A significant number of American values failures came together to create the
tragedy in Steubenville, where two teenage high school football stars, Trent
Mays and Ma’lik Richmond, were found guilty of raping a 16-year-old
Foremost among them is the American tragedy of sexualizing teen
girls at an age where they are not yet women. Madonna sexualized herself in her
Britney Spears brought the age down to about
Not young enough for you? Miley Cyrus reduced it further to
sixteen. One wonders when our culture will feel that even 16 is not a young
enough age to sexually exploit girls.
Then there is the issue of sports
as an emerging religion where those gifted to be athletes feel a sense of
entitlement that often has them crossing lines to their own detriment. The idea
that two high school football stars would think it acceptable to post pictures
of a nude 16-yearold to their friends on social media shows how they thought the
normal rules did not apply them. And this would be true even if there weren’t
the far more serious conviction on rape.
How sad that two young men have
ruined their lives and done so much damage to a defenseless victim.
is the growing culture of alcohol abuse by minors. Alcohol played a central role
in this unfolding tragedy, with the essential argument on the part of the
prosecution being that the girl in question was so drunk there was no possible
way she could have given consent. One wonders why our youth are so inclined to
drink. Is it mere experimentation or is something deeper at work? Are they
already, at so young an age, as unhappy as adults who have been battered by life
and are therefore drinking negative emotions away? After all, no-one in America
really portrays the teen years as a bowl of cherries.
I passed my later
teen years in an all-male environment, in a yeshiva, where the focus of my life
was study. I certainly was a lot happier than I had been in the co-ed
environment I was immersed in my early teen years, where peer pressure,
popularity among the girls and general self-consciousness made my life less
enjoyable than it should have been.
Then there is the general tragedy of
the absence of responsible parenting in America.
The biggest question for
me in this heartrending story was where were the parents? Where were they when
the three teens left one party at 12:30 a.m. to go to another? Where were they
to monitor extreme drunkenness on the part of people not old enough to vote?
Many African-American young men are not raised with a father’s guiding hand. I
was astonished, therefore, at the honesty displayed by Malik Richmond’s father,
Nathaniel, when he said in a CNN interview that he had walked over to his son
right after the guilty verdict and told him he loved him, essentially for the
very first time.
“I haven’t been involved in Malik’s life like I should
have been at those early years. And I want to stress that parents should be more
involved in their child’s life... be a parent and not a friend.”
is better qualified to address this issue than President Barack Obama who also
grew up without his father and is by all accounts a very loving and involved
parent himself. The president has addressed the subject only lightly, but it’s
time that he made this an all-out campaign.
But the greatest tragedy made
manifest in Steubenville is the attitude of teenage men toward girls. Immanuel
Kant wrote that the definition of immorality is treating a fellow human being as
a means rather than an end. The abomination of American slavery was that a white
child was taught to see a black child as a walking bale of cotton. Slavery
trained a white man to see a black woman as lacking the same spark of the divine
that lent him his humanity. When he looked upon the woman, she was stripped of
her own dreams, her own opinions, her own aspirations.
She was nothing
but an extension of the white slave owner’s drives and ambitions.
third arm she existed to simply to do his chores.
Something analogous is
happening with the growing sexualization of women wherein teen boys are being
taught to see young women not as their equals but as the walking fulfillment of
their sexual desires. This is an issue I addressed a few years ago in a
full-length book called Hating Women, but it has only gotten worse since. I had
a 17-year-old boy, from a leading prep school, tell me how angry he was at a
16-year-old girl he knew because she had gone out on a date with a friend of his
and had not given him any sexual favors. He was full of righteous indignation. A
girl like that, who refuses to play the role accorded her by a secular society
that uses women’s bodies to sell beer, cars and everything in between, is often
called a “b---h” for not playing ball. Who does this uppity girl think she is
anyway, not to give men their rightful due? That this is attitude is becoming
prevalent among teen boys is evident from the fact that the two accused sent
pictures of a drunken girl to all their friends, posting them on the Internet,
and there was no outrage. Just another guy feeling entitled to see a girl as
some drunken “dead body” who was there for his erotic enjoyment.
when men were raised to be gentlemen. Society impressed upon them the need to
nurture, protect and take care of women. Yes, I know it all sounds pretty mushy
today, and many a woman would dismiss such sentiments as patriarchal,
patronizing and hopelessly sexist.
But is it really too much to ask that
when a girl is drunk and helpless, a young man feel the obligation to get her
safely home to her parents? We males combine within our person the carnal
desires of the animal as well as the spiritual transcendence of the uniquely
human. The struggle between the two is felt within us
Employing our freedom to choose moral behavior over
outrageous indulgence is a serious battle and one that should be helped by an
overarching culture that trains boys from their earliest days to respect women
as equals and to see in them a divine image rather than the breathing
realization of an erotic urge.
The author, “America’s Rabbi” whom The
Washington Post calls “the most famous Rabbi in America,” has just published his
newest best-seller, The Fed-up Man of Faith: Challenging God in the Face of
Tragedy and Suffering.
He is currently writing Kosher Lust. Follow him on