Takeaways From Yesterday’s “Rape Responsibility” Discussion

1. I made the decision to write full-time a little over a year ago. While the transition hasn’t always been smooth, I maintain that it’s the best choice I ever made. The successes we’ve had at VSB collectively and I’ve had personally have been documented, and 2012 is shaping up to be even better.

I’m bringing this up because all of this success has undoubtedly made my already large head even bigger. I’ve become more secure in my voice and my ability to articulate, amuse, and entertain, but with that came an arrogance that leads to days like yesterday.

I think I can (and should be able to) tackle any topic, so when I was browsing through different websites Monday afternoon, looking for something to write for Tuesday, I came across Zerlina’s article about rape, read the comments, and naturally thought “I think I’ll offer a (slightly) dissenting viewpoint. I might upset a couple people, but it’ll be no big deal. They (our readership) know and love me already, so the people who do happen to get upset will forget all about it by 3pm Tuesday afternoon.”

I was wrong.

While I think this conversation needs to be had, I’m not well-versed enough with this topic to even take the chance to articulate the types of thoughts I did yesterday. And, even if I was a rape issues maven, this isn’t the type of topic that someone like me — a snarky, sarcastic, (somewhat) insensitive, and (too) pragmatic asshole — should attempt to tackle by myself.

Perhaps I may get there eventually, but I’m not there yet, and it took a day like yesterday to drive that point home.

Also, it was a poorly crafted post. The title was unnecessarily incendiary and sensationalistic, the premise was drawn from a flawed inference (more on that later), the examples I used to make my point were lazy, insulting, and (very) hurtful, the conclusion was completely tone deaf, and the post-post 11 am edit was an abject fail.

Plus, as Panama stated in a conversation we had yesterday, because of the nature of VSB — we occasionally get “serious,” but most of our topics are meant to be light-hearted and entertaining. also, we usually touch on one topic one day and keep it moving. — this isn’t really the place for the type of discussion this conversation warranted. Honestly, if yesterday’s post didn’t blow up the way it did, today’s topic would have either been a (super-late) NBA preview or something about first date etiquette.

For instance, a glance at the screen while writing this tells me it’s 2:54 pm. In three hours, I’m meeting a couple people to create another “Sh*t___Says” YouTube video. And, lets just say that people who plan to spend entire evenings filming videos titled “Shit Diva Dudes Say To Bougie Black Girls” probably shouldn’t post potentially explosive pieces about rape two days before this silly-ass video debuts.

As much as I spoke about common sense Tuesday, the decision to post a controversial opinion about women and rape didn’t exhibit very much of it.

I do not apologize for possessing the feeling I was attempting to convey. But, I do apologize for being too arrogant to realize how wrong it was for me to attempt to convey it here yesterday. It’s an issue too touchy, too sensitive, too nuanced, and too volatile for a person without a master understanding of the topic to address on a platform as big as VSB’s.

2. Judging from what Google Analytics currently says (it’s 3:08 pm now, btw), yesterday’s post will probably generate 10 to 12,000 unique visitors. A year ago, this would have been one of our highest traffic days ever. Today, it’s maybe the 6th or 7th highest day in the last two weeks.

Both Panama and I (and Liz for that matter) have had some difficulties dealing with this increase in readership and reach; some relatively easy to handle (increased server costs, needing to hire interns, etc), and some that’ll take a bit more brainpower to solve.

One of these “difficult” problems is the fact that increased readership means that there’s a greater chance that someone not at all familiar with you will find your link on Facebook or Twitter, and it’s been a struggle trying to straddle the line between “opinionated and editor-less blogger who can say whatever the hell he wants with no repercussions” and “person who may need to be more cognizant of his words because he’s not just speaking around friends anymore

With this growth comes an increase in responsibility, and I know I seriously let some people down yesterday. I can’t promise that it won’t happen again. You can’t be successful at this without taking some chances and (occasionally) upsetting people. But, going forward, I do promise to be more conscious of the effect my words can have on people.

With all that being said, although I was genuinely surprised with (and hurt by) the reaction in the comments (and on Twitter), I really don’t want anyone to think that today’s piece and yesterday’s mid-morning edit are me back-tracking or trying to elicit any sympathy. Yes, I feel bad that there are some people who’ve never heard of VSB before and are going to use yesterday as their first (and, likely, only) impression of us, but this is what I signed up for when we decided to build this blog, and if I accept the praise, I have to handle the criticism too. I said it, signed my (real) name to it, and whoever doesn’t like it has a right to call me on it.

3. After re-reading Zerlina’s post for the umpteenth time yesterday, I realized that I definitely reached for the inferences I made. Because I followed the discussion about it on Twitter before actually reading it, I read it with an agenda, looking for a few things that weren’t actually there. I know how shitty it feels to have people make conclusions about something you’ve written before actually reading it, and I apologize to Zerlina for doing that to her.

