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Obviously, I’m not a victim here
November 26, 2012 5:36 PM   Subscribe

In October, 18-year old high school senior Ryan Romo was arrested for the sexual assault of a child (someone 16 or under, by TX state law). On October 31, CultureMap Dallas's managing editor, Claire St. Amant published an article asking, "Is this Highland Park baseball star a rapist?" St. Amant ended her article, stating: If it's a case of impulsive teenage decisions, remorse and guilt, then no one suffers more than 18-year-old Ryan Romo.

Then, freelance writer Dan Solomon, a regular CultureMap columnist, took to his personal tumblr, stating that St. Amant's post speculated wildly, and that it was "offensive on the basis of the substance of its commentary, which is a textbook example of victim-blaming."

He stated, "I’m embarrassed right now that my name is associated with the Culturemap brand. I’m really disappointed in St. Amant’s judgment and of Culturemap’s choice to publish such offensive — and stupid! — bullshit. "

And a week later, he was asked by his CultureMap editors to take his private post down. When he refused, they fired him.
posted by roomthreeseventeen (44 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Saw this on Twitter earlier. The article in question seemed to me to be more pointless and stupid and content-free than particularly victim-blaming. Just for the record, the next-to-last sentence is: "If Romo forced himself on a girl in the backseat of his Chevy Tahoe as alleged, then he's a sexual predator."

But the whole thing is dumb. "She says it was rape, he says it was consensual, one of them must be lying!" Okey-dokey.
posted by eugenen at 5:49 PM on November 26, 2012


the whole thing is dumb.

Don't disagree with you, but that's the least interesting part of this collection of links though. Solomon basically said "Hey man, not cool" on his personal blog about CultureMap's decision to publish the sort of click-baity content-free article that they published. They took him aside and told him to take the post down. He said no, they fired him. The fact that there is a crime at the center of this, and one where there are often gender-stereotyped stances taken concerning that sort of crime and that this turns some of that on its head is what is sort of interesting, to me.

It would be nice to hear more journalists generally saying "Hey I don't have a dog in this fight but I know bullshit when I see it and even though I might take a personal hit from speaking out, I'm speaking out" which I think is what Solomon is doing.
posted by jessamyn at 5:54 PM on November 26, 2012 [29 favorites]


St. Amant's article is so bizarre. As eugenen said, it almost completely lacks content, except to rail against statutory rape laws in Romeo-and-Juliet-type situations. This is, of course, irrelevant to the case at hand: it is not a rape because of the age difference; it is rape because it was nonconsensual sexual content. Beyond that, though, St. Amant doesn't even seem to understand the relevant law: the Texas penal code does allow for an affirmative "Romeo and Juliet" defense when the ages of the parties are less than three years apart.
posted by mr_roboto at 5:58 PM on November 26, 2012 [16 favorites]


I am confused. Was he arrested for sex with a minor type rape, or did the girl claim rape and he was arrested.
posted by marienbad at 6:00 PM on November 26, 2012


Yes. Good on him for calling them out for running with that kind of tripe. But, on the whole, it's not out of line for this to be a firing offense. I judge Culturemap for running the St. Amant article, but not for firing Solomon.

Of course, he must have known it was a firing offense, and so I respect him that much more for taking a stand.
posted by 256 at 6:02 PM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am confused. Was he arrested for sex with a minor type rape, or did the girl claim rape and he was arrested.

From the linked article:
The girl said she told Romo, “No, I don’t wanna do this,” and screamed “stop,” but Romo did not listen.
posted by Justinian at 6:02 PM on November 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


More background here from Texas blogger Andrea Grimes.

I’m writing all this as a preface because I think in order to understand the developing shitshow that is now two pieces on rape from recently launched CultureMap Dallas’ managing editor Claire St. Amant, you need to understand more or less the place CultureMap occupies in Texas’ media landscape. It’s a fluffy online publication that occasionally dabbles in Real Issues, and almost always fails when it does.

