have to become reviled. And everyone’s happy, right?

What Cohen does not mention is that there never would have been a trial without the accompanying public outrage. It took a literal march of digital vigilantes in Guy Fawkes masks to convince authorities to prosecute the case. And this public outrage was spurned on by the existence of the video and photographs that Cohen wishes didn’t exist.

But, wait, what the hell does this have to do with Miley Cyrus twerking?


I’ve read this entire column several times and I still don’t know how you go from Point A (Miley Cyrus twerking) to Point B (the Steubenville Rape) to Point C (twerking causes rape) or how Point A could even be seen as a starting-off point for a discussion of “so-called” rape.

In either case, Richard Cohen is blaming the victim. Because if young women and girls would stop dancing suggestively thereby debasing teen culture, they wouldn’t become victims of rape. It’s all their fault. Because the boy seen in the video saying “they raped her harder than that cop raped Marsellus Wallace in “Pulp Fiction.”. . . She is so raped right now,” wouldn’t have said that if his culture hadn’t been debased by twerking and dirty teen temptresses.

And at his most get-off-my-lawn moment, Cohen blames The Google and cellphones for turning victims of rape into reviled public figures, not the misogynistic rape culture he claims to abhor

Youtube and twerking didn’t turn the Steubenville rapists into misogynistic cavemen, but that is a convenient explanation that fits nicely into Cohen’s limited worldview.

The last time Richard Cohen was in the news, it was because he blamed hoodies and “Barry Obama” for perpetuating racist stigma. He’s on a roll.

  • Runt

    Why does the Washington Post even allow Richard Cohen to write about this subject? It’s not like they don’t know his history. Are there no editors?

  • mrbrink

    I’m sure Richard Cohen has watched that Miley Cyrus video over and over and over. Back, and to the left… back, and to the left… you know? for research!

    Dirty old man.

    So, no word on when we’re going to begin teaching boys not to be rapists?

  • muselet

    Shorter Richard Cohen: O tempora o mores!

    Alternative shorter Richard Cohen: I don’t know any women under the age of 60.

    How is it that this man is still employed?


  • formerlywhatithink

    First the Washington Post allows some idiot to claim there’s nothing wrong with teachers raping underage students now we have this idiot playing the “blame the victim” game. It seems that their choice to march into obscurity and stupidity continues.

  • Steven Skelton

    In either case, Richard Cohen is blaming the victim…..

    I have a 13 year old daughter. Teaching her how to decrease the likelihood of being raped is in no way blaming victims.

    I would much rather be politically incorrect by teaching her not to get passed out drunk at a party full of high school boys than be silenced by the deafening screams of “rape culture” and “victim blaming.” (whatever the hell those terms mean.)

    • Tie Dye’s Momma

      Victim Blaming is the idea that it doesn’t matter if the victim does everything “right,” he (because yes, surprisingly, boys and males are regularly sexually assaulted too) or she’s still responsible for other peoples’ actions because she’s female or because he wasn’t “strong” enough to stop the attack. Rape Culture is the prevailing attitude that when someone has unwanted intercourse of any kind, there has to be a way it’s the victim’s “fault”; rapists are never fully responsible for their actions because the victim “asked for it” somehow– by going to a party and drinking, by living alone, by daring to go to school or ride a bus, by being perceived as “weak”. Rape Culture says that we exist for and at the pleasure of others, not to live our lives the way we want without being responsible for sexual assault, harassment, and stalking. If you wouldn’t teach your son the same things you’re teaching your daughter, you’re part of the problem.

      • cleos_mom

        It’s a familiar pattern that isn’t specific to our own culture. Many restrictive laws and customs aimed at women are defended on the grounds that these prevent men from being ‘tempted’. Of course, if that was what was operating, those restrictions should be put on men.

    • Felonious Grammar

      So, if she were raped, would you ask her what she did to make/let it happen?

      • dbtheonly


        Just ’cause Skelton said it doesn’t mean he doesn’t make some sense. We need to teach our Daughters that there are sexual predators out there & just like in nature prey needs to act in ways to deflect predators; they need to act in ways not to attract sexual predators. What those predators do is wrong; but I don’t have the power to stop them. Our Daughters need to decide what reasonable measures will best keep them safe.

        We simply can not deny that there are predators.

        Lord Willing none of us will ever have to decide what to do if one of our Daughters is assaulted.

        • Vermillion

          Then why bother holding the sexual predator to task at all? The way you make it sound, they can’t help it. It is just their nature. They are gonna do what they do, and the best anyone can do is hide away and hope they don’t see you. Sacrifice the ones to slow or too weak to fight, hide, or run. They should have known better.

          I have language like “sexual predator” because it glorifies and excuses such behavior. Oh he didn’t mean it. It is just his nature. He couldn’t help it. If she had better camouflage, his desires wouldn’t have been ignited, and he wouldn’t have done what he did. Why the hell should she be responsible for HIS desires?

