I am always fascinated when a story within my world goes viral. Once, that was via an NPR intern who shares my name whose simple post blew up my own Google alerts from small music blogs through National press all the way up to The New York Times.
This time around, more than art was at stake. Brock Turner, convicted rapist and Stanford swimmer, is another story I watched explode. It started with swim blogs, then feminist blogs, National press and eventually Vice President Joe Biden even commenting on the story.
I don’t know Brock or his victim. But I’ve been a young woman at countless parties and also grew up on swim teams. I felt like I knew both parties involved, even though as stated: I don’t.
The victim’s powerful words describe her experience, initially one that countless women have on campuses around the globe - she headed out to a party with her sister expecting a fun night out. That night turned into a nightmare for all involved.
I am horrified by Brock’s actions and disappointed that others who work hard on his storied swim team now are associated with Google searches that have nothing to do with the team’s success. I feel nothing but love and support from afar for the victim and all who surround her.
But how did we get here? Like I said, I felt like I knew Brock as I grew up around swimmers and the victim could have been any one of my friends. Swimmers aside, I wondered if all of the young men and women I grew up with were actually taught about sexuality as well as the powerful affects of alcohol. I grew up in a liberal home, but in a conservative community. Many of my male and female friends’ parents avoided the topic of sex. And drinking? Well, I’m from Wisconsin, which claims the most “drunk” cities of any state in America.
Brock is a convicted criminal, no doubt. Yes, his sentence is horrifyingly too short, and it’s frankly kind of creepy that the Judge who gave such a light sentence was also a Stanford athlete, apparently concerned about ruining Brock’s life. Brock’s life was ruined when he decided to violate an unconscious woman; not by how long or short his sentence is. I am in no way saying that alcohol = rape. But I couldn’t help noticing that the community Brock grew up in is not unlike where I’m from.
Did his parents ever talk to him about what a powerful drug alcohol is? Did they explain that sex is of course completely natural and have regular, open conversations with him about these topics? Would any of these conversations have changed the behavior of someone who is truly sick? Probably not. But I’d like to think being real and having open conversations with kids about society is going to benefit them more than not.
My mind was blown when a good friend who is extremely open minded in every way told me she dreaded teaching her newborn son about sex. I sat there and thought “That’s how he was created!!” We don’t live in The Dark Ages. Religion is present in America, but not all that common as a lifestyle amongst Millennials. That is a reality parents need to wake up to. If parents are religious, great. But don’t assume that is enough to teach your child responsible sexual behavior.
I showed up at college with little drinking experience (my first glass of wine was in France as a teenager) and have experienced various drugs since then. Alcohol is no joke. We need to drop the taboos surrounding alcohol, sex, and young people. Be real with your kids. What was your experience with learning how to drink? What mistakes did you make that you don’t want your kids to make? Why are we scared to have these conversations?
Women face biases in virtually all areas of business. We get paid less. We have to watch our drinks while out. And 1 in 6 of us will be sexually assaulted in our lifetimes. This is good information for all to understand.
Most want gender equality, but don’t always talk about what that actually means. These conversations start at home, with the people who love you most and are trying to teach you about life. So why are we sending kids out to the world so blind?
Why did Brock Turner lie about his high school (recreational) drug use? The greatest Olympian of all time has been photographed with a bong. Maybe we should talk about pot not being so bad. Or the insights that can come from hallucinogens. And that alcohol can cause a lot more problems than just driving drunk (often the only advice that was given to my friends surrounding alcohol).
Again, I do not know Brock, I do not know his victim. But I do know a lot of young people whose parents never spoke to them about sex in any sort of real way. On top of that, many had a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy with alcohol. And of course those two factors alone don’t make someone a rapist. But it’s a good place to start to try and prevent the next Brock Turner. And in the least will give a space where kids can be open with their parents and be themselves.
I also don’t have kids. If do at any point, maybe I’ll feel differently; but I don’t think so. Alcohol is a brutal drug. Use it wisely and be smart. Have fun for sure, but know what it’s doing to your mind and body. Responsible, consensual sex is what most sane humans want. Are we teaching our kids that? What is scaring us from doing so? I recommend getting over that fear. In the least, we can build a more respectful culture - for women, for each other, and also look out for all whether they are experiencing their first drink at home or are doing so surrounded by peers.
About the Author
Emily White is a Brooklyn based entrepreneur; most notably as the co-founder of Dreamfuel, a crowdfunding platform for athletes, as well as Whitesmith Entertainment. Recently, White penned her first book, Interning 101 as a how-to guide for interns in the modern business world. Emily and her companies can be found via @EmWizzle, @DreamfuelMe, @WhitesmithEnt as well as @Interning101 on Twitter for additional info.