...Barely a day after the charges were filed on Tuesday, CultureMap Dallas ran an article by St. Amant under this headline: “Is this Highland Park baseball star a rapist?” It was filed under the category “Crime News.” But what it amounted to was a weird, rambling trip through rampant speculation, picking-and-choosing of facts reported, victim-blaming and some serious conflation and confusion around the very serious–and different–legal concepts of statutory rape and sexual assault of a child.

posted by emjaybee at 6:03 PM on November 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


He was arrested for sexual assault. Because of the age of the person he was charged with assaulting, the specific charge was "sexual assault of a child".
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:03 PM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I heard about this via.
posted by availablelight at 6:03 PM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


marlenbad, the girl told her mother she was raped. They went to the hospital, where I assume it was reported.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:03 PM on November 26, 2012


eugenen, the very last line flings this terrible, unwarranted, speculative shit at the victim no matter how you parse its ambiguities: "If it's a case of impulsive teenage decisions, remorse and guilt, then no one suffers more than 18-year-old Ryan Romo."

The "impulsive teenage decision" can only refer to Romo's rape of an underage girl, or what seems more likely in this article, some rank speculation that the victim lied about an "impulsive teenage decision" she later felt guilty and remorseful about.

Either way, it tries to call rape everything but, and ends on a what-if twist that maybe a rapist is the biggest victim in a rape case. It's a despicable article in which its dumb unjournalism of vague suggestion and speculation only allows it to be more despicable.
posted by dougmoon at 6:03 PM on November 26, 2012 [7 favorites]


Well, but it's not too surprising that the guy got fired for publicly calling his outlet's decision "bullshit" and saying that he's embarrassed to be associated with them -- almost regardless of the underlying content.

That someone thought that shitty article was worth writing and publishing is weirder, to me.

marienbad: The arrest was not for statutory rape.
posted by eugenen at 6:04 PM on November 26, 2012


The police recorded another conversation, later that day in the girl’s car. She told Romo, “I just wish it didn’t happen like that, you know like? ” He replied, “yeah.” She said, “Like I wish, cause, I said stop … I said no. … I wish you’d stopped you know or not done it.” Romo replied, “Ok, you’re making me feel bad, wow.”

Clearly he feels bad, hasn't he suffered enough?
posted by snofoam at 6:06 PM on November 26, 2012 [16 favorites]


Thanks for posting this! It's good to shine a light on this behavior: The rape apology and firing the guy who called it was it was.
posted by BillW at 6:07 PM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


dougmoon: To be fair, an alleged rapist for now. I mean, yes, if he is somehow innocent and nothing untoward occurred, then he is indeed the biggest victim here. The thing is that people don't write these "if it's a case of accidental death and mistaken identity, then Joe Murder Suspect is the biggest victim" articles every time a murder case comes up. And they shouldn't. Just like they shouldn't write this sort of speculative crap for rape cases.
posted by 256 at 6:08 PM on November 26, 2012 [15 favorites]


Probably helpful to point out to non-Texans that Highland Park is an extremely rich suburb of Dallas, next to SMU.
posted by emjaybee at 6:08 PM on November 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


I think it can be a case of implusive teenage decisions, remorse and guilt, and also rape or sexual assault. I have known many men who seem to do things they regret and "don't mean" to be sexual assault or forced sex. Like sneaking up on a girl whose asleep in a bed to grope her up before actually waking her up to see if she wants to? I feel consent is very gray and since sex education is abysmal we do a terrible job of educating young people about what respectful boundaries are. In addition, of course, kids want to create their own subcultural definitions of what is respectful behavior and adults have to figure out how to compete with that.

But ultimately, I don't think that the suffering criminals feel for commiting crimes is grounds for seeing them as the "true victim" in the situation, even if they "didn't mean" it to be a crime or feel really really sorry. I too, have sympathy for criminals, but not at the expense of acknowledging the suffering of people they've harmed.

I think quite frequently "well meaning" people can do some pretty awful things or have some really wacked out ethics they are truly embarrased they thought were ok once they themselves examine their own believes (or have help from outsiders requiring them to face their own ethics/behaviors/treatment of others).

