• I may or may not have creamed my pants a little at this comment.

    I wrote about those damn Yale frat boys a couple of days ago. I’m sure you all rolled your eyes at me getting all riled up at what was obviously a bunch of idiots acting like idiots.

    But imagine my surprise when an article on Jezebel suggested we should all do just that. Chalk this one up to boys being boys, because they were obviously just trying to get attention.

    Oh yeah? Who the fuck cares? I think we should give them all the attention they want. In the form of anal rape, you say? No, that would be going too far.

    What these “boys” were proving was just how little respect they have for women. I’ll admit that hazing rituals make little sense to me in the first place, but please don’t try to tell me that the only way to humiliate a bunch of men is to have them yell misogynistic chants on a college campus. Why not post pictures of their tiny dicks on the internet? Why not parade them around campus in chaps? Why not find an embarrassing secret and expose it? Forcing them to endure humiliation shouldn’t require punishing others. Keep your fucking hazing to yourself.

    Jezebel, I’m disappointed in you. Both for acting like shouting “no means yes; yes means anal” is no big deal on a college campus, where rape is running rampant and is particularly associated with athletes and frat boys, and for focusing more on some necrophilia chant than on the message that rape is no big deal. Let’s not let this happen again, okay?

    Then, I got to this comment…and I felt all tingly in my bathing suit parts. CassandraSays? Let’s make out:

    What actually makes us look bad as feminists is being so ridiculously concerned about our image that we’re willing to sell out those of our college-aged sisters who may well be frightened by having to live in an environment in which stuff like this is taking place. Acting like it’s silly to be angry about men making rape into a joke, especially given the actual prevalence of rape on college campuses and its particular association with fraternities? That makes us look like complete imbeciles, as well as spineless and lacking the courage to stand up for our convictions.

    First of all, we are not the Borg, individual feminists get to choose the issues they care about and want to focus on. Secondly, if one was to put together a list of things that are feminist issues but fairly low priorities in a global sense, one might include, say, the debate about what men opening doors for women means socially speaking and whether it reinforces sexism. One would not put “some men think rape is funny” on that list, nor would one include “combating rape culture on college campuses and the role fraternities play in reinforcing it”. Not unless one was too weak to stand up to the pressure not to criticize sexism in ways that make people think one is just totally uncool and humorless, man.

    The idea that feminists are humorless and prone to overreacting is based on sexism. We don’t fix that by running around going “omg, if I talk about this will people think I’m humorless?”. We fix it by refusing to allow ourselves to be manipulated into adjusting our behavior so as not to make sexists uncomfortable.

    YES! Exactly.

    And I do think, as feminists, we have to be careful not to get pissed off about every little thing. I just don’t happen to believe this IS a little thing. Especially when rape on college campuses are practically commonplace and often goes unpunished.

9 Comments


  1. The Civilian says:

    I’m not sexist (I think). I don’t really care about gender simply because no one, male or female, can measure up to my sheer awesomeness and intellect. :)

    I don’t pay any attention to Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson anymore, because anytime anything happens that they can twist into something offensive, they get angry and start yelling. I know a lot of people think the same way. I’m not racist, yelling and anger simply loses its effect after a while.

    I agree with the article: “Absolutely, let’s have a dialogue about rape culture and how to combat it. But let’s have it on our own terms…” These idiot boys were out for attention. Nothing else. But it took these idiot boys being idiot boys to spark a campus wide, and even nation wide discussion on rape in college. Why? If you want to stop something, stop waiting for it to happen then yell about it after. Be proactive.

    I’m also sick of people getting painted with the “sexist” brush every time they disagree with a position a feminist takes. Or “racist” when they don’t agree with Uncle Al. We’re losing our culture of freedom of speech, and creating a right to not be offended. But anyway…

    • shine says:

      I think feminists ARE proactive, but no one really cares until something like this happens. Then we’re stupid for saying anything to what was obviously a bid for attention. But it’s not fair to say that we’re sitting on our hands or twiddling our thumbs until something like this happens.

      I do agree with that part of the article, what I don’t agree with is downplaying the “no means yes” part and playing up the necrophilia part and acting like saying things that promote sexual violence on college campuses is no big deal.

      And while I like you a lot and I think you’re generally sensible (and I wouldn’t call you sexist), I do think that you’re very quick to dismiss things like this as “women overreacting to silly things.” It’s okay for us to have a difference of opinion on these things, as I’m much more likely to get raped or have an abortion or miscarriage or whatever else than you are, so these things are a little closer to home for me.

