Brock Turner, the Stanford swimmer who raped an unconscious woman, offered to speak to college students about the dangers of “drinking and promiscuity.” The problem here, however, is not alcohol or promiscuous behavior: it is Turner’s crime, his refusal to acknowledge his wrongdoing, and the suggestion that alcohol and promiscuity are the same thing as rape.
Turner was recently released from a Santa Clara County jail after serving only half of his six month sentence and showing little remorse for his actions. He is now a registered sex offender and must complete counseling. The judge’s lenient 6-month jail sentence stoked further outrage at Turner’s crime and a justice system that does not seem to care about sexual assault survivors.
While it is true that alcohol and drugs are often a factor in campus sexual assaults, Turner should not excuse his crime as a case of “promiscuity” due to alcohol. Rather, Turner should acknowledge his explicit violation of another person’s body, an action stemming from violent power dynamics and socialization that suggests consent is not a necessity. If Turner wishes to engage in a meaningful speaking tour, he must first acknowledge and apologize for his crime. He must explain that he nor anyone else has the right to anyone else’s body no matter how drunk or vulnerable they are.
If Turner wants to share his story with college students, he must demonstrate that he has learned to respect women and their right to say ‘no.’ He must accept the definition of consent as a continual, enthusiastic and conscious yes. Turner should highlight his failure to obtain consent and the inability of an unconscious person to consent to sex. Turner needs to discuss his own wrongdoing, rather than blaming party culture for his crime.
It is disturbing, as well, that Turner would associate “promiscuity” with his crime. Being very sexually active (what some might call “promiscuous”) and committing a sex crime are not one and the same. Sex should be a consensual act for all parties involved. Otherwise, it is sexual assault or rape. Being open and free with one’s sexuality has nothing to do with taking advantage of an unconscious woman.
Turner’s offer to the judge to speak to college students about his crime was likely a stunt to suggest his remorse and obtain lenient sentencing. The truth is, Turner has a lot of personal work to do if he wishes to add his voice to the robust work being done on college campuses surrounding sexual assault and rape culture. Sexual assault survivors should be the center of this advocacy work, and adding Turner’s voice to the fray (especially if he chooses to emphasize party culture) would only make him the focus of this story, obscuring the struggles and suffering of the survivor.
Turner does not deserve to be the face of the anti-rape movement. It is up to students and organizations focused on sexual assault survivors if they wish to have him speak on their campuses, but ultimately, Turner should not benefit from this story with attention, speaking engagements, or (heaven forbid) payment for his speeches.