For those of you who know me personally, you’ll know that I have many strong suits. I’m good at curling hair, making toast, and procrastinating. However, one art I have never considered myself too gifted in is keeping my mouth shut. I’m a chatterbox. This, combined with the fact that I am incredibly opinionated, can often times get me into trouble.
Last week I was coming back from class and my friend Lindsay stopped me in our dorm to show me this post on the Butler Collegian, our school’s newspaper. As soon as I read it, I was angry. I would encourage you to at least skim the article in order to form your own opinion before reading ahead.
I was absolutely enraged. I felt that the whole article was doing nothing but attempting to justify what this fraternity had done by saying it was “just a joke.” The whole time I was reading it, I could only think of all the times I have heard the saying “boys will be boys.” So what did I do? I wrote a nice long email to the author of the article. Here’s what I wrote:
“I am writing to you regarding your recent article in the Butler Collegian. I am a student here at Butler University, and after reading your article, I felt the need to contact you. Your recent story made me feel infuriated, sick, and, most of all, afraid.
I have considered the possibility that you are writing this to get a reaction out of readers and that this is not truly what you believe. I sincerely hope this is the case. However, I can only assume that your article is genuine, in which case I am very much disturbed.
You stated in your piece that the line between good humor and poor taste is often “thin and obscure.” This is incorrect. The fact of the matter is that where sexual assault is concerned, there is no such thing as “good humor.” Rape jokes are not jokes; rather, they’re a sheer display of ignorance. Furthermore, said “jokes” are purely disrespectful to victims of sexual assault.
The fact that you believe the incident regarding Phi Delta Theta was only wrong because it was “taken too far” is proof that you do not understand the severity of the situation. If the men (and I use this term loosely) of Phi Delta Theta thought that it would be appropriate and humorous to display “No Means Yes, Yes Means Anal” on a large banner, what makes you think they don’t believe that carrying out this action isn’t equally as appropriate and humorous? Where does the line here exist? It doesn’t. If we keep making excuses for boys (which is something you did consistently throughout your article), they’re going to continue to think that their actions are excusable and, I fear, acceptable.
You wrote that you aren’t offended by this incident. This only further displays your naivety. Did you know that one in four college women will be the victim of sexual assault? Or that 70% of college rape victims surveyed knew their attackers? The phrase “No Means Yes, Yes Means Anal” relays that it is okay for people to ignore the words “no” and that it is acceptable to force others into having sexual relations. It sheds a humorous light on a matter that is alarming at the very least.
I hope you understand that by publishing this article you are countering the measures taken by Butler University to make this campus a safer place. If you take anything away from this long winded email, it should be this: I don’t want to have to walk with my key between my knuckles anymore. I don’t want to have to explain to my younger brother why I carry pepper spray. I don’t want to have to live in fear. As a writer, you are given the gift of a chance for your voice to be heard, and you are morally obligated to use that gift for good. I hope you know that you have done the exact opposite.”
Was I slightly too aggressive? Maybe. But my tone, I have to believe, appropriately conveyed how absolutely appalled I was.
Out of respect for the author of this article, I will not post her response. She replied to my email in a timely manner and addressed all of my points. I applaud her for responding, as it takes a very high level of maturity to respond to criticism in such a diplomatic and well-spoken way.
But here’s the point: did those boys make a mistake? Yes. But is there any excuse that validates what they did? Absolutely not. I understand that there are some jokes that offend people – I, personally, attempt not to partake in this form of humor, but that doesn’t mean I can realistically expect everyone to do the same. But the fact of the matter is, what these boys did made me feel unsafe. If I were a freshman at Texas Tech when this occurred, I wouldn’t hesitate to consider transferring. I understand that just because these boys displayed this joke for everyone to see doesn’t necessarily mean they’re about to go out and rape a bunch of girls. But where is the line drawn? The fact that it’s something they feel comfortable joking about is concerning in it of itself.
The bottom line is that we need to stop making excuses for people. They’re just kidding, they’re college students, they probably didn’t mean it, the list goes on. So what? If we, as a society, keep turning our heads the other way every time something inappropriate happens, we’re just sweeping it under the rug. More importantly, we’re sending a message that these kinds of actions are okay.
My campus has done a lot to send a very clear message that sexual assault is not tolerated. But what’s the point of them doing this if their actions are just going to be negated by people who refuse to acknowledge the severity of the situation? Just some food for thought.