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"Simulated rape" with a bottle isn't a drunken "Jackass" prank: When will we get real about men and sexual assault?

"Old school mates" of a 19-year-old man filmed an alleged assault with a beer bottle and shared it on Facebook


Mary Elizabeth Williams
October 26, 2015 7:17PM (UTC)

A 19 year-old goes out for a night of reportedly "heavy drinking." Passes out in a bedroom. And then, later, discovers that a video of an alleged sexual assault involving a beer bottle has been posted on social media and passed around. Four men are now facing charges. But an attorney representing two of the men says that the whole incident has been blown out of proportion, and insists the whole thing was "just a prank." And I guess that's considered a credible line of argument, because the alleged victim is male.

The incident took place back in Kedron, Australia, during an Australia Day party back in January. Two of the accused are former Brisbane Lions AFL academy players, and one is only accused of filming the event. All are described as "old school mates and family friends" of the accuser from a local private school. Lawyer Eugene O'Sullivan says this has all been blown out of proportion, telling the court Monday that "I’ve seen the video and the video is, it is as my friend [another attorney] reported, it’s simply trial by media. It’s a 'Jackass' type of thing; it’s no rape. Simulated rape was videotaped and put on Facebook. So there's no reason why this should have any press coverage... because it’s just silly, and it should be handled in a proper way by the [Director of Public Prosecutions] and should be mediated and should be dismissed. It's just a prank, no rape involved, no bottle went through this bloke's anus, so no rape."  The men have been granted bail and will return to court in November. None have yet offered a plea. 

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The attorney's argument that the incident was simply an emulation of the popular MTV series of the early part of the century is an intriguing gambit. The show did seem to delight in hijinx involving the inebriated, especially if there was an opportunity for someone to bust out his junk. In a 2010 Vanity Fair interview with "Jackass" stars Johnny Knoxville and Steve-O, the stars copped to the show's high degree of "anal play and nipple torture and testicle touching." Steve-O said at the time, "In many ways, all our gay humor has been a humanitarian attack against homophobia. We’ve been trying to rid the world of homophobia for years, and I think gay people really dig it too."

I don't know if the content of the video reveals a very poorly executed "prank" or a more serious sexual assault. I do know that the video was reportedly distributed to the accuser's girlfriend and brother, which certainly appears to be a calculated attempt at shaming him. I also have a whole lot of questions about the attorney's admission that "Simulated rape was videotaped and put on Facebook." How is this something to be shrugged off with a basic "Lads will be lads" excuse? Does anyone think that if four young men filmed even a "simulated" rape of a passed out woman with a beer bottle, it would not be considered a sexual assault? Does anyone think that "no bottle went through this bloke's anus" is not a perfectly acceptable definition of "no rape?"

We still have a mighty long way to go in understanding the concept of consent, and how heavily it factors in the concept of assault. We still have people arguing that sex workers can't be raped, because they're sex workers. We have people who believe that getting passed out drunk is an invitation to assault. And though the more common refrain is that this is something women just have to accept as the price of drinking, we also ignore the prevalence of male on male sexual violence. When a Pentagon report last spring about assault in the military took on the subject, of particular note was its "intent to abuse and humiliate."

There are degrees of assault, and what happened to that young man is still up for a legal decision. But it shouldn't have be stated that abusing someone who is unconscious is unacceptable. And only a coward blames a 15-year old TV show on an act of cruelty.


Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a staff writer for Salon and the author of "A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles."

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Australia Male Rape Rape Sexual Assault

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