Owen Labrie doesn’t need 11 years in prison—but he needs something more than a gap year of service.
Whether he ever gets to go on to an ivy league college and pursue a divinity degree as he originally planned, Owen Labrie’s sentencing is an opportunity to change the direction of a young coward and cad and turn him into the sort of man we might be proud of. If I were the judge, I’d lean more towards rehabilitation than retribution. In my fantasy sentencing for Owen Labrie, I’ll have him pursue a different sort of divinity degree at the college of Real Life.
Year One – A Survey of Crimes Against Women
Each quarter, Owen rotates through a volunteer assignment that will demonstrate the appalling breadth of crimes perpetrated against women. He should volunteer at nonprofits that work in domestic violence, rape, and human trafficking. He should support the people who fight gender discrimination on all fronts and who advocate for equal opportunities in education, employment and pay. He should be assigned the grunt work and gopher tasks—he has not yet earned anyone’s consideration for his future. He will read broadly and learn about women’s histories and begin to see the connections between sexual double-standards and discrimination and crimes against women.
Year Two – Advanced Studies
Owen will have internships with several different nonprofits serving women in crisis to intensify the experience of his first year. He should be assigned to the PR/Advocacy/Fundraising departments so he can internalize and articulate why these organizations came to be and what they need to their work. By the way, he is paying an annual tuition equal to the college he intended to go to, and it is shared equally among the organizations that take him on.
Year Three – His Junior Year Abroad
Owen will serve a year in refugee camps, witnessing the misery caused by unbridled male aggression and violence. He’ll see how the culture of rape is part of war. He’ll be humbled by the staggering numbers of women and girls left vulnerable by the murder of their men, by how they became the spoils of war, by their living conditions, and how their future is in question.
Year Four – His Senior Project
Owen must now put together everything he has learned in the previous three years and add a fourth element. His experiences so far focused on learning about violence and discrimination perpetrated against women. He must now turn his attention to his XY chromosome brotherhood and learn the history of patrimony, the biology and psychology of men, and cultural studies of masculine identity. For his Senior Project he must choose an actionable remedy that requires men’s participation. He must demonstrate leadership, assume risk, exercise persuasion and lead by example. This is the culmination of his sentencing, but before he can graduate, he will be judged one more time by a panel composed of the court, his advisors of the last 4 years, and the young woman he offended in May 2014. He must show that he can connect the dots between his own behavior and what he has witnessed these past years. If he fails to prove that he has changed and that he can now bring other men along to prevent abuse, violence and discrimination against girls and women—that’s when he should go to prison.
Owen’s Graduation Gift To Us
Sending him to prison for years and registering him as a sexual offender for the rest of his life does not serve society’s needs. Women don’t need Owen in prison—they need Owen, and plenty of other men, to change the culture of masculine identity. But first Owen has to change himself—let’s insist upon it, but let’s give him a real path.
Owen must give us a new version of being a man. More than atoning for his own crimes, he must also prevent new ones. He has to be the change in a rotten system that encourages men to mistreat women. That’s how he graduates—and it’s a senior salute we can all be proud of.