I think she is of course insinuating there was no crime, but I think she's making that insinuation based on some F'd up beliefs regarding women getting into cars automatically asking for it, or behaving too flirtatiously and therefore having a "communication issue" in which the girl doesn't realize she's secretly telling the man to unleash his wild unstoppable man urges on her, but she SHOULD have known DUH. etc.
posted by xarnop at 6:18 PM on November 26, 2012 [7 favorites]


Dan Solomon is owed a job (with back-pay) and an apology. Ms. Amant should have been the one on the chopping block. Amant's article was disgusting. Basically, her point seems to be, "Okay, sure, he probably raped this girl, but he's from a respected family and he's an athlete with a bright future! How unfair is this to him?"
posted by saulgoodman at 6:20 PM on November 26, 2012 [8 favorites]


xarnop - so agree with you about sex ed - i wish we could change "no means no" into "yes means yes." enthusiastic consent is the sexiest consent.
posted by nadawi at 6:22 PM on November 26, 2012 [12 favorites]


Contrast this
Kids are supposed to mess up. They lie. They cheat. They get caught. They grow up. But throw a sex act in the mix, and childish ways are all but left behind.
with this
The girl said she told Romo, “No, I don’t wanna do this,” and screamed “stop,” but Romo did not listen.
and it's clear who should have been fired, and it's not Solomon.
posted by Panjandrum at 6:27 PM on November 26, 2012 [8 favorites]


The piece is so bad that I'm happy that I've never read anything else from that site.
posted by learnsome at 6:32 PM on November 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


enthusiastic consent is the sexiest consent.

It's just better sex, pure and simple. (I totally get why "no means no" needed to happen and remains important, but I'm glad that conversations are now happening about "yes" as well.)

I'm sorry the guy lost his job, that has to suck for him. But I think it's important that people be willing to do that, to say "this isn't right and I'm going to say something even if there are consequences," because otherwise it's just a downward spiral.
posted by Forktine at 6:33 PM on November 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


Amant's last sentence sounds like unprofessional speculation pandering to Romo's fans/supporters, while her next-to-last sentence is simply a platitude.

I'm fine with reasonable speculation about the details crimes, but you need motive or evidence for such large public speculation. Romo's motive is clear, heck that rapist is a jock, speculate away. You should know at least something about the girl's possible motivation before speculating that she committed a crime however.

I'm aware that false accusations happen, well the only rape case I've any offline rumor-mill knowledge about was surely an outright false accusation. Yes, false accusations definitely happen, maybe even frequently. You need some basis for publicly accusing someone of a false accusation though.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:35 PM on November 26, 2012


This seems like a publication it would be extremely enjoyable to get fired from.
posted by FelliniBlank at 6:37 PM on November 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


Oy. The penultimate paragraph in Claire St. Amant's piece answers its headline in the affirmative. Did St. Amant have to fill space? Did the case so capture the public imagination that she had to offer an opinion? Did she even offer one by the end of this misbegotten waffle?

I wish I could believe that better sex-ed would prevent something like this from being written, but it's clear that St. Amant had no idea what she was writing about.

"Yes means yes" and "No means no" both belong in sex-ed programs. I'm partial to "Only yes means yes." But I like permission.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 6:42 PM on November 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


That article is a lot worse than I imagined.
posted by bq at 6:46 PM on November 26, 2012


xarnop - so agree with you about sex ed - i wish we could change "no means no" into "yes means yes." enthusiastic consent is the sexiest consent.

About sex ed, I wish every high school in the US were doing something similar to this class (for seniors in this incarnation but also offered in a 6-week version for 9th graders). Not only frank talk about sex, birth control, etc., but exercises and discussions where the kids establish their values, learn about respecting others' values and boundaries, learn to recognize their insecurities and ways people can use those to manipulate them, etc.

