Content note: this post discusses rape and rape apologism
At the time of writing, Sheffield United are still refusing to make a definitive statement on whether they will re-sign the rapist Ched Evans to the club. This decision is looking more bizarre by the day, as a scramble to disassociate from the enterprise begins. It started with patron Charlie Webster, and then two others followed. Shirt sponsors soon joined, and now Jessica Ennis-Hill, who has a stand named after her at Bramall Lane, wants her name removed if the rapist is re-signed. It seems bizarre, therefore, that United haven’t come out and distanced themselves to a different country than Evans.
There is likely a certain level of cynicism, at least among some of those pulling away from Sheffield United: a fear of negative publicity for their brand rather than a genuine commitment to ending rape culture. No business wants to be known as “that rape company” upon their logo being proudly displayed on the shirt of a convicted rapist. However, some seem to be putting across good messages, like Charlie Webster, who explained:
There can be no doubt that Evans is influencing a young generation of men who are still developing their opinions on how to treat women. They develop these opinions and morals based on the role models they see around them, the role models that we give them. I cannot publicly support a club that presents a convicted rapist as a role model.
These young men are standing by their hero, showing him unwavering solidarity and support, without actually understanding or really thinking about what Evans has done. But we are the ones who set Evans up an influencer. We are the ones presenting a convicted rapist a role model to our young people. Is that ok?
This is the crux of the matter. Every second United delay sending a clear message that they have no intention of re-signing Evans allows yet more young men think that they can rape someone, and, on the very unlikely chance they get caught, it will present little more than a small blip in an otherwise glamorous career.
Given that on the current landscape, signing a convicted rapist makes terrible business sense, one can only assume that this is exactly the game Sheffield United are playing. It’s becoming abundantly clear that this is what they want, to nurture the next generation of young rapists into comfortable , well-paid lives.
A common myth among rape apologists is that an accusation of rape can ruin a man’s life. Nowhere is this shown more obviously to be false than when we look to Ched Evans. This man is a convicted rapist, and his club have bent over backwards to accommodate him, against the forces of general business acumen. Evans still enjoys an army of loyal defenders of rape, willing to trumpet that even though he was convicted of rape it wasn’t really rape. I do not think this whole affair has taught Ched Evans nothing. It’s taught him and the men that he influences that yes, you really can get away with it.
Fortunately, there are enough people out there who don’t want this to happen, and can see these ramifications as clear as day. Our voices are growing louder, and it looks as though this time, it might just be winnable. Surely Sheffield United must know by now that if they don’t kick that convicted rapist soon, they’ll go down with him?
If they haven’t realised it by now, I’ll gladly watch them burn.