4. You’ve probably noticed that I haven’t actually said anything about yesterday’s content yet, and I don’t plan to. That ship has sailed. I will say though, that as hard as this may be to believe, I actually did appreciate yesterday’s discussion. Perhaps the best part of VSB is the Very Smart readers, followers, and fans we tend to have, and yesterday was one of those days where I could sit back, read, and learn from them.

Among these things I learned was that there is a major disconnect among some very smart people about issues such as consent and rape/crime prevention and the definitions and proper applications of terms like accountability and responsibility. I don’t know if anything was “solved” yesterday (or if they ever will be), but I don’t think I was the only one surprised by how far apart many of us are when these topics are brought up.

I’m sure yesterday cost us some fans and dissuaded people who would have been fans in the future. That’s unfortunate. For those who did come back today, thank you, and lets continue to entertain (and educate) each other. My eyes and ears feel a little more open today, and I hope yours do too.

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”) 

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Damon Young

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB. He is also a columnist for GQ.com and EBONY Magazine. And a founding editor for 1839. And he's working on a book of essays to be published by Ecco (HarperCollins). Damon is busy. He lives in Pittsburgh, and he really likes pancakes. Reach him at damon@verysmartbrothas.com. Or don't. Whatever.

  • Eric McD

    I didn’t think you could do it but you did. An unapologetic apology. Well played sir. Well played.

  • Tes

    Aww Uncle Champ… *e-hug*

    I appreciate days like yesterday here. Yes, we (I say WE as if I’m a piece of the movement…) can do diva dude days and fun but I enjoy deeper conversations. Yesterday may have hurt some readers, but just like friends, we all have differing opinions and we all still come back.

    Can we have deep conversations like that more often? Maybe some not so inflammatory, but still…?

  • Thank you.

  • Hmm…I think I’ve offended enough people with my comments on yesterday’s post so…Just hmm.

  • Mo-VSS

    I had another response, but I’ll go with this one. The offensive thing was this: There is a difference in “rape prevention” and “risk reduction.” EVERYONE can participate in risk reduction in regard to preventing any type of crime being committed against them. However, rape is the ONLY crime I know of where we ask the victims of it to shoulder the burden of prevention and risk reduction. Victims of robbery aren’t told to “stop dressing rich or stop living in nice homes;” victims of identity theft aren’t told “stop being who you are or stop having good credit.”

    But somehow, we as a society have come to think that we can tell women, “follow this list of rules and you’ll be okay,” and then feel completely justified in not educating men in any way about rape culture and rape, what constitutes rape and what they can do to help stop it.

    And when someone addresses educating boys/young me about how to help reduce the environment that fosters rape, we get that sort of tongue-n-cheeck response that Champ posted yesterday. We get someone had no intention of taking it seriously, but asking that we take him seriously.

    I’m not exaggerating when I say that I was offended at best and it made me honestly think that the only time I’ll read the blog or comment is when PJ is writing. That might seem extreme, but those were definitely my thoughts.

  • MrsCamp

    Lurker here. I won’t touch yesterday’s topic bc my life makes it painful to do so. However I realize that ur piece yesterday didn’t come from a place of malice. It simply highlights the bigger conversation that needs to be had to change the way rape is viewed country. I still love u both, will still visit the blog and still aspire to attend “Reminisce” one of these Saturdays:)

  • rnic

    As someone who wasn’t offended by yesterday’s post but understands the sentiment of those who were offended by the content AND also agrees that it’s a topic that most with such a large, diverse audience should either stay away from or stick to the facts at most, I can appreciate this follow up post.

    I’m sure a few regular readers and potential readers were lost, but I also think those that are still here will find it comforting to know that a blogger like yourself with such a large platform is not too large to take a step back and re-assess your approach in the best interest of your readers/supporters.

  • Royale W. Cheese

    Thanks for admitting to being biased before you read Zerlina’s post.

    Diva Dudes! Yeaaaaahhhh!

  • dre

    first i’m happy i actually get to post a reply when there isnt already 300+ responses when i wake up in the morning, and getting lost in the mix.

    Second Im disappointed that subject erupted like it did. I know this is light hearted most of the time, but it truly is refreshing, to be able to “go there” and talk about any and all subjects, that sadly get swept under the rug.

    Its sad yet understandable how some people reacted, but its truly opened my eyes.

    I still continue to support you guys, and I wish nothing but success.

    although Im sad cause I know this will probably lead to you all censoring yall selves in the future. similar to a underground artist going mainstream C’est la vive , but anyway you still have a (die-hard almost) fan in me.

  • Angel Baby

    I feel bad. I was honestly going to tell you yesterday (CA time only 9pm) when I read this and it only had 5 comments to take it down before it got that bad. I just wasn’t sure if that would’ve been noted, or if it was needed bc sometimes things need to be said out loud so it can be addressed. I love ya’ man but smh. What’s tomorrow’s post going to be about? ;)

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