      This isn’t to say that you don’t care about it or that your opinions aren’t valid, because you’re a man. Just saying that we have different priorities and that’s okay.

      We started Femme Writes for just this sort of reason, to be proactive. To say something about things we care about and that are important to us, and not just when something happens.

      Feminists are writing books and articles and touring the country giving talks about matters that are important to them. I’d call that proactive. The problem is, no one who doesn’t already agree really listens or cares until something like this happens and then it’s, “Oh, look at the silly feminists getting all riled up when these boys were just being boys.” And fuck that.

      I’m not going to be dismissed just because some people think it’s cute and funny when men run around college campuses chanting things like this. I care about it, I wrote about it. I’m not suggesting we create laws about it, I’m suggesting we start educating people about respect.

      I, too, get really exhausted with the misuse of labels like “sexist” and “racist.” I’m pretty convinced that most people in this country wouldn’t know “racist” if it smacked them in the head.

      We’re not losing our culture of freedom of speech, though. Freedom of speech means that the government cannot suppress your speech. You’re free from legal consequence. You can’t get arrested for what you say. And not a single one of these boys got arrested. Nor would you get arrested for disagreeing with “Uncle Al” or even actually BEING racist. Freedom of speech does NOT, however, protect you from every consequence of your actions. And on a college campus, you can be punished for the things you say and do.

  2. Jenny says:

    Being a college student myself, I know how prevalent rape jokes and ‘rape culture’ are, and it does seem to be deemed perfectly OK to have sex with a girl who is clearly far too drunk to consent either way (this was then joked about afterwards by a friend of mine, who was round ours for a few beers one night and then remarked, out of hte blue, ‘oh, yeah, Harry raped a girl last night’. I have to say, I had some words to say. Then I went to bed). I fully believe that most of these boys would never actually rape a girl, for all the jokes they make and despite this particular horrific hazing ritual. But that doesn’t make rape jokes acceptable.

    The thing is, here I get confused. Because if I don’t think it’s acceptable to joke about rape, then I shouldn’t think it’s acceptable to make the sort of exceedingly dodgy jokes that my friends make all the time, or to listen to the kind of comedy which is pretty standard in Britain where people say the most appalling things and it’s basically funny BECAUSE they don’t mean what they say. Rape jokes a lot of the time (though not in this instance) fall, semantically, under that banner.

    So if I object to rape jokes on principle, then I ought also to object to a lot of the other things I find actually quite funny. My sister and I were in the pub over the summer at one point and ended up effectively having just this conversation with some friends of mine, and they fought C into a corner until she suddenly realised that she was trying to argue that dead baby jokes are fine, but rape jokes aren’t. Which is obviously a completely insane line to take.

    On some level, yes, our young men are clearly starting to think that rape is OK, or that sex with drunk women who can’t consent is OK, or that if someone’s been flirting with you all night she clearly wants to have sex with you, that’s enough consent, when it clearly isn’t. But on another level I do wonder to what extent rape humour has anything to do with that – because it’s *not* as if college students are going around putting babies in blenders or whatever the jokes say, in the same way that I don’t think violent video games are making people more violent, by and large.

    Basically, I completely agree with you – marching round a primarily-female hall of residence chanting ‘no means yes, yes means anal’ is NOT okay. But I also think that it’s not as simple as saying that jokes about rape are not OK, because if we say that I think in all fairness and in order not to be hypocritical we have to cross off the list all humour that is funny because it’s a bit – or very – offensive or inappropriate. And, frankly, in the UK at least, without htat kind of humour we’d be left with nothing, because we’re a spectacularly coarse bunch.

    • shine says:

      I mean, I understand that sometimes we might all find some completely inappropriate things funny. But I will say this: I think there’s a difference between joking around with your friends and shouting things at women on a college campus.

      Also, there are ALWAYS consequences for your actions, so even if you tell a rape joke to your friends and you hurt someone, you have to deal with it. I’m all for raunchy humor, believe me, but I think there’s a line and if you cross it, you have to deal with the consequences.

  3. Clare says:

    I disagree quite strongly here.

    Yes, I think it’s an appalling and distressing indictment of our society that this sort of thing is seen as funny, and it’s distressing that, as you say, a ‘hazing ritual’ chose to ‘humiliate’ its members by deliberately offending and upsetting others.

