Steubenville sits 375 miles west of Princeton University, and in many ways, worlds apart. But when it comes to boys being boys and girls blaming one another — and themselves — for male animal spirits, the two are not nearly as far apart as the gallons of ink spilled on the sordid Steubenville rape story would imply.
Steubenville, of course, is the down-in-the-mouth Ohio town where football was the only ray of light. No wonder the local town heroes were allowed to spin out of control. The subtext: If you’re prosperous or largely employed, things like this can’t happen.
If only. I confess to reading rather obsessively about the Steubenville rapists. In my search for insights, I stumbled onto a trio of troubling stories at my alma mater — Princeton University. It was not what I was expecting.
#1: Old Nassau is just like everyone else, at least when it comes to sexual assault — it gets swept under the covers
In 2008, Princeton conducted a survey on sexual “experiences” on campus, but never published the results. The campus paper recently got hold of the poll and discovered that sexual assault was alive and well. Why hadn’t the university released the data? No one else does, a spokesman told The Daily Princetonian. Anyway, they were well within the national average. Why draw attention to something that makes an institution of superior higher learning pretty darned average when it comes to everyday human contact? What really matters here?
According to the Sexual Experience Survey about 15% of women were sexually humiliated and attacked. Only a fraction reported it to the administration or the police — perhaps because they are ashamed or because they blame themselves. See stories No 2 and 3, below.
#2 Jocks might not be the only untouchables
According to a 2010 story in Gawker, a Princeton coed did in fact work up the nerve to accuse another student of rape. But only to university authorities, not the local police. That was in 2006. The name of the accused: Griffith Rutherford Harsh V, the son of billionaire, one-time gubernatorial candidate, and major Princeton donor Meg Whitman. Why didn’t the accuser go to the police? Gawker reports:
The girl consulted her friends, some of whom worried about the “social repercussions” of accusing such a high-profile student of rape. She was “terrified,” according to her friend. “She didn’t want to press charges because it’s Meg Whitman’s son. She didn’t want to go through that. She didn’t go to the police. She didn’t get a rape kit.”
Her support network said No! don’t go there. In the end, the university didn’t take action because it didn’t feel it had sufficient evidence to do so, the story says. Perhaps a police investigation would have uncovered the necessary evidence to incriminate or exculpate the accused. But we’ll never know.
#3 Steubenville women, Princeton women
Every time I read about the Steubenville victim’s former best girlfriends, I cringe. They live in an overtly vulgar culture where women are basically sex objects, to put it politely. But there’s a code of silence. The females have agreed to pretend they are slightly more than sexual objects. Rather than galvanizing them to assert their self-worth, the Steubenville attack entrenched them in their status because the code had been broken most spectacularly on Twitter and YouTube. This was no time for mercy. The BFFs became worst enemies as they demoted the victim to drunken slut who got what she deserved.
Shockingly, educated women appear to shrink from asserting their sexual integrity as well. Read on.
Let’s return to Princeton. 2011. A gathering of super-successful alumnae entitled “She Roars.” The dramatis personae include: Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Teach for America founder Wendy Kopp, and waddyaknow — Meg Whitman.
Tina de Varon, a successful singer who graduated in the 1970s, was also there. In a story for the Christian Monitor, she says the Tigerlillies, a women-only a cappella group, performed for the crowd. After they finished their set, a male group, the Tigertones, came on stage; but one “lost” Tigerlilly remained. The men surrounded her, pretended to unzip their flies and then suggestively moved their hips as they sang.
Gang Bang, the musical.
Not a single one of Princeton’s shining alumnae had the presence of mind to stand up and say the gig is up, boys. You’re not dealing with some backward, uninformed, low-level girls. We are Princeton women. We’ve been leaning in and pushing back for years. About time you got the message.
Instead, de Varon left the conference quite shaken. Because on a rainy night in 1973, a Princeton rugby player raped her in her own dormitory room. She had never reported it.
From the Village Voice:
It was the audience that was shocked at a Michelle Shocked concert last night when the born-again alt-folk singer went on a rant about how “God hates fags” and how she lives in fear of gay marriage.
I’ll give this to the audience, though:
They cleared out in horror.