I'm Lindsay Ferrier, a Nashville writer with a passion for family travel, exploring Tennessee, and raising kids without losing my mind in the process. This is where I share my discoveries, along with occasional deep thoughts, pop culture tangents and a sprinkling of snark. Want to get in touch? Use the CONTACT form at the top of the page.
March 26, 2013
Catalogued somewhere in the darkest corners of my mind are a few too many memories from my teenage years that now, as a parent, I’d rather forget. They’re as hazy today as they were then, distorted by alcohol and late nights. But they all follow the same pattern, the same dance. At frat parties or on dates or hanging out with friends in the bedrooms and basements of suburban McMansions, a boy would hand me a beer. Or a bourbon and coke. Or vodka mixed with Kool-Aid. And I would drink it.
At the time, it was a game. Just a game. The boys had their role and we girls had ours. It was up to them to try and get as many drinks into us as possible. It was up to us to drink what we could without blacking out or passing out or acting stupid or allowing the boys to go too far.
Like any game, sometimes we won and sometimes we lost. A high school friend passed out and woke to find that a group of boys had written insults in Sharpie pen all over her body. A sorority sister called me at three in the morning, crying because she’d woken up naked in a strange boy’s bed and had no idea where she was or where her clothes were or how she’d get back home. A college roommate regularly broke down in tears, reliving the memory of a party she had gone to in high school where she’d fallen asleep on a couch and woken to a man raping her. When she told her friends the next day what had happened, they said she deserved it for falling asleep on the couch in the first place.
Even then, I felt like I’d gotten off easy. I’d pushed away guys’ hands more times than I could count, was humiliated by stories boys told about me that weren’t true, and endured nasty break-ups with guys I thought I loved, for the sole reason that I wouldn’t “put out.”
But I was never raped. And for that reason, I considered myself one of the lucky ones.
This is why the Steubenville trial strikes a chord with so many of us. Variations of it happened in my hometown, in my neighborhood, among my friends. Nearly all of us have “been there” to some extent, whether we were the victim or we stood by and watched the fallout of another girl being victimized.When we were teenagers, it was a game. Those girls simply lost. We didn’t think about consequences. We didn’t think about punishment. We didn’t think about our actions and reactions coming back to haunt us, 10 or 15 or 30 years later.
I agree that women never deserve to be raped or assaulted, no matter how drunk they are or how short their skirt is. I agree with Jessica Valenti, who wrote: The worst a dude expects if he passes out drunk at a party is maybe a few dicks Sharpied on his face. But women should just anticipate rape?”
But I also identify with an eloquent commenter from this post, who wrote:
As someone who was raped in a bar bathroom while drunk, I did learn a lesson. Not that I deserved anything, or that men will be men, but simply that rapists will be rapists and they do exist (whether we like it or not), and that had I been less drunk I might have been able to fight more and get away.
I have written Suburban Turmoil knowing that my children would read these posts one day, and I squirm thinking of them reading this particular post. But there will come a time when I’ll want them to know what happened in Steubenville, and I will want them to see the all-too-similar stories that Steubenville has inspired women to start telling publicly for the first time.
I want my daughter to know what could happen if she drinks too much. It shouldn’t happen. She doesn’t deserve for it to happen. But accepting all those drinks from boys puts her at far greater risk of it happening. I also want my daughter to help the drunk girl at the party, rather than stand by and judge or make fun of her.
I want my son to see that this “game” his friends are playing can have far-reaching, lifelong consequences. I want him to know that even joking about rape or trying to getting girls drunk with the intention of convincing them to put out is never okay, and that it takes men, real men, to stand up and say something when they see it happening. I want him to see every girl at every party as someone’s sister. Someone’s daughter. Someone’s future wife.
We’ve got to talk about these things with our kids. It’s awkward. It’s uncomfortable. It may involve dredging up some truths about ourselves and our pasts that we’d rather not share. But it horrifies me to think that one of my children might end up like the 18-year-old teammate on the witness stand in Steubenville, the one who said he didn’t try to stop what was going on because he didn’t know it was wrong.
“I didn’t know exactly what rape was,” he said.
This is exactly what we, as parents, can’t allow to continue.
Steubenville is our wake-up call.
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I admit, I was a little worried where you would go with this post when I first started reading it because unfortunately so many people have gone the “blame the victim” route. Sometimes it is hard to believe this is 2013 and not 1913. So many unfortunate things have been said/ written about this horrible tragedy. But your post was very, very eloquently written. One of the best I have read. Thank you for writing about it; it is such an important and difficult subject. And as parents we all must address it with out kids.
I think it’s important for us to be discussing what needs to change. I think it’s important for us to talk to our sons about what’s okay and what’s not okay- I don’t think enough of us are worrying about our boys in these situations. And I also think we need to equip our girls to deal with reality, even as we try to change it for them.
I hope, I hope that parents are talking to their kids about this.
I have a few regrets about myself fueled by alcohol and I am damn lucky I don’t have a story to tell like the one from the NY Times. It all stays with you anyway, locked in your head bringing up shame many many years later.
Same here, when I heard about Steubenville it was a “there but for the grace of God go I” moment. I was so, so stupid and so, so lucky in my college years.
I think that so many of us have realized that Steubenville could have very easily happened in our communities when we were teens. And now that hardcore porn is so easily available on the Internet to teen boys, I’m afraid that the desensitization has only gotten worse.
Very important and well written post, Lindsay. Thank you.
This whole event has sickened me. My children are small enough to not have this be a problem yet and I was awkward and unpopular enough to not have had to experience this during my teen years. I am just at a loss. Thank you for writing on it. It makes me sad to think that I have to warn both of my children about the evil things of this world, but I do.
Hopefully, Steubenville will provide many parents a good way to open the dialogue. I often found with my stepdaughters that talking about things that happened to other teenagers was the easiest way to address these kinds of “awkward” issues.
Excellent points. Conversations I’m dreading, though. You are wise.
Such good points. I think of ALL the stupid stuff I did under the influence and to this day cannot believe how lucky I got. Great post.
I love the honesty of this post. I have so many things in my past that I am still hurting from, still afraid to talk about. Nothing quite as serious as Jane Doe, but not far off.
What an important thing to write. I think I need to save this for later. Thank you.
You’re right. We need to have these conversations with our kids. No matter how awkward it is. No matter how much it scares us to think about our babies someday being in those situations. Because they might be. And SOMEONE needs to tell them what to do if they find themselves there. Schools ain’t gonna do it. The government ain’t gonna do it. WE need to do it. There is an epidemic of absentee parenting in this world. People think school campaigns and government legislation can fix everything. Nope. It starts with us. My kids are young right now. I won’t have to have these conversations for many years. But gosh darn it, when the time comes, we can’t afford to shy away from these topics.