A Simply Awful Implicit Equivalency—even if Digitally Generated

As colleges and universities struggle to formulate effective policies for dealing with sexual assaults on campus, the media have often focused on the campus culture that blurs the lines between sexual license and sexual imposition. But the same insensitivity to distinctions is also pervasive in our media, often to an outrageous extent.

The following is the opening to one of the lead stories in the Huffington Post’s The Morning E-Mail. I have omitted the accompanying photo of the accused accountant because he will undoubtedly get more than enough media attention to make his face, at least temporarily, as recognizable as the faces of many celebrities.

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Florida Accountant Timothy Deegan Kept 3 Women as Sex Slaves: Cops

The Huffington Post  | By Sebastian Murdock

Posted: 06/15/2014 9:22 am EDT Updated: 06/15/2014 12:59 pm EDT

 

A Florida accountant has been accused of confining three women in his home as sex slaves, prostituting them and posting a video of himself raping at least one of the victims.

Gainesville resident Timothy Deegan, 53, was charged with three counts of human trafficking June 6th, the Gainsville Sun reported last week and could face additional charges.

Deegan owns a tax business and a sizable home sporting a fountain and statues of lions near a large driveway.

But inside the house, investigators said they found traps, running cameras and weapons, which Deegan allegedly used to subjugate the three women. . . .

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Below this story are the following stories linked as “similar” stories:

13 Synonyms for Vagina That We Hate the Most

Shedding Light on the Myths about Women Who Have a Lot of Sex

and

Is It Acceptable to Have Sex in Public

As if that trivializing of the terrible crimes allegedly perpetrated by this accountant were not enough, there is a story in the column at the right of the web page with the headline:

Artificial Vaginas Are on the Way

That story, by the way, is listed immediately after a story on AIDS in Africa. And the column of highlighted stories includes items on the see-through top that Kim Kardashian wore at Bonnarroo, on Kris Jenner’s topping Kim Kardashian with a sexy bikini photo of her own, and the controversy over the “money shot” in Girls. Mixed in among those “news” stories are other stories on a terrible massacre perpetrated by the ISIS forces in Iraq, on Mitt Romney’s appraisal of Hillary Clinton’s record as Secretary of State, on a former pro-wrestler’s finally “coming out” as gay at the age of 73, and on a three-year-old who was mauled by a pit bull being asked to leave a restaurant because his appearance was upsetting other diners.

So, although the juxtaposition of lead and “similar” stories that I have highlighted seems extremely egregious, this sort of wildly arbitrary mix of stories seems actually to be more the pattern than the exception to the pattern. And it is very obviously culturally desensitizing. If something becomes commonplace, it is no longer shocking, and, probably worse, if what we find “shocking” runs the gamut from celebrity self-exposure to mass graves, the whole concept of “shock” loses any meaningful sort of definition.

If this desensitizing effect broadly parallels the tensions in our institutional responses to very serious issues such as sexual assaults on our campuses, those parallels should hardly be surprising. Our institutions do not exist in isolation.

Indeed, the major takeaway from this discussion might be that when we address most education-related issues in isolation, we almost inevitably mitigate or even completely miss much of what is making those issues most complex—the social, economic, political, and cultural context in which they are occurring. We end up addressing them as if academia is, indeed, an “ivory tower” separated by some sort of moat from the rest of our collective experience, which it now no longer is, if indeed it ever was.

I am not sure how long the stories that I have cited will remain listed as I am describing them in this post, but here is the link to the page as I am looking at it now: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/15/timothy-deegan-sex-slaves_n_5495980.html

 

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