It isn’t all of the time that a significant incident comes to light in the middle of a teaching time. Here we are, enjoying #AdultSexEdMonth, learning all about why conversations on sex need to continue throughout our lives for both continued growth and pleasure, and along comes a story that significantly justifies why we are doing this. Yes, we're talking about the Stanford sexual assault case, its anonymous victim and the convicted perpetrator, Brock Turner. And let's just be clear: While this weekly feature is titled Sex Stories We Love, we don't love this week's story. Not at all. But it is the most significant story of the week, and we need to be talking about it. So, here we go ...

Victim's Impact Statement

Before getting into the fallout of the Brock Turner sexual assault conviction and sentencing, I urge you to read and then share the survivor's impact statement that she presented to the court when the judge was handing out what most people consider to be an unreasonably lenient sentence. This is learning moment number one of this situation; the victim has provided the most important words that can be used to teach and learn from. As we digest story after story of outrageous crime and injury committed against women, a pattern of dehumanization has taken root in our collective souls. It is far too easy to skip past another news story of another rape. But this one made us stop, and “Emily Doe’s” statement has hopefully opened some ears to the critical discussions that need to happen around rape, sexual assault and consent.

The Indefensible Enabling of Brock Turner

How are these discussions more critical now than before? They aren’t. A massive societal shift in attitude toward women’s bodies shouldn’t even be a conversation. Respect should be ingrained. However, we see over and over that this is not the case. We hear about the absurd statements made by Dan Turner, Brock Turner’s father, about his son not being punished for "20 minutes of action" and how his baby boy just doesn’t enjoy steak anymore. We hear from Leslie Rasmussen, Brock Turner's childhood friend, who provided a couple of bone-chilling nuggets that suggest that our culture is in a tailspin. Leslie wants to remind us that we should “see that rape on campus isn’t always because people are rapists” and that rape happens when someone gets kidnapped into a car and assaulted - not when young people get drunk and fuck others without their consent. Finally, Brock Turner's poor, sad mother lamented her inability to put up happy photos in a new renovation; she told us of how her son was a wee little boy once. She shared her fear for her son's future as he will now be nationally recognized as the sex offender that he was judged by the court to be. She never once mentioned the survivor of her son's crime.

This Is Rape Culture

It is all too easy to brush this off as one privileged family’s blinders to the world around them and how they can impact our world. Maybe they’re just a one-off group of morons.

No. This is rape culture.

The Turners aren't a one-off. They aren't an isolated situation. The fact that the judge, who by all accounts had no direct connection to the Turner family (though he was a Stanford alumnus who was also an athlete there), saw it reasonable to give someone convicted of sexual assault a very light sentence of just six months in jail and 3 months' probation (the maximum sentence is 14 years). This proves that this problem is systemic. That there was ever any consideration given to Brock Turner’s future in the court proceedings proves that his life is being given more weight than the survivor’s. The consideration of his future should come later, hopefully in the form of rehabilitation, education, counseling and self-reflection. In my opinion, he should have been given a hell of a lot longer than six months to work on those things.

Can Brock Turner's case be a watershed moment? Will seeing his smiling photo attached to news reports help us understand the devastation sexual assault can cause survivors - and those who do not survive? Can this situation be a conversation to have in homes and schools to further the ideas of consent and what that word actually means?

How do we turn rape culture into consent culture? How do we pull parents out of the muck of what they learned growing up? How do we give parents the tools to discuss consent and body autonomy and basic social concern for others with their children? And not only with their children, but their own friends, their relatives and their co-workers? Teaching people about consent and rape seems more and more like teaching them a whole new language. And the key for progressing in learning a language is having the opportunity to speak with others in that language.

Might I suggest a primary textbook to start?