This Is Rape Culture

[Content Note: Sexual assault; serial predation; child abuse; rape apologia.]

I hardly know where to begin with this story: Idaho Judge Randy J. Stoker has decided that a 20-year-old man who raped a 14-year-old girl, as well as other children (though he has not been prosecuted for those crimes) should be released on probation, as long as he completes a treatment program run by the Idaho prison system and "agrees not to have sex outside of wedlock," compliance with which will be assessed by polygraph.

The maximum sentence was life in prison.

The judge, in delivering his ruling after the man pleaded guilty to one felony count of rape, questioned the man's "level of remorse and noted the young man's proclivities—a taste for pornography, an astounding number of partners, and fantasies of sex with a 13-year-old girl." He then proceeded to offer a monologue about how the real fault lies with the internet and "hook-up culture."
"I have seen dozens, if not hundreds of sex cases since I've been on this bench," the jurist said. "Our society has come to a point of, I don't even know how to explain it, you know? I am 66 years of age. When I was 19 years of age, the sexual proclivities of young people wasn't anything, anything like I see today."

"I think it is a direct consequence of the social media system that we have in this country," Stoker continued. "I can't tell you how many times I have seen these cases: 'How did this happen?' 'Well, I met somebody on social media.'"

Stoker conceded that Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, and other sites might not be the direct cause of all the sexual assault cases he has presided over in the deeply conservative Gem State. But he said "the vast majority" of such cases originate online.

"I can't change that," he said. "If I had my way, I would eliminate the internet, and we'd all have better lives. But I can't do that either. It also says something about, I guess, the level of morality in this country. I can't change morality. People are going to do what they're going to do."

1. Rape cases are not "sex cases."

2. Rape cases do not have anything to do with "the sexual proclivities of young people," because sex and sexual predation and abuse are not the same thing.

3. If Stoker is more aware of the ubiquity of rape as a 66-year-old judge than he was as a 19-year-old man, that is probably not because "the sexual proclivities of young people" have changed dramatically, but because our cultural willingness to discuss and prosecute rape has. (Which is a sad commentary, given such willingness is still better described as a profound reluctance.)

4. Where you meet someone has fuck-all to do with your chances of being raped. However: If you meet someone online and they rape you, you may be more likely to report it, because police and prosecutors are generally more likely to believe you, because of narratives about where rapists and victims meet, than if you are raped by a partner, friend, or relative.

5. People were raped before the internet. I was raped before the internet.

6. Eliminating the internet would not, in fact, ensure that "we'd all have better lives." To the absolute contrary, many survivors of sexual violence find their way through the trauma via the internet. By finding community. By finding validation. By finding resources. Sometimes, quite literally, by finding reasons to live.

7. "I can't change morality. People are going to do what they're going to do." Especially if you let them off with no meaningful consequences.

This case, like all rape cases, challenges my principles as both an anti-rape advocate and a prison abolitionist—something about which I wrote extensively following the Daniel Holtzclaw verdict.

I don't know what the best course of action is for someone who commits such heinous crimes, but I do know with absolute certainty that sending him on his merry way with nary but the requirement of a shitty rehab program, probation, and the order to refrain from consensual sex is absolutely wrong.

Judge Stoker should be removed from the bench immediately. He is unfit to oversee cases of sexual violence.

I take up space in solidarity with the victims of this rapist.

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