You could say that the sort of guy who made millions out of filming drunk young women as they expose themselves maybe wouldn’t have the highest levels of respect for women. You would be right.
Joe Francis, the founder of the Girls Gone Wild franchise, was convicted last week of an assault in his home after a night out in 2011. Girls Gone Wild is, of course, responsible for all those videos of young women at parties, flashing their breasts or engaging in sexual activities in return for merchandise and a slice of ‘fame’. In true GGW style, Francis met the three women in this case in a Hollywood club, where they were celebrating a college graduation. One thing led to another, he ended up taking them home, and after attempting to separate them from each other, a dispute ensued in which Francis “grabbed one of the women by the hair and throat and slammed her head into the floor.” The jury found him guilty of three counts of false imprisonment, one count of assault causing great bodily injury, and one count of dissuading a witness.
This seems pretty shocking, right? Not in light of Francis’ legal history. Whether it’s women accusing Girls Gone Wild of having filmed them when they were underage – related to which, Francis pleaded no contest to charges of child abuse and prostitution in 2008 – or women who never consented in the first place , the franchise and the man behind it is constantly courting controversy. Of course, if Francis didn’t insist on gravitating towards the youngest women – including those who are genuinely underage, for the purpose of exploiting their birthdays and thus their becoming legal – in establishments and scenarios where copious amounts of alcohol are being consumed, maybe he would find this happened less.
And then there are all his other victims. Claire Hoffman, of the L.A. Times, wrote extensively of her time with Francis for a feature in 2006, in which she detailed, amongst other things, her experience of him being physically aggressive towards her, and even rape. She also details his past abuses of women: Stephanie Van de Motter, the property manager of Francis’ apartment, who obtained a restraining order against him in 2000 after he carried out a campaign of harassment against her after becoming upset about the noise the garbage collectors made in the morning; Darian Mathias-Patterson, who sued Francis for the emotional distress he caused her – which included death threats, and may have contributed to the miscarriage she experienced just two weeks afterwards – after she helped arrange rental of a location for a Halloween party of his, and then informed him that he would not be receiving his $25,000 deposit back after they trashed the place; the woman who filed a police report against Francis in 2004, accusing him of drugging her, when she woke up after going back to his hotel room for a drink to find herself in bed next to him. The latter investigation was dropped by the police, citing a lack of evidence, with Francis maintaining that the pair had had consensual sex. Francis claimed that the young woman that revealed to Hoffman that she had been raped had partaken in consensual sex with him, too. How coincidental.
There is nothing wrong with women making the choice to participate in Girls Gone Wild type activities if they give their full consent and it is legal for them to do so. To suggest otherwise is to deny women their right over their bodies and who they show them to; to suggest that by placing themselves in these situations, or even by being drunk or being at a party, that they invite abuse and even deserve it, does the same, only with added victim-blaming. The problem is, though, that by using very young women generally too drunk to give informed consent, Francis has made a living out of exploiting women. Add to that his obvious anger management problem, and that’s a dangerous combination. Young women will continue to flock to him because thanks to our fucked up society, getting involved with a guy like him is a route to that Holy Grail, ‘fame’. Telling, though, is the fact that the only name ever on our lips is Francis’. Unfortunately.
In a Mother Jones article published earlier this week, Josh Harkinson discusses Anonymous’ crucial role in making the horrifying cases of gang rape in both Steubenville, Ohio and Halifax, Canada crest on the national radar. The publicity Anonymous brought to the Steubenville case eventually led to the prosecution of two of the perpetrators in Steubenville. However, the women responsible for directing Anonymous to these brutal cases played an instrumental role in directing the online group’s resources to publicizing the cases and putting the perpetrators on blast, a refreshing change to tired narratives of victim-blaming and shaming.
