It’s looks like Darren Sharper is in trouble. A lot of trouble. The former NFL player and former NFL Network commentator was denied bail last week and remains in a Los Angeles jail. Sharper has been charged with drugging and sexually assaulting two women he met in an L.A. nightclub last year. And Los Angeles is not the only place where such allegations against Sharper have been made. Authorities in New Orleans issued an arrest warrant for similar reasons. After indicting him, Arizona wants to extradite Sharper–for sexual assault. Although he has not been charged in Florida and Nevada, Sharper  is being investigated.

5 states.  9 women.

Sharper has denied the allegations and his lawyers believe he will be exonerated. And I’m not in the business of declaring folks innocent or guilty. But I do think Sharper the example, an image if you will allows for certain important lessons about sexual assault to be learned.

Internet rule #4080: Never read the comments section.

Unfortunately, I keep forgetting that rule.

Some folks out there interesting in the story enough to comment are (sort of implicitly) forwarding the argument that Sharper is innocent because he’s good looking and a recognizable figure who could seemingly date any woman he wanted. The assumption in that thought is that men who (allegedly) sexually assault women do so because they aren’t attractive or are “creepy” or feel like they cannot find a sexual partner through more “traditional means.” It also assumes that women who engage with men like Sharper who are ostensibly good looking and/or are notable figures are sort of always willing. I’ve seen this enough in the comments section and have heard talk in other situations enough to know that these commenters aren’t trolls or anomalies or misinformed. I don’t think the assumptions they have about Sharper or sexual assault are all that foreign.

But, okay. Let’s assume that part of their premise is correct. Let’s just assume that Darren Sharper is good-looking and moneyed enough not to ever feel like he should sexually assault women. And yet, he is facing criminal charges that claim he did so anyway. Why? Because it’s not about that. If a lesson or several can be gleaned from the Sharper saga, let at least one of them be about sexual assault being about much more, something much more violent, something much more manipulative, and desirous of a certain kind of power and authority that is rendered in an incredibly horrible way. Let this be an opportunity for folks who have assumptions about those who (allegedly) victimize women in this way take their thinking a step further. Because if the initial idea is, “He didn’t have to,” then the follow-up question should be why. And it is in answering the “why” that hopefully compels folks to challenge and change their assumptions. And if those impressions are changed, then perhaps that is a step towards the only way to end sexual assault: to teach men–“handsome,” “privleged” and otherwise–not to do it.


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