The loudest question about Darren Sharper’s admission of drugging and raping women is wrongheaded.
Why, people wonder, would an attractive, wealthy, football elite resort to deception and incapacitation of women just to have sex? Sharper had money, good looks and the kind of physique that would have made him the #MCM of women nationwide had he still been playing when Instagram became a thing. In a sports world where sex is for the asking, if not the buying -- why would he need to rape anyone?
That says more about us than it does about Sharper. After decades of alleged social progress, we still don’t collectively acknowledge rape as a violent crime rather than a sexual kink gone too far. The former is the tragic truth, the latter minimizes the brutality. Rape is brutal, whether committed at gunpoint in a stairwell or in a luxury suite on a plush bed as the victim lies sedated by a poisoned cocktail; and yes, this is true whether she accepted that drink or not. It's grievous to think otherwise because black women are more likely to be raped and less likely to report their assaults to police than the general population. Refusing to acknowledge the reality of rape helps perpetuate another form of violence in communities already shattered by it. Although it involves sexual contact by definition, rape is not about sexual pleasure; it's about control, manipulation and force. It is about the rapist’s need to take power, security and self away from the victim, not his need to copulate.
Darren Sharper didn't rape because he was horny; he did it because he was--and remains--predatory.
That’s why none of the women we assume would have offered themselves to Sharper would have satisfied his despicable itch. A scene from the original Jurassic Park movie is the perfect metaphor: a goat is tied up and left as easy prey for a hungry T-Rex; the carnivore refuses. Darren Sharper is a T-Rex and mere sustenance isn’t enough. Only being able to cause his victim’s suffering in the process of being sated will do. Hunters hunt.
While Sharper hunted, we continued reducing women and mythologizing black male sexual prowess with how we contextualize his crime. The logic that says that Sharper had no reason to rape-- there is NEVER a such reason-- assumes that by virtue of being wealthy and well-built, he was assured access to as many women’s bodies as he wanted. It assumes that his athleticism, his muscularity, his speed and power on the football field translated to sexual potency. It continues the false narrative that inherent in black male physical endowment is the endless pursuit of sexual conquest and domination. Black men are big, fast, strong, dangerous and by extension, perversely sexual, to the point of violence. That kind of machismo has to be controlled. We've seen the implications of that kind of thinking on our streets. Violence, even when it's only the potential for it as conjured in someone's head, begets violence.
People got to jail.
Meanwhile, we still ask- Why did Darren Sharper need to rape? Why does that matter if in our minds he would have had sex with as many women as he so chose no matter what, if our psyches tell us that the only way encounters between black athletes and women can end is in sex, or violence or a combination of the two. For an entire season, that's how we contextualized nearly every player in the NFL, vis-a-vie the behavior of Ray Rice and Greg Hardy. Domestic violence, we said, must be eliminated in football, as if either domestic violence or sexual assault aren't prolific in every workplace in America.
We all know better, just like we know that there are more abusers and sexual predators in suits and ties than on football fields every Sunday. We tell ourselves different because believing that Darren Sharper’s wealth, stardom, chiseled face and ripped physique convinces us that the rapist is one of them. That makes us feel safe and morally superior.
But it doesn't make us any better.