But It's Not His Fault

I don't know how much this story is making the rounds, but if you're not familiar with it, let me fill you in. Wisconsin high school student Anthony R. Stancl, 18, set up a phony Facebook account then and used it to dupe dozens of his classmates into sending him nude photos of themselves. But here's the kicker: Stancl then used the nude photos as leverage to blackmail several of his classmates, some as young as 15, into "having sex" with him.

Stancl has been charged with "a dozen felony charges, including sexual assault on children and possession of child pornography." As he should be. Not that he's without his defenders.

Earlier this week Christopher Frizzelle published a piece on The Stranger titled "What He Did Was Wrong, Yes—But..." wherein he states:
…Lying is wrong, and blackmail is wrong, and sexual assault on a minor is wrong—this kid clearly deserves to get in trouble—but doing this up as a sexual-predator-ravages-a-Wisconsin-town type story … seems slightly off.
Bully for you, Frizzelle, for understanding that "sexual assault on a minor is wrong." Too bad you can't see that sexually assaulting minors is, in fact, predatory as well.

I guess that's because there were "mitigating factors." Let the victim-blaming begin!
First of all, teenagers lie to one another all the time. Second, these [teenagers] took photos/videos of their [genitals] and sent them to a person on the internet—a person they'd never met—of their own volition.
So, yeah, they were basically asking for it. Kids lie, and if they send off nudie pics all over the internet, well, they get what they deserve. Nevermind that the victims are children.

If you're wondering how anyone can defend Stancl's behavior, let me mention one other thing. Stancl is gay, and all his victims were male. And that, according to Frizzelle, makes it okay.

Back to the mitigating factors: "Third, gay kids in high school are the victims of humiliating pranks constantly, as well as the low-level humiliation of being other." Besides "Stancl thought of what he was doing as a prank." No big deal, then, eh? I guess blackmailing children into "having sex" is just harmless fun.

It must be, because "those blackmail victims didn't just call the cops." In fact, "seven of them agreed to it" and "none of those seven victims ever complained to authorities." The experience was probably a good one for the victims, because Stancl was "teaching them a valuable lesson: don't send photos/videos of your naked self to people you don't know on the internet."

Look, I'm not going to sit here and tell you it's easy being a gay teenager. I'm not going to tell you high school is a walk in the park far any queer kid, in or out of the closet. But having a rough go of it is not some sort of get out of jail free card allowing one to sexually assault fellow students with impunity.

And just because the assailant's actions play into that tired "all gay people are predatory" meme doesn't mean he should be let off the hook lest he prove all those anti-gay whack jobs right.

What Stancl did was criminal, and no amount of victim-blaming or excuses can change that.

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