Michelle McKee, an activist from Washington, and Alexandria Goddard, an Ohio-based reporter, were both frustrated that the now-infamous events in Steubenville, Ohio, weren’t receiving national coverage despite several attempts on McKee’s part to tip off reporters to the story. Goddard, a friend of McKee’s, used Twitter and her expertise studying teen’s social media usage to cobble together the sordid commentary by members of the football team of what occurred that evening, and eventually published her findings on her blog, Prinniefied. The collection of screenshots Goddard gathered from Twitter from students who were in attendance proved vital not only in implicating the rapists but also in displaying an overwhelming endorsement of rape culture.
Meanwhile, McKee reached out to Anonymous, aware of their previous campaigns against cyberbulling. Along with KnightSec, a subgroup of Anonymous, McKee was instrumental in starting the #RollRedRoll hashtag and subsequent campaign in order to bring attention to the case and Steubenville’s silence, which clearly prioritized the football players’ prestige and careers over the psychological damage the victim, who goes by the alias Jane Doe, suffered. Using a compilation of tweets from the perpetrators and those complicit in the group rape, and information from the high school web page, Anonymous created a video officially putting Steubenville on notice.
That so many of the perpetrators’ ribald tweets were linked to their real names, without any regard to future consequences, is telling about our cultural priorities. Rapists are free to tweet and share photos detailing their acts of aggression, with the calm assurance that they won’t be penalized in any way for their actions, no matter how disgusting; all the blame will be shifted to the victim. As Elizabeth Plank, a writer for the blog PolicyMic, points out in her article on the trend of viral rape, the documentation of rape on social media is a way to once again proudly violate the victim. She writes:
The fact that rapists want others to know that they have raped suggests that violating women is a rite passage, a legitimate method to climb the social ladder of masculinity — or at least the bastardized toxic masculinity that they covet). Forcefully penetrating an unconscious girl is not a source of shame, but a badge of honor in the march of toxic masculinity, passed on through cultural narrative and weak “boys will be boys” punishments. Instead of guilt, the rapists feel pride. They get to rape their victims all over again, with ever share and every nasty comment, with every “LOL” and every “what a slut.”
The most prominent mainstream media narratives for rape and sexual assault only serve to reify the dictates of viral rape, demanding to know what the woman was wearing or drinking in an attempt to re-shame her. In CNN’s coverage of the Steubenville verdict, anchors Candy Crowley and Poppy Harlow were far too preoccupied with how the guilty ruling would ruin the rapists’ lives to be concerned for Jane Doe’s well-being. As of this writing, CNN still has not made any sort of apology regarding their rape apologism for the perpetrators.
As Harkinson correctly notes in his article, Anonymous is a surprising ally to the movement to combat rape culture and rape survivors, considering its genesis from 4chan. However, Anonymous’s work has resulted in legal repercussions for the rapists in Steubenville, and national attention to Rehtaeh Parsons’ suicide following her group rape and subsequent relentless bullying. Their decentralized nature, broad reach, and unfettered access to resources civilians might not be able to utilize makes Anonymous a force to be reckoned with. (Their ability to quickly compile all the relevant evidence regarding Parsons’ viral rape is nothing short of remarkable.)
Aided by the work and dedication of survivors and feminists, Anonymous is taking an important step towards declaring that women will not stand for the continued proliferation of rape culture in both its online and offline manifestations. Using new technologies not only to break stories about the effects of the cycle of rape and unrelenting harassment by peers on survivors, but also to control the narratives created about these stories is an important tool that feminists online must continue to wield to send a clear message: rapists and rape culture will no longer be tolerated.
Singer Ray J recently released a single charmingly (read: offensively and horrifically) entitled “I Hit It First.” The song is very obviously about Ray-J’s ex and, now, Kanye West”s pregnant partner: Kim Kardashian. (You may recognize Ray J from films like the sex tape that made Kim famous in 2007.)
In the lyrics and the music video, Ray J makes a number of blatant references to Kim – including featuring a Kim look-alike as the female lead in the video. The cover art on the single is even a blurry version of what is most likely a picture of Kim on the beach.
