Tuesday, May 11

Roethlisberger: Brain Damaged or Simply a "Boor"

According to an article running on Sports Illustrated Online, Ben Roethlisberger-the quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers-may have brain damage.

While it seems pretty logical to conclude that a football player (lots of crashing to the ground) who was semi-recently involved in a serious motorcycle accident (more crashing to the ground) could indeed be suffering from brain damage, the article also posits that this actually provides a possible explanation for why Mr. Roethlisberger has been accused of rape twice in recent months.
Although not currently being treated for brain damage, a neuropsychologist at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke is quoted as saying that someone with frontal lobe damage “might not read the intentions of a woman at a bar very well.. they might succumb to more primitive urges instead of saying, 'I shouldn't do this because it affects my career.'"

While the potential neuro-biological explanation for Ben Roethlisberger’s behavior is much more complicated (and described in more detail in the article), I was really struck by the doctor’s comment.

If Ben Roethlisberger does have brain damage, then he might not be able to accurately assess a situation.
That makes sense to me—and might have serious implications for any woman unlucky enough to find themselves in the vicinity of a large, often inebriated man with potential brain damage.

But what do primitive urges, or thoughts of career problems have to do with rape?

Men do not rape because they give in to primitive urges.
And men do not stop themselves from raping someone because they worry about how it might affect their career.

Men rape women because they think it’s OK to ignore the wishes and desires of a potential partner, or because they wish to exert power and control over a hapless or helpless victim. Or sometimes, because they’ve been taught that their physical needs are more important than anyone else’s.

Men do not rape because it’s a primitive urge.
People have sex because it’s a primitive urge. Sex and rape are not the same thing.

Ultimately, Ben Roethlisberger may have engaged in some sort of non-consensual sex because he lacked both the capacity to understand that his partner was unwilling and the ability to understand that he was unable to determine their interest.

But I think it’s dangerous to call these acts the result of the inability to control “primitive urges.” It’s demeaning towards men and dangerous for women.