By Maria Padhila
If you wanted to hide something, this wasn’t the year. From the NSA to the PTA, everyone was getting outed, all over the world. Polyamory, of course, had a big year. It was like it was just invented or something, instead of being simply another way humanoids have been living and loving together for thousands of years. Polyamory is also being “positioned,” as they say, for the next big social and political battle, now that there have been so many victories in LGBT marriage. If right wingers have started to notice it and fight it, you know it’s going to be a thing.
The dynamic of what is hidden and what is revealed, what is privacy and what are its uses and abuses, is the critical question when it comes to relationships. How much of my relationship is nobody’s damn business, and how much should I reveal in order to live simply and love freely? I think it’s going to be the big question that defines the next several decades. It affects how we’re going to live together, as we realize we can no longer use the tribal model, that we’re all in this same big boat here on Earth.
A lot of the “outing” of polyamory has come from the bravery of people allowing themselves to be written about, filmed and shown live and in color in various media, sharing their thoughts, emotions and daily lives. I don’t consider myself brave, and I’m not obviously and boldly out. My strategy is to share information with discretion, because I like my privacy. But that might not be possible much longer.
My own decisions aside, when I pull back and look at people like the triad who is willing to appear in their local paper, I am really moved by their courage. So I really want to thank everyone who has commented here this year, for starters, and kept this conversation going. You might have helped someone more than you know with your thoughts and your shared experiences. You help me, and always keep me thinking. I wish you a year full of love.
But I wanted to look at the latest in an ongoing event that’s turning out to have long-lasting results in this year without privacy: the rape case in Steubenville, Ohio. At the end of November, the New York Times reporter who helped get wider attention to the case wrote:
A year ago this week, Michael McVey, the superintendent of schools in Steubenville, Ohio, sat in a conference room down the hall from his office and said he knew none of the details of Aug. 11, 2012, the night a 16-year-old girl was raped by two Steubenville High football players at a series of parties on a hot summer night.
Nope, he said, he didn’t know much, aside from the rumors that had been swirling around the football-crazy town for months. He told me and a colleague that he had not spoken with any of the students thought to be involved in the event because it hadn’t taken place on school grounds or during the school year. Besides, he said, he usually let the football coach take care of that sort of thing.
Basically, he was saying, it was none of his business. So he stayed out of it.
Yeah, no. Wrong approach. Anonymous got involved, and broadcast some of the social media that teens around town had posted about the incidents; a crime-fighting blogger also played a big role, and before long, it was way out. The latest is that four adults, including that superintendent, have received various charges in the case, in addition to two young people who were charged and sentenced.
In November, four adults were charged with crimes in connection with the rape case. The superintendent, McVey, was charged with tampering with evidence, among other charges. Accusations of a second rape have emerged.
The response from much of the town’s power structure has been from the beginning to “put this behind us.” Not happening. Along with the charges for the adults, another legal issue is coming out — and this is guaranteed to keep the whole thing in the public eye for a good long time. One might call this guy the Snowden of Steubenville.
From Rolling Stone:
Shortly after the news [of the adult charges] hit that morning, Deric Lostutter, a skinny, scruffy 26-year-old programmer in Lexington, Kentucky, whipped out his cell phone and texted me a message. “We were called liars and more,” he wrote, but “we were right about it.” He had reason to feel vindicated. As one of the most notorious members of the hacker collective, Anonymous, Lostutter battled to bring justice to Steubenville, exposing secrets of a town that’s still reeling from the fallout today. He just never expected that he’d get raided by the FBI, and face more prison time than the rapists in the end.
Yes, you read that right: the one who helped bring it to light may get more prison time than rapists. Read the Rolling Stone profile, because Lostutter, who also targeted the viciously bigoted Westboro Baptist Church and revenge porn sites, is kind of the flip side of the football players — a young person in a dying heartland town, looking for something meaningful to do with his energies, and getting no kind of guidance, proper protection, or support from adults, who are too busy scrambling to cover up any trouble and shut down any talk of trouble, so the reality of their own lives won’t be revealed.
Even Anonymous itself outed Lostutter, saying he had too much ego and had violated the collective’s standards on privacy. They said he bragged and talked too much — he was too out there. See why this matter of privacy just keeps getting more and more complicated?
