An Open Letter To College Boys: Grow A Pair*
Last week, a group of Yale frat
men boys dickwads marched around the campus chanting about the joys of rape. Obviously, they were “joking.” But since their stunt was no joke, I would like to address them personally:
Dear Members of the Yale Chapter of Delta Kappa Epsilon,
Recently, I was made aware of your attitudes toward women, thanks to the amazing tool that is the feminist blogosphere. Though many of you may claim to be “good guys” who would never, ever hurt a defenseless lady, you belong to an organization that asked, no, required pledges to walk around the freshman dorms at night chanting this awful song:
My name is Jack
I’m a necrophiliac
I fuck dead women
and fill them with my semen
No means yes
Yes means anal
Fuck Al Qaeda
Fuck Al Qaeda
While some think your stunt is unworthy of our anger, I can’t say I agree. While your purpose was clearly to garner attention through shock and outrage (I mean, god knows you need it, since it’s not like the kind of guys who go to Yale, of all places, and join a fraternity, of all organizations, are ever acknowledged by our society as worthy individuals or leaders or anything important like that, right?), I don’t think this alone is reason enough to dismiss your actions. Because while you may defend your language as “just a joke,” I’m not buying it. It’s not a joke. It’s terrorism.
Terrorism! you’re probably thinking, what a hilarious way to describe our hilarious shenanigans! Just because we don’t listen to the PC Police doesn’t mean we don’t know what a word like terrorism means! But yes, rounding up a group of men to shout about violence against women, at night and in the dark, outside the building where many young women reside, is terrorism. “No means yes and yes means anal” isn’t just a funny sentence with nice symmetry–it’s a way to emphasize how little we value enthusiastic consent.
Look at it this way: Would you ever consider walking up to a group of Black students and singing to them about the joys of lynching? (In case you need help, the answer here should be fuck, no, and not just because you’re scared of the repercussions). Or would you think it was acceptable to jokingly threaten members of the gay-straight alliance with hate crimes? Though the group in question here is gender-based and not defined by race or sexual orientation, the connotations are similar. You are members of the group in power. The majority of your fraternity brothers are upper-class white men, men who attend one of the nation’s most prestigious universities, men who may very well go on to lead our country or handle vast amounts of wealth. You are powerful. And by walking around, trivializing rape, you are exploiting your undeserved social power. You are reminding every female student on your campus that you are capable of assaulting them, capable of taking away their power. And, whether you realize it or not, rape is often considered a hate crime against women.
It is not funny to joke about committing a hate crime. It doesn’t matter that the oppressed group here is actually the majority. It doesn’t matter if some women laugh at your rape jokes. It doesn’t matter that you’re really a nice guy at heart, who would never hurt a woman. Your callous disregard for sexual violence is indicative of a much larger problem, one that hurts women every day.
I could say think how you would feel if your sister were raped–or your mother! or something similar. Many feminists use this line to try and reach sexist men, to try and force some empathy into their jaded world view. However, I don’t think this fully captures the reality of sexual violence. While the Yale frat bros were clearly targeting females with their ranty-chant (hence the “sluts” line), rape isn’t something limited to women. The statement “yes means anal” could just as easily be applied to any one of those men. If they believe–because I think many of them do believe it, even half way, even jokingly, even a little unconsciously–what they were saying, than they should realize: Rape can happen to anyone. It is not actually something reserved for women or sissies.
* I don’t mean a pair of balls, necessarily, though those could come in handy. No, I would like you to grow a pair of eyeballs, so you can see what damage you’re inflicting on rape survivors. Or grow a pair of ears, so you can hear how inhuman you sound. Maybe you should grow a pair of tits–or any other biological signifier we read as “woman”–so that you, too, can experience what it’s like to be afraid, on a daily basis, of having your personhood violated and your agency stripped away.