I am absolutely disgusted by the song, the music video, and of course, Ray J himself. Watch at your own risk:
First and foremost, his actions are blatantly disrespectful – I’m not Kim Kardashian’s biggest fan, but under no circumstances is it appropriate to publicly call out personal details about your sex life with an ex. It’s a violation of her privacy and an offense to her current relationship with Kanye West. It’s also just pathetic, because he is clearly using Kim’s fame (which is far greater than his) to garner media attention and promote his music and career. It’s sad watching him get attention, even if it’s negative. That’s what he wants, and at too high a price.
“I Hit It First” is degrading and incredibly mysogynistic. After reading the title (an abridged version of the song’s imaginative chorus, which goes: “I hit it, I hit it, I hit it, I hit, I hit it, I hit it first”), you might innocently wonder what the “it” in question is. A wall, perhaps? A baseball? Maybe a tree that he ran into with his car? But then you realize, oh no, wait – he’s talking about an ACTUAL HUMAN BEING. He is literally referring to this woman that he slept with as “it.” IT. As in, the same pronoun that you use when describing your toaster oven or the copy machine at work. She is not a person, not a partner – she is “it.”
Look up “objectification” in the dictionary and you could find a downloadable MP3 file of this song. Ray J’s language is dehumanizing; he dismisses this woman’s personhood, reducing her to the status of an object for fucking. Her sole value derives from her body and its sexual functionality – except for it’s not really her body, but his; his to look at, to touch, to fuck, to sing tacky songs about, and to use as he pleases. Because, as this song makes brutally, unavoidably clear, we live in a society that consistently tells women that they have no rights to or control over their bodies. Our culture overwhelmingly refuses to acknowledge women’s sexual agency, the fact that women are individuals who possess both desires and the capability to decide for themselves how to act on those desires. “I Hit It First” is a particularly shameless example of that mentality – by using the words “I hit it,” Ray J establishes himself as the dominant figure in this encounter - in all encounters - implying that the woman, his partner, played no active role in the “really bomb” sex that was had, and that he benefited socially from the encounter and the fact that everyone knows about it:
I had her head going north and her ass going south
But now baby chose to go West
We deep in the building she know that I kill ‘em
I know that I hit it the best
Candles lit with that wine, money still on my mind
And I gave her that really bomb sex
No matter where she goes or who she knows
She still belongs in my bed
Going hard in the streets, mobbin with my homies
Sippin’ on good, blowin’ on OG
Me and ghost sittin’ clean with the matching rollie
I did that first so everybody know me
Why Ray J feels that allegedly being the first person to sleep with Kim Kardashian (or any woman) gives him some kind of bragging rights is honestly beyond me. Kim is not a prize – she is a person who (regrettably, it seems) decided to sleep with Ray J, and that’s about all there is to it. Being the first person to have sex with a woman does not give you any kind of claim to her. I don’t care if you were the first, the last, the only, or one of 55 – the ONLY person with ownership over a woman’s body is the woman herself. Not her husband, her wife, her father, her brother, her boyfriend, or any other person she’s ever looked at, spoken to, or slept with. Only her. And the fact that we still seem to struggle with this concept is a key reason that rape and all other forms of sexual violence are still so prevalent in our society.
The media coverage surrounding this song has focused almost exclusively on Ray J’s subtle-as-a-gun references to Kim Kardashian and their relationship. Which, while mildly entertaining, is extremely problematic. Really, it doesn’t matter who “I Hit It First” is about – the real outrage should be focused on why Ray J, and countless other artists (Kanye West included), feel that it’s acceptable to speak about women in such despicably disrespectful terms. Why, WHY, do we let this slide? Why does equating a woman to a disposable item make a man a badass? Why are we teaching boys that it’s cool to disrespect their partners and girls that they’re only worth something if men want to have sex with them? These are messages that stay with us even in adulthood, degrading our most intimate experiences and fostering a sexual dynamic that is toxic for men and women alike.