Then came the FBI raid — as usual, enormous overkill for a kid who likes to play around on his computer and doesn’t like bullies:
April 17, after hunting turkey, he came back home to take a shower and heard a truck roll up his driveway. He assumed it was UPS delivering a t-shirt he’d ordered from a gun dealer, but a SWAT team stormed inside instead. “Get the fuck down!” They shouted, cuffing Lostutter as Thor helplessly watched. Awakened by the noise, Lostutter’s brother stormed downstairs with his .45, thinking a robber had broken in, only to be cuffed too. As the cops turned the house upside down looking for what they called “anti-American” contraband, Lostutter told them, in his southern drawl, “I guess I know why you’re here.
Lostutter claims he was not shown a warrant before the raid, nor was he Mirandized. As they showed him alleged correspondence between him and McHugh, they said they’d been watching him since before Steubenville and that someone out there was “selling you down the river.” He says they’d spent hours smashing through his property, busting out the windows of his RV looking for evidence. He also claims they told him never to tell anyone of this raid or he would face additional charges for destroying and tampering with evidence. (The FBI did not comment).
When his girlfriend came home to the chaotic scene later that day, he finally broke down and told her of his secret identity as KYAnonymous. He had no idea how she’d react, but she threw her arms around him in support. “I think what he did was awesome,” Hannah tells me, “he stood up for someone who no one else was.” In that moment he felt something surprising, relief. “It’s the most freeing fucking shit in the world,” he says, “Like you’re just living a double life and now you can just be you.”
” … There was one more rally in Ohio too, but this time it wasn’t Lostutter’s doing. It was organized on his behalf by Demand Progress, the activist organization co-founded by Swartz, and UltraViolet, the women’s rights group. For UltraViolet co-founder Nita Chaudhary, his prosecution is “horrifying,” she tells me, “This is rape culture at work. Deric helped expose a horrible crime and cover-up, and he is facing five times more jail time than the rapists? It’s disgusting and it’s a wake up call for our entire nation.”
As the Times reporter, Juliet Macur, says of her investigation: “Many of the adults I spoke to in Steubenville feigned ignorance about the rape, including the high school’s principal and football coach, or blamed the victim for what happened.” That won’t be possible when they’re facing a judge.
When this went down, I asked the question: Who benefits from rape culture? The question came to mind because the whole situation was looking like some kind of noir movie. The small town with the corruption at the top; the wild youth who stop at nothing to get what they want; the scandals and the coverups. The football coach even threatened the New York Times reporter, seemingly taking a line right out of one of Bogart’s lesser efforts.
It’s laughable until somebody gets hurt. Then you see, from the outsider’s perspective, the snow globe world this Ohio town represents. It could be a model for the larger world. It’s surely where the workers, the teachers, the members of Congress are coming from. So what happens there matters. The question applies: Who benefits?
My answer — and your mileage may vary — is that the adults in this situation, with many of the usual routes for finding value and happiness (fulfilling work, loving relationships, challenging social or creative problems to solve) had placed their identities and their esteem at the mercy of the wins and losses of a sports team. The “winners,” the young people who looked like they had a chance to get out, and at the same time who could bring pride to the town, were all they felt they had going for them.
Why else were they treated like young gods, allowed to violate every boundary without a word, strenuously protected from any consequences? Why did so many find it impossible to believe that these young people could have done such a thing; why did they deny it had even happened, even when the photos were right there in front of them?
Because their identities were tied to those of these children. And this is the tragedy, by my lights. I’m open to hearing what others have to say, but what I can say is this: I’ve been raped and physically abused, but the abuse that warps my life to this day is this sort of “identity theft,” where as a child you are made a proxy for someone else’s happiness and fulfillment. It destroys trust and it implants self-doubt in the DNA. And it’s how most people raise children. They’re “our” children and they “belong” to us — how often do you hear that?
So I’m going someplace pretty radical with this, and it’s something we can open up more down the line. This sense of “belonging” to another, either overt or unacknowledged, certainly has a lot to do with marriage, monogamy and other types of relationships. For today, just consider the question: Who benefits from rape culture?
But even without going that far, the recent news from Steubenville is heartening. The first place people go is to say that adults are responsible for teenagers, shouldn’t allow teenagers to drink — and yep, that’s against the law — should set up a culture where if you see something, you say something. This latter is the only even slightly wrong lesson I can see coming out of this. We don’t need a spy culture; we need a culture that doesn’t accept rape. This is why the Anonymous response is OK with me: they simply put out what was there, possible evidence of a crime. We still have a long way to go, but meaningful prosecution and public vilification of those who benefit from rape culture is one step.