How Do We Dismantle Rape Culture? [Reader Forum]

From Penn State to Herman Cain, the hazards of patriarchy have come out in full force. Here's what you had to say.

By Channing Kennedy Nov 14, 2011

Last week brought a lot of frightening news — frightening for what it said about our modern society’s desire to support its powerful men, even when the cost is horrific. Our Gender Matters columnist Akiba Solomon drew the line between Herman Cain’s sexual assault allegations and the Penn State child rape coverup, saying, "Patriarchy eats its women and children and criminally cripples its men." And Penn State students have been pushing back on the cult of JoePa — only to be met with boos from their classmates. Kudos to them for taking on a subject that’s difficult even in supportive environments.

How big are the systems that we have to dismantle to end systematized harassment, assault, and abuse? Here’s what you had to say.

Malaika McKee-culpepper:

When you watch the video, you realize how much help most of these students need to analyze their moral framework. This is scary… Kudos to the two young men who spoke up.

Lynn Clayton:

Can you address the elephant in the room? They dropped the ball because the children were black. If McCreary would have seen someone that looked like him getting violated, he would have had more compassion and called the police. In some circles people of color are seen as sub-human and void of feelings.

Gregory A. Butler:

Penn State is a minor league professional football team that has a college attached to it.

The team is a business that generates $52 million a year in profit for the school, and whose six home games generate $59 million for the economy of Penn State’s company town, State College, PA. Not to mention, Penn State and schools like it operate de facto minor league farm teams for the NFL and the NBA, without any cost to those leagues.

In other words, the reason for the defense of Paterno and the collusion with the rapist activities of Sandusky boil down to MONEY. If keeping the money machine going involved co-conspiring with a rapist, it was a price the powers that be at Penn State were willing to pay.

As for Herman Cain, like Paterno and Sandusky, he was a rich man who got away with sexual abuse because he had the money and power to buy his way out of justice.

This wasn’t a "masculinity" thing because most men would not have been able to buy that kind of impunity. If Herman Cain had owned a small neighborhood pizza shop and if Joe Paterno and Jerry Sandusky had been public school gym teachers, they would not be able to get over like they do.

This was a rich man thing – what used to be called the "right of the first night" in feudal Europe.


Thank you for this article. As easy as it is to hold up these very public examples on the abuse and damages caused by institutional patriarchy (be it the priests, football "mentors" or politicians), I hope that these don’t become the designated occurrences that allow people to excuse it in all of its less glaring forms.

Rape, assault and harassment is point blank wrong whether the perpetrator is a beloved R&B singer, local minister or family member. Blaming the victim is wrong; weighing out the level of "consent" by a minor with any adult is wrong; and above all, knowing for sure that someone is violated is dead wrong. As long as we hold onto the thinking that any of these occurrences have to be weighed out in some gray area, because it’s not AS bad as "those other guys," then yes, children, women and our society in general will continue to suffer.

Angela CineSoulatina:

It’s not only patriarchy and men; women are in on it too. Sandusky’s wife made a call to one of the former victims right before he went to speak to the district attorney. The children were raped right her house and she adopted children with this monster.

Heidi Crush:

I teach college students, and last week I couldn’t steer the discussion away from the deplorable actions of the officials and the students who apparently support child abuse at Penn State. My classroom, however, is blessedly diverse, and I only wish the pampered, spoiled rich asshole students at Penn could have heard what my students had to say about them. If I went to Penn State, I’d be looking to separate myself from those students as well. Hopefully the few students that are standing up for the victims will rise as leaders, but we all know they will remain in the minority just like the victims.

Anytime any of those rioting students would like to visit Chicago, I’d love to introduce them to my students.


Brilliant analysis. Wherever the survivors of these horrific crimes are, I want to offer my solidarity and support. I don’t have anything insightful to add; I’m still trying to wrap my head around this massive inhumanity right now.

What is clear — Penn State’s leadership was rotten to the core. How many more horrors like this are out there?

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