So, what can we do about that? For starters, do yourself a favor and never, ever listen to “I Hit It First” again. Seriously. We all had to hear it once to be part of this conversation, but honestly, the music video alone sets the entire feminist movement back about 50 years. Check out this great article from Feministing to read another perspective on why the song is so harmful to women. And beyond just that, start paying attention to the media you consume. Take a moment to think about what you internalize when you hear the Ying Yang Twins tell you to “shake that shit, bitch,” or when Nate Dogg says “I’m looking for a girl who will do whatever the fuck I say, every day she be giving it up.” Lyrics like that do something to you; they influence the way you think about yourself even if you’re not actively aware of it. So be aware of it. We can’t stop this barrage of grossly misogynistic media overnight, but we can take steps towards shielding ourselves against its negativity.
Archbishop Fabio Martinez Castilla made a startling assertion last week. In a nutshell, abortion is worse than the rape of children by priests. Let me repeat that: abortion is worse than molesting kids.
At one time abortion was legal. The first anti-abortion laws in the 1800′s purported to protect women from dangerous, unskilled abortionists. Then a lot of garbage happened, and a Texas woman’s abortion case went to the Supreme Court and granted the legality of safe abortions, commonly referred to as Roe v. Wade.
Catholic dogma claims that all abortion is murder and has been since the Church’s inception. This is not true; in the 4th century CE, St. Augustine declares a return to the Aristotelian belief of “delayed ensoulment“, and that abortion is not murder until “fetus animatus“, or the fetus is more fully developed. The Catholic Church wavered on and off (mostly off) about abortion as murder until the 17th Century. Then Pope Leo XIII declared in 1886 that all abortion is murder.
Child abuse perpetrated by Catholic priests has been attracting media attention since 1985. Finding reputable statistics on child abuse by Catholic clergy is tasking, since Catholic sources cite a much lower figure than non-Catholic sources.
Castilla says child rape perpetrated by priests and abortions are harmful and deserve punishment because in the former crime, “their future is ruined” and the latter medical procedure is “murder”.
One benefit of living in the USA is a constitutional guarantee of separation of church and state. Unlike other countries where Catholicism heavily influences government, Roe v. Wade stands, even if the war on women has been trying to thwart a Supreme Court ruling. Abortion is not going away. The matter of its legality is a precedent to keep women safe from back alley coat hanger style abortions. The systematic rape of children is not guaranteed by any institution. Furthermore, adult survivors of sexual abuse often have a lifetime of depression, trust issues, self-blame, and other issues.
As a rape survivor who is convinced I would have had an abortion if impregnated by my rapist, I find Castilla’s statement appalling. A medical procedure is not a criminal act and should not be shamed. It’s a choice. Rape is a crime with repercussions for the victim. If Castilla is against abortion, then he should not have one.
Recently I headed back up to my college with my friend and her boyfriend. From the moment I slid into the backseat, my nose wrinkled in disagreement with the song blaring from the car speakers. Due to the fact that I can’t drive and it was not my car, I submitted to the unwritten rule of not complaining about the choice of music. I figured that I would be able to tolerate the music playing, situating it in a way that I would merely hear it as background noise. To my dismay I was wrong. As we continued to drive I became more immersed in the music, picking up on every instrumental, casually tapping my finger along the side of the windowpane.
Eventually I began to listen closer to the lyrics of each song. The words of Nipsey Hussle began to attack my eardrums and almost break me down. His personal narrative of overcoming adversity was overshadowed by his constant use of the phrases “pussy ni**a”, “bitch ni**a” and my personal favorite “bad bitch”. As my friend’s boyfriend continued to shuffle through his own iTunes playlist, reiterations of the degradation of the female body, image and entity became more prevalent. Ultimately, an angry mood overcame me.