          Going down this road is giving rapists exactly what they want: excuse after excuse after excuse. Making your daughter aware is one thing, but going too far into it takes away any of the responsibility on the part of the rapist. Nobody should feel entitled to another person’s body. We are NOT animals. We CAN and DO control our baser impulses. That is what makes us human.

          • dbtheonly

            People make choices. Some people make bad choices. Some choose not to control their baser instincts. It is both foolish & illogical to ignore the existence of sexual predators. It is unwise to allow them to control your life. There is a balance that needs be struck.

          • Vermillion

            There is no balance to be struck. There is right and wrong. Somebody deciding their base desires override another person’s rights to their body and mind are wrong. Making a girl feel bad because she made her choices doesn’t help stop an attacker from making theirs.

            Yes, they shouldn’t control your life. But, by saying your daughter has to watch out and only do things that won’t attract attention to herself, aren’t they still controlling her life in a way? Isn’t that trading essential freedom for temporary security?

            And what happenes when all the tactics don’t work? What happens when she assaulted by someone she knows and trusts (which is a large majority of rape, rather than “stranger in a dark alley”)? Is she not allowed to trust ANYONE?

          • Kitty Smith

            All I can say is, that while teaching women how to recognize potential predators (and reminding them that if they end up preyed upon that it is not their fault), well….

            This. Just this.

          • dbtheonly

            Agree & would only add, and showing ways to avoid/resist potential predators

          • dbtheonly

            “aren’t they still controlling her life in a way”
            “Isn’t that trading essential freedom for temporary security?”
            “Is she not allowed to trust ANYONE?”

            We teach defensive driving. We teach password/internet security. We teach not to answer those e-mails from the FBI, UN Fraud Fund, or Barrister David Ombango. In each case we recognize that crazies, fraudsters, or criminals are out there.

            When I do not respond to an aggressive driver, has he controlled my life in a way? When I change my passwords am I “trading an essential freedom”?

            No, in each case, I am recognizing that there are bad people out there. People who wish me no good. And taking steps to limit or prevent their ability to harm/injure me.

            And as a Father, I am certainly going to err on the side of caution.

        • Felonious Grammar

          Being a person who can’t drive, I walked and walked alone at night most of my life. I walked like I carried a loaded gun and on two occasions I talked a man down who responded to a comment made by a woman I was with with hostility and threatening behavior. I’ll tell a woman not to think that there is such “safety in numbers” that they should feel free to mouth off at a man they don’t know in an alley; but not in the context of rape.

          It makes sense to take precautions— it makes sense to teach precaution— but it also makes sense not to let the threat of rape limit us to the degree that we can’t live the lives we want to live.

          I fought off a rapist in my apartment, he was a friend of my roomate’s. I know a woman who was kidnapped in a parking lot in broad daylight and was raped. Do we really have to account for what we did or did not do?

          Being raped and suffering an attempted rape is brutal enough without having to be second guessed and given responsibility for what a rapist did to us.

          • dbtheonly

            Indeed not FG,


            “I walked like I carried a loaded gun”
            “I talked a man down”

            In other words, you did exactly what I suggested, viz. take reasonable steps to insure your own safety.

        • cleos_mom

          I can understand being proactive in teaching your kids how to minimize the dangers of any kind of assault. I made it my business to learn all that almost 30 years ago when I had to move very quickly to evade a stalker that the police said they had reason to believe was out to kill me (my parents blamed me for it, BTW).

          But I do find some of your choices of words disturbing, such as the “need to act in ways not to attract sexual predators” and the references to “our Daughters” as if “Daughters” summed up their whole identity. Females are all too often described as having value not as individuals but in terms of their connection (or, in some cases, usefulness) to someone else, which would make it easier to dismiss assaults on females who are socially isolated for whatever reason.

      • Christopher Foxx

        That’s not what he said. Skelton sometimes doesn’t make his points well (even when I agree with something he’s saying, I tend to wish he’d said it better), but he does make a fair point.

        There are dangers out there and it is right and proper for him to warn his daughter of them. Not doing so would be neglectful. I don’t see anything in what he said that suggests he’d blame her should something tragic happen, and it’s inappropriate for you to suggest he did.

    • Vermillion

      Yeah, but Cohen is. He literally is, and not in the utterly stupid yet now validated by Oxford type of “literally”, either. He is actually saying the attackers are innocent and the victim led them on. Somehow. While unconscious. He is saying that these boys did those things because of something she did. That is horrifying on so many levels.

      You are certainly allowed to teach your daughter whatever you feel she needs to know to make it in the world. No one is arguing that. But using that as an excuse to stay ignorant of rape culture and victim-blaming (by your own statements) hampers your ability to keep her safe. How about teaching your daughter that nobody has a right to her body but her, no matter what anyone says? And that if she isn’t comfortable in a situation, she has every right to express that and/or leave? Because those are the lessons that aren’t getting taught to both sexes, instead replaced with fear-mongering and shame.

