Is sexism to blame for the Central Park maulings?

"Obnoxious bumper stickers are only symptoms."

By Salon Staff

Published June 28, 2000 7:40PM (EDT)

What's to blame for the Central Park maulings? BY CINTRA WILSON (06/23/00)

Anyone who doubts that this pattern of abusive behavior is de rigueur among young black and Hispanic boys (I use the term "boys" because they will NEVER be men) has been living on the third ring of Saturn for the past 20 years. Take a walk or ride past any bus stop near any New York City high school any time between 2 and 4 p.m. on any school day. Watch the boys grab the girls, feel the girls up, refer to the girls as "ho's" and "bitches" (generally preceded by the possessive adjective "my"). Watch the girls, either out of intimidation or a need to fit in or a desire not to be without a "boyfriend" (kinda like "Mommy" in Queens), laugh and play along and pretend it's OK. Watch any girl who even thinks of resisting such advances get slapped and ostracized, even by her own girlfriends. It doesn't have anything to do with booze or a parade or the heat or halter tops and shorts or, for that matter, bumper stickers.

As for the police "response," all one has to do is take a look at the NYPD's record regarding sexual abuse and harassment of female cops within its own organization. Anyone, including public officials, who can honestly say they are truly "shocked" or "outraged" at this Neanderthal behavior is either a liar or a fool ... or both.

-- Andrew Gettler

Although Cintra Wilson's comments about the disgusting behavior in Central Park are true on multiple levels, they still confuse the real issues behind why the men of this day and age treat women as lesser citizens. While MTV and "Whip It Out Wednesday" do contribute to the expectations many men have of how women should be "easy," those are not major factors in the cause for such terrible behavior.

In fact, the English language itself presents problems for how people understand the expected sexual behavior of men and women: A man "gets some" and a women "gives it up" -- as if sex is a contest between the man and the woman, and the man should do what he can to facilitate her "giving up" the mythical prize or reward of sex. Women are "easy" if it is not difficult to obtain sexual favors from them. These small differences exist everywhere, and the "Thong Song" and obnoxious bumper stickers are only symptoms of the problem at hand.

The question Cintra Wilson should be asking is not "what is the effect of this women-as-sex culture," but "why do men so easily flock to this women-as-sex culture and behavior?" No one buys pornography to give them a new fetish or desire -- they buy porn to satisfy the desires already within. As foolish and sheepish the masses may be, they may not know art, but they know what they like. It's not about what Britney Spears has done to me by wearing tight red leather -- it's about why we crave tone-deaf vamps like her on our television sets. And that, unfortunately, cannot be explained away through bumper stickers.

-- Max Kennerly

Why is Cintra Wilson justifying rape and near rape? It seems to me that every time someone blames pornography or alcohol they just perpetuate "the devil made me do it" excuses.

It's real simple: If a woman dresses "provocatively," she is asking to be asked. She is not asking to be raped. If she says "no" then you accept her answer. If the next guy gets "yes," that's his (and presumably her) good fortune, and you wish them well.

The key is to encourage respect for people's autonomy. Unfortunately Cintra Wilson is far too interested in parading her disdain for their (presumed) masturbatory habits. When you confound a case against rape with a case against masturbation, small wonder you "don't get no respect" -- nor does the victim.

-- Roy Kay

Salon Staff

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