Richard Cohen is a columnist for the Washington Post. He’s also a Roman Polanski apologist, a Clarence Thomas apologist, and a man who’s been personally called out for lewd behavior in front of a 23-year-old aide. So it’s no surprise that Cohen has absolutely nothing good to say about Miley Cyrus and her much ballyhooed twerk-happy VMA performance. In fact, says Cohen, he was so perturbed by the performance that he had to look up the definition of “twerk” in ye olde spellcheck. (We picture him doing this with the help of the Microsoft Office talking paper clip, Clippy, natch.)
Of the performance, Cohen said. “She’s a cheap act, no doubt about it, but for me her performance was an opportunity to discuss one of the summer’s most arresting pieces of journalism — a long New Yorker account [by Ariel Levy] of what became known as the Steubenville Rape. Cyrus should read it.”
Yes, yes, Richard Cohen, a man who referred to Roman Polanski’s 13-year-old victim as a “victim” (those are his sarcasm quotes), believes that if Miley Cyrus’s twerking has taught us one thing, it’s that women are to blame for getting raped. It’s all that female sexuality displayed willy-nilly that drives men and boys to commit sexual assault. All that unbridled twerking.
And that “Steubenville rape”? Well, in Cohen’s eyes it was more of a Steubenville “rape.”
“The first thing you should know about the so-called Steubenville Rape,” he writes, “is that this was not a rape involving intercourse.” As if being digitally violated, as the Steubenville victim was, is somehow less of a psychological violation than, you know, rape-rape. “The next thing you should know is that there weren’t many young men involved,” he continues. “Just two were convicted.” As if the countless boys who were physically present with the passed out victim, who made videotapes, who tweeted and Instagrammed the victim’s drunk and lifeless body somehow weren’t complicit, too. “The next thing you should know is that just about everything you do know about the case from TV and the Internet was wrong. One medium fed the other, a vicious circle of rumor, innuendo and just plain lies. It made for marvelous television.”
You see, Richard Cohen, twerking scholar and Knower of All Truths — when it comes to the veracity of rape victims’ claims, anyway — has the inside track on what actually happened to the teenage victim in the Steubenville case. She was twerking. That’s what happened. Or okay, she wasn’t twerking, but it was the sexually provocative culture of Teenage Girls That Turn Richard Cohen On that were twerking. And it’s their fault teenage boys are so confused about sexual boundaries. No, no, it’s not the teenage boys, Malik Richmond and Trent Mays and the countless other members of the Steubenville football team that took part in the debasement, defilement and sexual assault of a teenage girl, that are to blame. It’s teenage girls themselves.
“Let me suggest,” writes Cohen, “that acts such as [Miley Cyrus's] not only objectify women but debase them. They encourage a teenage culture that has set the women’s movement back on its heels. What is being celebrated is not sexuality but sexual exploitation, a mean casualness that deprives intimacy of all intimacy.” In Cohen’s estimation, it’s Miley, the media, and all the alcohol imbibed by the victim that’s actually responsible for the Steubenville case. Not, say, a culture of violence, disrespect and fractured masculinity that sees women who are, to use an example of the language used to describe the Steubenville victim by one of the bystanders — which Cohen himself references in his piece — “deader than O.J.’s wife … deader than Caylee Anthony,’ ” as human fucktoys, unwilling bodies to experiment and play with.
Cohen closes out his clueless diatribe by calling Miley Cyrus, a 20-year-old pop singer, names. “Cyrus taught me a word,” he writes. “Now let me teach her one: She’s a twerk.” I can think of a word that deftly applies to Richard Cohen, two, actually: Rape apologist.