Responsibility: It's Not Just for Iowa Fans and Bathroom Stalls

Mordecai BrownerAnalyst INovember 28, 2008

A story rumbling around the message boards concerns two Iowa fans who were caught having adult relations in a Metrodome handicapped stall last Saturday, an event that has probably garnered more reaction than the lackluster 55-0 game itself. The punchline of the story, as it's usually reported, is this: "the woman was released to her husband, the man to his girlfriend."

Hilarious, right?

Right, and, as a side note, really just an insignificant footnote, it shows the blackened moral abyss into which we've descended.

I don't mean sex. No matter how pious or amoral a society, alcohol doesn't mix well with inhibitions and intoxicating scents often create lustful air. Hook-ups are virtually inevitable, be it in the taverns of Shakespeare's England or in the dark corners of swank Atlanta clubs.

And I'm certainly not opposed to personal responsibility. The two were clearly in violation of Minnesota law and, surely more embarrassing, have to own up to their behavior with their significant others.

But that, you see, is about as far as the stone-throwing should go, for most of those criticizing or causing additional pain for the woman in question live in houses far more fragile than glass. What's worse is that while straddling their own high horses about personal responsibility, most of the Internet jockeys tacitly refuse to take responsibility for their own actions.

Because there's more to any story than the two-sentence blurb I posted in the opening paragraph. On Wednesday, the woman in question was fired from her job during a recession. She continues to have her name and photograph plastered over the Internet and has received numerous prank calls.

For a misdemeanor and an act that is better dealt between husband and wife than by internet pontification.

And yet they persisted. Despite the scant known facts, the geniuses of the Internet started throwing out their scholarly theories, some suggesting she has an alcohol problem, others supposing she is a skank, a swinger, and a lousy mother, and most using it as a springboard for jokes even after the follow-up story came out.

Are these twits going to take responsibility for the woman's unemployment? For her name permanently etched in the Internet stone of Google searches? For the embarrassment her family has to suffer? For the harassment?

Or what about journalist Douglas Burns of her local newspaper, who published her home address in his story

Where's his apology for giving the sharks directions to their feeding frenzy?

Equally disturbing is that she suggested possibly being drugged in her follow-up story and the claim was instantly universally dismissed, not so much because it lacks merit, but rather because judgments about the situation and the character of the woman involved had already been made.

I doubt she was drugged. Given the police report, it seems unlikely, but I freely admit the possibility that the man slipped something in an open drink, offered it to a drunken woman, and had his way in the bathroom. Highly unlikely, but it's a possibility, and in America, traditionally, we've had a dictum of reasonable doubt before conviction.

But in Internetland, we shoot to kill and any whimpers from the corpse are only a sign to shoot again. Reasonable doubts are for her lawyer to prove against the harsh winds of conclusions already reached, namely that a 38-year-old mother of three was analogous to a drunken sorority whore, and it's downright hilarious, future information irrelevant.

MILF jokes can't be retracted. Can't delete hours of amateur Photoshopping, can we?

And then there's the blatant sexism. If you've followed this story on a message board or elsewhere, at some point you've probably seen a photo of the woman involved.  Some outlets seemed quite happy to find one, even.

But where are the photos of the man? A simple Google search revealed a newspaper article about him, and a two-second Myspace search gave me a whole host of photos, all coincidentally involving alcohol.

Did any of these so-called media outlets even search for his photograph? No, instead they dug deep and found a photo for the masturbatory masses. After decades of reevaluating gender and sexuality, we still make men into our sexual champions, winners no matter how they score, and women our ignorant sexual conquests, worthy of scorn regardless of whether they submit to sexual advances or reject them, instigate them or receive them.

And doesn't the fact that there were a dozen men cheering the act on bother anyone, given the slim chance that it might have been a date rape?

In the end, the moral vacuousness of the situation isn't the infidelity or the alcohol consumption, but the reaction it garnered. In a former time, it would have been reported and charges would have been filed, and perhaps even a few men would have pointed and laughed. But at no time before this massive ball of wires would the incident have swept across the nation so quickly as to cause a misdemeanor charge to ruin an average person's life in a matter of five days.

The internet might have democratized and enabled grassroots politics, but it also democratized idiocy. Addicts looking for their schadenfreude get it; no matter how bad a crumbling marriage or a company's balance sheet, the fact that in the middle of Iowa there's a guy who's married to some drunken whore eases the pain. Better yet, let's see how hot she is and call her up for a quickie.

No big deal, just tack another onto the list of Katharina Blums.

This has clearly become an example of one of the many stories that would be better left to idle discussion in coffee shops and bowling alleys, not broadcast through a series of servers. Perhaps the Internet has made our reaction to sex more infantile, or perhaps it fully let loose the infantile reactions of the Vulgarian masses.

Sex is often legitimately funny. This isn't one of those cases, and the fact that the Internet has made many of us numb to the difference is truly frightening.

Either way, a slew of hypocrites have crucified a woman for a misdemeanor, something far less severe than a DUI or larceny, things that often go completely unnoticed by the message board population. An issue that directly affects the private lives of a mere four people has become a call for moral finger-pointing while entertaining frat guys. Many armchair college football fans have gotten a lot of mileage out of this one while perpetuating its severity on the Internet.

A simple act of drunken infidelity has gained a woman horrible imfamy that will leave scars long after the public forgets the event, and long after the event normally would have been put fully in the past, so when are they, those media propagators, going to accept responsibility for their actions?


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