Granted these music industry pawns we call rappers may not explicitly be committing acts of rape, how dare they use the female—me, my sister, my mother, my aunt, my female cousins, their mothers, their sisters, their aunts, their cousins—to uplift themselves. I think Kristen West Savali hits the nail on the head when she states:
“Even though certain conscious rappers may disagree, it is not authentic Hip-Hop culture – semantics be damned – when Black men are paid to prey on Black women. There is absolutely zero cultural value in replicating a global rape epidemic within the narrow confines of Hip-Hop vernacular. Corporate Hip-Hop has revealed itself to be a diamond-encrusted plantation where Black men are nothing but hedonistic slaves bound by whips and chains. It’s a place where rape culture is embraced, cultivated and financed, and women are drugged, told to “suck d*ck” or die.”
One need not explicitly use the word “rape” or refer to an instance of it, as did Rick Ross, to contribute to the rape culture. It is perpetuated by a very specific image and definition of masculinity. It continues to exist when a rapper’s message of self-worth and success is measured by how many “bitches” he can attain. This problem grows when the mistreatment and exploitation of those women are assumed to exhibit a rapper’s level of success and finesse.
Though many may argue that this kind of rap, and further the image of the black males, should not function as a prototype to live life, what do you say to the fatherless little boy of color living in an economically and socially unstable community? Or how about the other young man of color who hears these misogynistic lyrics and the manifestation of a rapper’s success in how they are able to mistreat women? The habit of referring to women as “bitches” or “hoes,” regardless of whether or not used in a “good” way, only contribute to the vicious cycle of the devaluing of women. This degradation, of both the female as an idea and the actual rape of her body, serves as the foundation of a misconception of masculinity found within a plethora of different rap songs. And corporate rap profits from this very caricature.
In this way, it’s not only sex but rape that sells.
video is explicit.
It is important to note that not all rap music perpetuates rape culture. We must be cognizant of over-generalization when critiquing the misogynistic nature of rap for making blanket statements is reductionist. Further, to do so would to contribute to yet another fallacy that runs rampant in popular discourse: that rap is to blame for the ills of American Society, or that other genres have not violated and hurt women as well.
In 1970, hip-hop emerged from the Bronx as a vehicle for the voices of the African-American community. Hip-hop was intended to serve as a kind of counter-culture to the negative and inaccurate portrayals of the black community within larger society. However, mainstream rap says otherwise. It continues to silence and undermine the uplifting, socially conscientious, and empowering nature of hip-hop.
Corporate rap music has not produced and maintained the rape culture; on the contrary, misogyny has given rise to this falsified notion of manhood within rap music. but even so, this music not only helps to perpetuate legacies of violence of women, but also continues to rob hip-hop itself of its greatest asset: agency through music.
Managing Editor and SPARK Activist Carmen Rios is this week’s guest on Jaclyn Friedman’s “Fucking While Feminist” Podcast.
Topics covered range from the #EducateCoaches Campaign to the amazing blog we’re running right here at Where Is Your Line?, and somewhere in the middle there’s self-care, dogs, and millenial apathy all mixed in together in one big melting pot of sex-positivity.
Is it rape if the person it happened to doesn’t call it that?
A post published recently at Thought Catalog, written by an anonymous author, recounted a situation where a friend was drinking with another person and was “taken advantage of.” No consent was given. The incident did not escalate violently. And thus, the author’s friend doesn’t call it “rape.” After all, a person simply took advantage of the body belonging to someone who lacked the capacity to exercise their own agency:
Just because someone thinks they weren’t raped doesn’t meant they were not raped by definition, right? Does state law define rape or do your emotions?
I know that I will always be there when he wants to talk about it.
But do I tell him he was raped? According to state law, he was sexually assaulted. According to him, he was just too drunk to realize what was happening and say no. In my mind, that is rape. But in his mind, it’s just an unfortunate incident.
But there’s one problem here: that is rape.
Let’s be clear about this: rape is a violent act of power and control exerted over another person. In the USA alone, one in six women and one in 33 men are the victims of an attempted or completed rape. Furthermore, a Harvard study revealed that 72% of college students who were raped over the course of the study were intoxicated. If the 72% holds true across the entire population of rape victimization, alcohol is a factor in approximately 12.37 million survivors’ rapes. (Ironically, rape survivors are 13 times more likely to abuse alcohol.)
