Wednesday, March 4, 2009

It's not rape if you say "surprise!"

by Laura Pedersen

Monday evening in the Mathey Dining Room, Chi Phi’s pleges, garbed in togas and ivy head wreaths, collected at the head of the hall and called the room to order.

“Here ye, here ye.” Silence.

The group introduced themselves as “ancient Greek sophists” come to bring “superfluous knowledge” to their audience. Most of their initial advice involved beer/inbreation, cutting corners in classes, and dating ‘tips’. The final comment, however, stood apart:
“It’s not rape if you say, ‘Surprise!’”

In the wake of the “1-in-4 women” college rape statistic, talking about this form of sexual violence in any context without any hint of solemnity to me and to what I believe is no insignificant number of students merits condemnation.

We were supposed to laugh, to brush it off as a joke. But Chi Phi’s toga-clad pledges approached with inappropriate levity a far weightier topic.

How college students speak about rape offers compelling, but – for me – inconclusive evidence about our perceptions. Some lingo would suggest almost a nonchalance: “That last problem set totally raped me.”

And what of the equally nonchalant response of the Mathey diners Monday night: a few chuckles, perhaps a few questioning glances, and nothing more? It was just a joke, right?

And then there’s SHARE (Sexual Harassment/Assault Advising, Resources, and Education) and Take Back the Night. Sexual violence is no myth on this campus.

This is an illegal act we are talking about.

Where do you fall?

A final frame: two little girls, under 10, were joining a parent in the dining hall that night at the table next to mine that same Monday night. I’m just glad they hadn’t made it back to their tables before Chi Phi’s stunt.


At March 4, 2009 at 11:40 AM , Blogger Jessica said...

At first, I was appalled by the use of the term "rape" to signify that one sports team had beaten another or an exam was really hard. I found myself using "killed" instead.

But really, "killing" is more illegal, more violent, and more terrible in just about every way. While sensitivity to the issue of rape is important to feminists, since it is predominantly committed against women, I don't know that we should expect the word "rape" to be used differently than any of the other violent crime words: slaughter, kill, murder.

It may be more worthwhile to question the expression"that exam f'ed me in the ass" as heterosexist.


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