      She can keep her drink with her at all times. She can dress in sweats and baggy jeans. She can only meet with groups of people in well-lit areas. And yet, she can still be victimized, and somehow, somewhere, somebody is going to have it in their head that SHE did something wrong. And that’s if she even feels comfortable enough to report it, seeing as how she might think that she DID do something wrong if she still got assaulted. THAT is victim-blaming. THAT is rape culture. FYI.

    • JMAshby

      Telling your 13-year-old daughter that she shouldn’t get so drunk that she passes out is common sense. It’s also good legal advice, you know.

      But if she was raped, would you blame her for it?

      It sounds like you already have. Because obviously if she passes out at a party full of high school boys, she should expect to be raped. And if she’s raped, it’s clearly her fault because she should have expected it. Right? You taught her better than to become a victim of rape, didn’t you?

      • Steven Skelton

        I guess you don’t need me here….you seem to be holding up my end of the conversation as well as yours.

        • JozefAL

          Well, maybe if your end of the conversation could make some sort of valid counter-argument to what JM wrote, you would be needed here. It’s interesting that you can’t even challenge JM’s comment AT ALL.
          Answer the question posed to you: “But if she was raped, would you blame her for it?”

      • joseph2004

        Seems like Skelton is just talking about protecting his child. Sounds like Parenting 101 to me.

        • JozefAL

          Yeah. If you also include the fact that Skelton appears to be willing and ready to blame his daughter for getting raped. Because he “taught” her to not get raped, if she does get raped, she obviously didn’t pay attention.
          Apparently there are some people who want to consider rape to be as trivial a problem as burning your hand on the stove or getting stung by hornets or even eating baking chocolate. Adults tell children not to touch a stove burner when it’s on or playing around a hornet’s nest or grabbing a piece of that “candy bar” being used in that chocolate cake and when the child tests those for themselves and get burned or stung or a really nasty bitter taste in their mouths, well, that’s just a lesson learned. It’s just too bad that being sexually assaulted tends to be far more traumatizing than being stung or burning a hand.

    • Bubble Genius

      Unless you’ve found a way to teach your daughter to cease being a woman, there is nothing you can say to her that’s a surefire rape deterrent. And, as others have said here, men are raped also, so there you are.

      You should by all means teach your daughter that it’s not a great idea to drink or drug to excess, EVER, not only before it’s legal to do so, just because it’s good to be in control of your faculties. But if you start getting it into her head (and yours also) that it’s for rape prevention, should any sexual assault ever happen, it’s built into her psyche that there was something she could have done to prevent that. Do you really want to give her that kind of baggage to deal with?

      • Steven Skelton

        Not getting drunk is rape prevention in the same manner that not walking around North St. Louis is mugging prevention.

        Just because I walk around North St. Louis doesn’t mean it’s my fault I was mugged…..

  • Vermillion

    I….I just…

    First off, the “opportunity” to talk about Steubenville is NOT a ridiculous dance on a MTV awards show. The “opportunity” to talk about Steubenville is ANY GODDAMN TIME WE GODDAMN WELL FEEL LIKE IT!

    Second, using said awards show performance as a “opportunity” to talk about such a heinous event is like using an Orkin commercial as a jump-off point to the Holocaust.

    Third to One Hundreth…

  • Tony Lavely

    So sadly humorous: He’s the sound of the ‘old white guy’ bemoaning the world’s new look, and generally, no one he’s talking about will read this, because they don’t give two s**ts about people like him.

  • Robert Scalzi

    Richard Cohen needs a Broomstick shoved somewhere, any suggestions ??

    • Victor_the_Crab

      Replace broomstick with a prickly cactus, and I can give you a suggestion. >:D

  • Felonious Grammar

    Clearly, he did not stop to consider how he would feel if some men drugged him at a party, unclothed him, then dragged him— unconscious and nude— from one party to another, sticking thing up his ass, pissing on him, inviting others to mock him and abuse him, taping it, and publishing it on the internet. This is rape culture.

    And at this point, I would feel about as much empathy for him as a rape victim as he feels for that teen in Steubenville. Then, perhaps he could write about something he knows something about, instead of sitting on his high horse deciding what rape is.

  • OsborneInk

    There is absolutely no daylight between Cohen and Lee Stranahan, who spent his time in Steubenville outing both the victim and the Anons who rose to her defense. Stranahan actually argued that “not all rapes are brutal” and tried to blame teenage drinking for the crime.

    • stacib23

      The same Lee Stranahan that was around here a few years ago?

      • nicole


  • Richard_thunderbay

    So-called columnist, Richard Cohen.