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.