Having access to something like that as a teen (35 years ago) would have changed my whole life and the lives of 98% of the kids in my school, and I'm not even exaggerating. Then you read some of the NYT comments and realize how fucking backward and benighted the US is.
posted by FelliniBlank at 6:47 PM on November 26, 2012 [6 favorites]


This thing has made me absolutely sick to my stomach. Highland Park is a hideous part of town full of hideous people and their hideous kids. My heart goes out to that poor girl, and I am ashamed - but absolutely not surprised - by the way this has been approached by shitbags in the media.
posted by item at 7:07 PM on November 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


'Course, this offensive reporting doesn't happen only in shitty little tabloid rags: horrific 2011 New York Times incident.
posted by FelliniBlank at 7:25 PM on November 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


But the girl is from Highland Park as well. How do you apply your moronic prejudice to that?
posted by azaner at 7:26 PM on November 26, 2012 [8 favorites]


It's an interesting day when merely raising the question of an accused criminal's guilt or innocence results in an outcry.
posted by unliteral at 7:28 PM on November 26, 2012


"Bandwagon reporting" is a really weird way to talk about this issue, to my mind.
posted by jessamyn at 7:30 PM on November 26, 2012


Like sneaking up on a girl whose asleep in a bed to grope her up before actually waking her up to see if she wants to? I feel consent is very gray

Unless you are doing some elaborate prearranged roleplay there, it's still kind of icky, frankly. There are lots of less creepy ways to see if your SO is interested in sex.
posted by emjaybee at 7:35 PM on November 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


FelliniBlank, I didn't know of Mr. V.'s class, but I'm glad you posted about it. The man is right for the job. I wonder, though, whether the country has enough people like him to make such classes work.

Going back to the topic at hand, St. Amant acknowledged in her first column that the victim said no. The evidence shows that the victim may well have been assaulted. Why does she think than the age difference between the parties in such cases is inversely proportional to the obviousness of guilt? How is she finding mud in clear water?

I wish I had more beer on hand. And I wish I could give a pint to Dan Solomon.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 7:47 PM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


CultureMap is chief among the "Things That Are Actually Wrong With Texas" (as opposed to the "Things The Rest of You People Who Have Never Been To Texas Think Are Wrong With Texas") and it had so much promise. After all, Texas has a really amazing cultural scene, it deserves dedicated (and decent) reporting. Instead, it got CultureMap.

CultureMap is run by people who wish to replicate all the Old Money Society Things that the East Coast has. Here in Houston they are light on culture and heavy on "society." Case in point: I sing with the Houston Symphony and was curious to read a review of the opening of this season, as it is Maestro Graf's final season. Instead, I got a single paragraph listing the repertoire and then an entire litany of who attended the performance. As someone involved in the arts, CultureMap is an embarrassment.

So far, CultureMap has been value-neutral to eyerollingly useless. Add to it something ugly and irresponsible like this, and CultureMap pretty much deserves to be a shameful memory in our collective past.
posted by jph at 8:03 PM on November 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


It would be nice to hear more journalists generally saying "Hey I don't have a dog in this fight but I know bullshit when I see it and even though I might take a personal hit from speaking out, I'm speaking out."

Agreed 100%. I don't think there's a term for this, but if there were, it'd be called "the opposite of journalism." So yes, it'd be nice if more journalists decided it'd be a good idea to step back from selling more ads for used cars and actually did what was right. And then we'd call them what we call Solomon - no longer a journalist.
posted by allen.spaulding at 9:12 PM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


The are valid arguments - and articles to be written - about the state of laws regarding age of consent when the partners are very close in age, but one is just under and the one is just over. Also, about the nature of trial by media instead of by the courts. Also about the shockingly low rate of successful prosecutions for rape.

The culturemap article is none of those.

The author assumes that the victim may be lying, where the overwhelming case is that rape victims do not lie about their assault. The utter hell they will go through as part of the police investigation and trial - even assuming the officials do a competent and sensitive job, which is far from guaranteed - means you have to be seriously messed up to lie about that. And that goes double for when the rapist is a popular well known sports star. False reports are estimated to be at about 3%, and even that is arguably too high as police regularly dismiss valid cases due to presuppositions about rape.

