Erika Lindquist is a comedian and writer from Boston who has studied at The Second City Training Center.
On June 2, ex-Stanford swimmer Brock Turner was convicted of three felony counts of sexually assaulting an unconscious young woman. For those crimes, he received a prison sentence of six months, a punishment many people are protesting as too lenient. In response, Brock’s dad wrote a letter that reduced his son’s crime down to numbers, saying the punishment was actually too severe, and that “this is a steep price to pay for twenty minutes of action out of his twenty plus years of life.”
Oh, you want to get numbers involved in this thing, Brock’s dad? Let’s do some word problems and see if we can justify your son’s actions that way:
Question #1: If Brock Turner can swim five hundred meters of freestyle in a time of 4:25.22, does the fact that it only took him five times that long to sexually assault an unconscious young woman increase the probability that it was OK he did that?
Answer: No. That is not at all how probabilities work. Being good at swimming does not make it OK to sexually assault someone for 20 minutes. These two things are not related in any way.
Question #2: Brock Turner had to practice a lot to get into Stanford, which is an excellent school with a great swimming program. What is the ratio of time Brock spent at swim practice as compared to the amount of time he spent assaulting an unconscious young woman behind a dumpster?
Answer: Ratios, the quantitative relation between two amounts showing the number of times one value contains or is contained within the other, do not matter here. Matriculating at a well-known university bears no relationship to the amount of time spent committing a felony against another human being.
Question #3: If two bikes with male graduate students riding them are traveling at 13 miles per hour, and the riders witness Brock Turner sexually assaulting an unconscious woman behind a dumpster, and X is the reason they got off their bikes and ran to catch him as he fled the scene of the crime, what is X?
Answer: X is not a measurable numerical value. But for the sake of argument, let’s say that X actually equals the weight of the human consciences that clearly reside inside those two men.
Question #4: If Brock Turner was at Stanford for five months prior to committing the three felonies he was convicted of–and given a sentence of six months in jail– what does the correlation between those two numbers tell us?
Answer. There is literally no correlation in any way between these two numbers. They tell us nothing. Nothing, you idiot!
Question #5: If there are 10,512,000 minutes in twenty years, and Brock Turner only spent 20 of those minutes raping an unconscious young woman, should the fact that he only spent 0.00019025875190259% of his life exercising the “intent to commit rape” mean we should overlook it?
Answer: What? No. That’s not how crimes, the legal system, or basic humanity function. I’m starting to think you don’t understand anything of these things, Brock’s dad.
Question #6: Brock Turner has been convicted by a jury of his peers of three felony sexual assault charges. If one felony + a second felony + a third felony = registering as a sex offender for the rest of your life, is that fair?
Answer: Whoa! Yes. That is how it works. You don’t actually need math for this one at all.
Question #7: Let’s just try a simple points system here. According to Brock’s dad, “Brock can do so many positive things as a contributor to society.” So if Brock gets +100 points for being a good swimmer, and +100 points for getting into Stanford, and +100 points just for fun, doesn’t that cancel out the three felony sex assault convictions?
Answer: Are you fucking kidding me?
So unfortunately, it appears we were not able to use ratios, algebra, or a simple points system to explain away the rape Brock Turner committed. You might be able to argue with the heartbreaking letter written by the woman your son was convicted of assaulting, Brock’s dad, but you can’t argue with cold, hard math.
Caitlin Kunkel is a comedy writer, director, and producer based in Brooklyn, NY. She teaches screenwriting and satire at The Second City Training Center and takes off her pants as soon as she gets home. Read more of her musings @KunkelTron or at the more professionally-named www.caitlinkunkel.com.