Washington Post Criticized for Op-Ed's Defending Rape

Two liberal publications, Salon and Slate, criticized The Washington Post for publishing two op-ed's in recent days that, they say, defend rape.

The first op-ed, written by guest contributor Betsy Karasik, argues that the legal system was too harsh on a teacher who received a 30 day sentence for having sex with one of his students. The second, written by Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen, suggests that the victim of the "Steubenville rape" case was the result of young women like Miley Cyrus who misbehave and dance suggestively.

While opinion pages are intended to present a diversity of views, critics say these op-ed's go too far and should not have been published.

The case of Stacey Rambold received national attention recently when Judge G. Todd Baugh gave Rambold only 30 days in prison for raping one of his students. The victim, Cherice Moralez, was "as much in control of the situation" as the teacher and was "older than her chronological age," Baugh said. Moralez committed suicide during the course of the trial.

When she was in school in the 1960s and '70s, Karasik recalled, "sexual boundaries between teachers and students were much fuzzier." She knew some of her peers who had sexual relations with their teachers.

"To the best of my knowledge," Karasik wrote, "these situations were all consensual in every honest meaning of the word, even if society would like to embrace the fantasy that a high school student can't consent to sex. Although some feelings probably got bruised, no one I knew was horribly damaged and certainly no one died."

Sexual interactions between teachers and students, she concluded, lie along a "vast and extremely nuanced continuum."

Karasik's argument ignores "completely the implicit power imbalance created by a teacher's discretionary authority over a student," Katie McDonough, assistant editor for Salon, wrote Sunday.

McDonough also claimed that Karasik's defense of statutory rape echoed that of Judge Baugh: "Karasik may say that her position on statutory rape shouldn't be interpreted as a defense of Judge Todd Baugh's comment that Rambold's victim was 'as much in control of the situation' as her rapist, but by erasing these crucial power dynamics from her read on the case (and sex between adults and minors more broadly), she effectively argues the same thing. Rambold didn't rape his 14-year-old student because it wasn't a 'forcible beat-up rape,' Baugh recently remarked. Karasik seems to share this opinion."

The Washington Post opinion page editor's second critic is Slate's Amanda Marcotte.

(Slate is currently owned by the same company that owns The Washington Post. The Washington Post recently announced it is being sold to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, but Slate will not be included in the sale.)

"If you've been reading the Washington Post the past few days, you might conclude that sexual abuse is the inevitable result of girls being girls," she wrote Tuesday.

After criticizing Karasik for implying that Moralez's suicide "was a reaction to the meanie government cracking down on the rapist," Marcotte then tackles Cohen's Monday column.

Cohen's draws an analogy between Miley Cyrus' "twerking" and the "Steubenville rape" case. After reading a story from The New Yorker and noting that the victim was "stone-drunk" at the time, Cohen concluded that the crime – gang rape – had not been committed, though two men have been convicted.

He then turns back to Cyrus and concludes, "that acts such as hers not only objectify women but debase them. They encourage a teenage culture that has set the women's movement back on its heels. What is being celebrated is not sexuality but sexual exploitation, a mean casualness that deprives intimacy of all intimacy."

Marcotte argues that Cohen "ultimately puts the blame on young women for, yep, not being modest enough."

That some young women dance suggestively and engage in sexual relations is not "an excuse to sexually assault them, minimize sexual assault against them, or indirectly threaten them by saying that sexual assault is what's coming if they continue to play with their own emerging sexuality," Marcotte concluded.

"Our job is to protect them by giving advice on sexual health and making sure there are safe spaces, like schools, where they can be themselves without being preyed upon by predators. This isn't hard. We're the adults here, and it's time we started acting like it."