    And for me the main reason that ‘rape jokes’ are so disturbing is not because of the jokes themselves, but because they are being told in a moral grey area. Unlike humour which revolves around stuff that most, if not all, normal/moral people see as wrong (i.e. I have some friends who joke about child murder. I’m not sure why, but at least I know they don’t condone it), rape occurs in a social context in which the definition of rape is entirely alien to the reality. (I don’t know what the prevailing myths about rape are in the USA but in England, the idea is that ‘rape’ is when a masked stranger jumps melodramatically out from behind a tree, whereas most rape actually occurs within the home, or is enacted by someone known to and trusted by the victim).

    On the other hand, I think Jezebel has a point. She’s not saying “let them get away with it, let’s capitulate”, she’s saying that this sort of thing will continue to occur unless people start to be educated about consent and about the damage of rape in a calm, non-hysterical, intelligent manner. A bunch of feminists raging and ranting on the internet or in the media at these boys won’t change their attitudes. In fact, it will just give them prestige among their peers. But sitting them down and face-to-face talking to them about the reality of what rape is, and the damage it does, and the context in which it occurs might just make a difference.

    And also, instead of getting full of rage abiout some assholes joking around, why not reserve the full might of our rage for things that really, really need it, like the popularisation of pornography and the mainstreaming of the sex industry which is, after all, the issue which is cultivating ideas like this and making them acceptable. If we can fight that, and fight it well, then attitudes like these will eventually come to seem as outdated as they really are. But if we just yell at the idiotic boys and ignore the bigger fish, we’re never going to get anywhere and are in fact just going to perpetuate the same stereotypes about ‘feminists’ which are so damaging to the movement in general.

    • shine says:

      Honestly, right now? I’m not sure how I feel about the movement. Since Sarah Palin and her conservative buddies have hijacked the word.

      At any rate, I wasn’t suggesting we forgo education, but we wouldn’t even be having this conversation about a need for education if it weren’t for the fact that people got upset about it. If no one got upset? No one would even be talking about it.

      Until men learn, from an early age, that women are people just like them and deserve to be respected, we’re going to be in this place. But this is sort of a special case because rape on college campuses IS such a huge problem. So I wrote about it, and I don’t and won’t think that’s wrong.

  4. Jenny says:

    I don’t think that either Clare or I are saying that writing about this is wrong. Clearly campus rape happens less frequently in the UK – or perhaps it doesn’t, but it does seem to be more of a mainstream concern (from what little I know of the US) in the US than it is in the UK.

    I think this whole situation is a bit like dealing with a naughty child. You don’t respond to its attention-seeking behaviour right away, because you don’t want to encourage it. But instead you catch it later in the day and try to give it the attention and re-education it needs, so it learns not to associate acting up with being paid attention and instead learns valuable lessons about how to socialise appropriately. Yes, of course we should be (and are all) outraged by the fact that this kind of thing happens – our outrage is about the attitudes that led young men to the point where this is deemed amusing – but we have to be careful about how we deal with the situation and how we go about trying to give those young men (and, perhaps more crucially, the younger generations in their formative years) the lessons they need to learn about respect and decency and empathy.

    As for ‘there are ALWAYS consequences for your actions, so even if you tell a rape joke to your friends and you hurt someone, you have to deal with it’ – I am really quite angry that you should think you have the right or need to say that to me. I don’t think I need to explain why, in context.

    • shine says:

      Ooohhh no! I didn’t mean you-you. I meant general “you.” Whether or not you, personally, tell rape jokes is your business and none of mine.

      I meant when people tell rape jokes, even amongst their friends, sometimes there can be consequences that they have to deal with. The same goes for ANY joke.

      And I wasn’t really trying to say either of you were saying that I was wrong. I was just pointing out that I don’t feel that it is wrong. Since there are really only three of us reading this anyway, it’s mostly of no importance at all. I guess my feeling is just that we can’t always ignore things, even if they may be purely done as attention-seeking behavior, just because we’re worried about how it will look if we respond.

      If you, personally, or anyone else doesn’t think it’s a big deal, that’s fine. I happen to think it’s kind of a big deal. I’m not suggesting that everyone should think so, just that I do. So it’s kind of irritating to me when a publication like Jezebel, which has so much influence, announces that really, it’s no big thing and if you treat it like a big thing, you’re overreacting. My response was to them, because of the power and influence they have.

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