Language and Societies

ANT/LIN 5320 at Wayne State University

“She may have wanted it”: Discourse of Consent in Online Accounts of the Steubenville, Ohio Rape

“She may have wanted it”: Discourse of Consent in Online Accounts of the Steubenville, Ohio Rape

Monica Mieczkowski

Many women are victims of rape every year in America. In many cases the rapist is someone the victim knew. Yet, there seems to be a culturally accepted widespread idea about real rape and an idea that date rape or acquaintance rape is not rape. Real rape involves a stranger, a dark alley, and the use of force or weapons; date rape involves someone the victim knew, does not necessarily involve weapons and force may be less physical, and can involve alcohol.

This article examines the use of the Internet and social media to create discourse about consent regarding the Steubenville, Ohio rape case in 2012. This case became public after teens tweeted and posted information about the attack online which was then found by bloggers and re-posted. While this case gained a great deal of media attention, it is not a unique case; similar cases occur across the United States.  Social media was used to research what was being said about consent. The paper begins with a review of relevant literature, including work by Susan Ehrlich, Lois Pineau, and Eduardo Boniva-Silva and Tyrone A. Forman. The research looked at over three hundred tweets, the comments sections after five news articles, three screenshots of various data posted on Tumblr, and the comments after one YouTube video. The comments analyzed in the paper function to take away the victim’s right to consent and explain the attack as not rape. The discourse shows evidence that a culturally accepted view of real rape still exists across portions of the population. Future research could compare this case with similar cases to see how consent is discussed, such as the case in Italy where courts ruled that consent was given because the woman took off her tight jeans; or the case in Eastpointe, Michigan in 2011 where a young girl was gang raped.

Keywords: Date Rape, Consent, Language, Twitter  

April 15, 2013 - Posted by | abstract

1 Comment »

  1. Very interesting and timely, though I think the conclusion is sadly unsurprising. I would be interested to read your conclusions, and also to know how you located and selected the material included in your study.

    Comment by H. Hatch | April 15, 2013 | Reply

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