Sexual assault support websites like RAINN have advocated on behalf of inebriated rape victims for years. Intoxicated victims are often blamed for their own rapes, although feminists and survivor advocates have been fighting this stigma and working for years to convince the world-at-large that anyone who is “physically impaired (due to voluntary or involuntary alcohol or drug consumption)” can’t give consent, making clear that sex you’re unaware of, unable to stop, or too incapacitated to have to fend off is rape. Furthermore, RAINN provides a three question checklist to establish if a rape has occurred. The pertinent question is: ”Do both people have the capacity to consent?” If there’s no consent, there’s no sex. If there’s no consent, it’s rape.
The Thought Catalog author asks “am I victimizing him or is society?” This is a difficult quandry – respecting your friend’s experience is obviously important, as is supporting them in any way possible after any sort of violation. But as a proponent of blaming who is at fault, the perpetrator victimized the author’s friend, and I feel that needs to be recognized no matter what words we’re using to describe what happened. Danny Brown calls his assault “the incident,” and throughout history we’ve been conditioned to think of unwanted sexual activity as “bad sex,” “awkward situations,” and – worst of all – something that is our own faults. That doesn’t change anything about what happened.
Rape is rape is rape, no matter what it’s called.
#EducateCoaches Campaign Is Victorious: NFHS Agrees to Educate 18,000+ Coaches on Sexual Assault Prevention In The Wake of Steubenville
Last March the nation watched on, horrified, at the Steubenville rape trials – in which two high school football stars were convicted of raping a sixteen-year-old girl while she was unconscious at a party. We were horrified together at the rape itself, but also at the community’s reaction to the boy’s being on trial. You see, in Steubenville, Ohio football rape culture was running rampant and hand-in-hand with the superstar idol status that was given to the football team. Many thought that they boys should “get away with it,” and many cried because their “futures were ruined” after being convicted as guilty. There was victim blaming and misogyny everywhere. It was, to put it simply, an un-hot mess.
Many of us wondered what could be done to prevent future rapes in the future. We wondered where to start when it comes to changing the cultures that foster such profound rape culture.
We took action.
The Line Campaign’s very own Carmen Rios, working as a change agent with the SPARK Movement and Colby College football player Connor Clancy, saw an opportunity for sparking change out of the tragedy in Steubenville. They started a Change.Org petition to work with the National Federation of State High School Associations to educate high school coaches about what they can do to help prevent sexual assault in their community.
Tim Flannery, director of Coaches’ Education at the NFHS has officially announced that: “We are pleased to work with SPARK Movement and their partners throughout the United States to provide resources in sexual violence prevention to the millions of coaches, athletic directors, school administrators and parents who are involved in interscholastic sports in America.”
So what does all of this exciting news mean? NFHS will be working with SPARK, Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence, Futures Without Violence, Mentors in Violence Prevention, California Coalition Against Sexual Assault, National Sexual Violence Resource Center, and the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape—so we’re all in good company. We’ll be working together to bring resources to high school coaches across the country about what they can do to help prevent sexual assault in their community.
This is a huge deal. NFHS is going to provide access to sexual violence prevention resources to 11 million students, 1 million community members, and over 18,000 schools with a combined total of 80,000 coaches. We at SPARK, and at THE LINE, are excited and hopeful about NFHS’s willingness to work with a grassroots sexual assault prevention activist movement, and we anticipate the real change at the community level. This is a win for us all! So crack open the Cristal. After the slew of terrible news we’ve had about rape culture as of late, we all deserve to sit back and bask in what could be the beginning of a very new kind of world.
The “Become a Pick Up Artist” app is creepy. And a lot of people have noticed that, including Jezebel and The Huffington Post. It seems we’re all a bit creeped out, which is pretty acceptable since the app exemplifies the ugliness of our rape culture.