It was a shitty article written in a shitty way based upon a shitty assumption. The nominal basis - that statutory rape laws shouldn't apply to teenage fumblings in the back of a car - is a crock of shit anyway, as Texas already has a romeo-and-juliet exemption. The faux outrage in the follow-up - that calls her criticisers 'lock-em-up' bandwaggoneers and that she was just questioning the assumption of guilt that everyone else was doing - doesn't wash either.

Of course the accused deserves his day in court, and the prosecution need to prove their case to send him to prison. But I'm not on the jury, I'm only going to get my info from the newspaper reports, and it sure sounds like rape to me.

"The girl who pressed charges against Romo says she told him "No, I don't want to do this," as well as "Stop!" She says Romo told her "It would be okay," and to "let it happen." A sexual assault exam revealed trauma consistent with force, the affidavit states. "

Meanwhile, 6% of college educated men admit to having gotten away with rape if you phrase it as something other than rape. Simultaneously, rape is the most under-reported crime.

Reaching for wafer-thin rationalizations to defend rapist behaviour - such as the article did, with the 'kids mess up' and 'impulsive teenage decisions' paragraphs - is classic rape culture.

If you're 18, you're more than old enough to know that pushing part of your body into somebody else's without their explicit and vocal consent is wrong. Doing it while she's telling you no, while she's struggling enough to leaves tears and bruises? How the hell does that end up as as an 'impulsive teenage decision'?

Good on Dan Solomon for calling it out, even though he risked and did lose his job as a result. In a just world, St. Amant would have been the one fired, along with whatever editor greenlit her mealy-mouthed rape culture apologist article.
posted by ArkhanJG at 9:54 PM on November 26, 2012 [11 favorites]


Since St. Amant is the managing editor, I assume she must have greenlit it herself. The only one above her on the masthead is the editor-in-chief, Jennifer Chininis.
posted by blucevalo at 11:22 PM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


azaner: But the girl is from Highland Park as well. How do you apply your moronic prejudice to that?

Just because I think an area is full of awful people doesn't mean that I think everyone who lives there is awful. I did not mean to insinuate anything of the sort. That's how my 'moronic prejudice' applies.

Don't be rude.
posted by item at 6:30 AM on November 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


I was involved in a discussion on another site where a few people sincerely thought that "presumed innocent" meant that we should assume the victim is lying or mistaken. I mean, why bother charging anyone with any crime at all if everyone's presumed innocent?

Why do you only ever hear "it's going to mess up this boy/man's life and we should give him the benefit of the doubt" in rape cases (and maybe domestic violence)? Is there even one example with another type of crime?
posted by desjardins at 9:04 AM on November 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Is there even one example with another type of crime?

Enron, Wall Street bailouts, sundry white-collar crime. Emphasis on "white."
posted by FelliniBlank at 9:51 AM on November 27, 2012


Really? I remember public sentiment being more along the lines of "get those rich fuckers" rather than "those poor, wrongly accused bankers, we should withhold judgment because surely there has been some mixup."
posted by desjardins at 10:41 AM on November 27, 2012


A response from another Texas CultureMap contributor:
Thanks for Slut-Shaming a Teen Rape Victim, CultureMap!
posted by katemonster at 11:25 AM on November 27, 2012 [9 favorites]


Really? I remember public sentiment being more along the lines of "get those rich fuckers" rather than "those poor, wrongly accused bankers, we should withhold judgment because surely there has been some mixup."

Well yes, but there's also generally a thread of "too big to fail," "poor Ken Lay and his health problems," "gotta send them to tennis-court prison because they're so sensitive," "this is just how business works," "yay, capitalism" in the discourse about those crimes. Or, for instance, blaming the "greedy deadbeats" who trusted their loan officers far more than the bankers who cynically reeled in the poor saps.

But in ordinary life, no, you generally don't hear people say, "Are you absolutely sure you didn't just GIVE them the car you say they stole?"
posted by FelliniBlank at 11:48 AM on November 27, 2012


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