Rape cultures are those which not only accept rape but perpetuate the idea that it’s okay. Become a Pick Up Artist perpetuates rape culture because rape culture is the idea that women are obtainable objects for a “prize,” and that their sexual agency isn’t important.
Problem Number One:
All women are up for grabs in this game. This app gives players the tools to manipulate and manage situations; I’m not interested in spending the money to learn the specifics. However Jezebel has this to say about playing the game,
I [the player] will find her [the target] if I approach her with an offbeat story, such as “there were two girls fighting outside,” pick mutual interests from a “comfort wheel” that helps me pretend to “understand her personality” and play stress games before I ask for her number. I picked up one girl and unlocked “storytelling” and “teasing” as skills before I quit, because I got the point.
The idea is that women are out there for the taking, ripe as ever, and that all those other guys are taking the girls home because they know the game and you don’t. Women are things for you to take. They respond to simple equations of pretending, understanding, teasing, and other deceitful and calculated moves. (You will notice a lack of truth-telling, opening up, being honest, telling a joke, etc.)
Women are not people in this app. It is rape culture when women stop becoming human beings and start becoming things to manipulate, move, take advantage of, and win. This app doesn’t make women human but the trophy to win at the end of the game. It is easier to inflict violence upon a person when you no longer see that person as person but as thing. Likewise, it is also easier to inflict violence upon a person when you believe you are “entitled” to them because you “won” them.
We shouldn’t be talking about how to trick women into sex. You wanna talk about sex? Let’s talk about sex. Let’s talk openly about sex. Let’s talk about my desires and how I like to have this act done this way and you would like or not like to participate in that act. Let’s then talk about when and where we would like to do this act and if any other acts or persons would be involved. Sex requires talking and acknowledging the other person, and at the very least requires open communication between both parties. Open communication cannot happen if you, the player, are trying to manipulate the characters in the game.
The game isn’t real. I acknowledge that. However, this game is perpetuating a culture that is very real. This app is reaffirming the idea that when women are saying “no,” what they really mean is, “try harder.” This app is reaffirming that if you are going to have sex with a woman she has no say and no choice in the matter. This is rape culture and you can buy it for 2.99 – or you can just walk into any bar.
This is rape culture. And it’s a problem.
On Monday, May 6, a quorum of faculty at Occidental College voted by an overwhelming margin to express No Confidence in both campus attorney Carl Botterud and Dean of Students Barbara Avery. The faculty vote comes fast on the heels of an open letter expressing support for sexual assault survivors at Oxy and demanding sweeping reforms to the college’s sexual assault policies. Occidental students assert that there is a campus culture of mishandling, downplaying, and failing to report sexual assaults on campus; in April, two lawsuits and two federal complaints were filed against the college.
According to Occidental sociology professor Lisa Wade, who is both a signatory to the open letter and voted No Confidence in Botterud and Avery,
“While the motions [of No Confidence] are symbolic, such measures are quite rare. It is a very powerful statement coming from a faculty united in defense of survivors of sexual assault and their allies. We now wait to see how the College President, Jonathan Veitch, moves forward.”
Botterud and Avery remain active employees at Occidental, and Wade reported on her blog Sociological Images that an internal investigation “is or will be” conducted into their actions.
The situation unfolding at Occidental College is not only a sobering look into the ways that college or university administration may, by their action or inaction, aid and abet rape culture. It is also a heartening affirmation of the power of survivor stories and survivor voices to break the shame and silence around sexual violence, and a testament to the difference that supportive faculty makes in changing campus culture. It remains to be seen what the outcome of the student and faculty activism at Occidental will be, but for survivors of assault on campus, the knowledge that so many of their faculty support them must be a huge step towards healing.
For more on recent events at Oxy, check out the coverage of the April press conference in which several survivors of assault on campus spoke to the media; hear five student survivors tell their stories; and read the open letter from a group of alumni distressed about the handling of assault on campus.