*Trigger warning, graphic language and content*
So last night I was studying with some friends at one of the main campus libraries at my university. We had a group room and I had stepped out into the hallway to make a phone call around 8:30p last night. As I was speaking on the phone three men walked out of the elevator and began looking in each room for a place to study. The floor was completely packed and they approached the room that me and my friends had been studying in. As the are standing in front of the window to the room and peering in side one of the comments about how no one is ever in that room and why were those people in there.
To that one of them responds in a deadpan voice:
We should rape them.
The group response was sinister laughter as they walked away from the room.
I have to admit that I was particularly disturbed, angered, revolted, annoyed, saddened and overall disappointed in that comment/joke. I lost it and began screaming at them to the tone of "Why would you say such a thing? Thats not funny."
One of them looked at me incredelously and yelled back "Whats your problem?"
I kept berating them that its not ok to make jokes about rape and they just preceeded to mock and laugh at me until they got in the elevator. Apparently I had classes with one of them and I heard them mocking me and calling me by my first name as the got into the elevator.
I got back in my room and my friends are like "Whoa what happened? We heard you like screaming out side what did those guys say?" And I told them that they/we were the butts of a very "funny" rape joke.
After discussing it with a few people over the course of the night I ultimately decided to report it. Now you may wonder why I would decide to report a seemingly harmless (although admittedly very stupid joke). Let me explain:
- I am deeply disturbed that this is the line of thinking going on in these guys’ heads and that they could so easily move from anger at study rooms being occupied to rape. There is something very creepy and eerie about that.
- These people saw absolutely nothing wrong with their comment and ardently defended their comments against my criticism. That is perhaps that part that worries me most, because if they can justify a rape joke its not a great leap to see them justifying actual assault
- Something should be said about the power dynamics of this situation. I attend school with a very elite and priveleged crowd. The fact that 3 caucasian man felt comfortable making a rape joke about a room predominately filled with african american women makes me kind of wonder if any underlying discriminatory dynamics also played a part in this. Would they have made that same comment if we were a room full of European American girls? Asian Girls? Native American girls? Gay men? Transpeople?
- Also I have to stress that these are completely otherwise normal people that I have had classes with. There were otherwise pleasant guys that I did not have problems with. Where does this come from, I wonder?
- The two people that I have/had classes with are both people that I know to be affiliated with the greek life system at our school. I am of course in know way trying to say that all greek members are bad, in fact I know that is far from the truth. What I am trying to say however is that the mixture of incredible amounts of alcohol consumption combined with male privlege andpower can lead to some bad situations in terms of gender based violence. In her book, Fraternity Gang Rape, Peggy Sanday discusses the epidemic of violence against women on college campuses and how some cases of violence can occur at fraternity parties or events:
"It was her first fraternity party. The beer flowed freely and she had much more to drink than she had planned. It was hot and crowded so the party spread out all over the house, so that when three men asked her to go upstairs, she went with them. They took her into a bedroom, locked the door and began to undress her. Groggy with alcohol, her feeble protests were ignored as the three men raped her. When they finished, they put her in the hallway, naked, locking her clothes in the bedroom. (Occured at a Small Eastern Liberal Arts College) (Page 3, Fraternity Gang Rape by Peggy Sandy)
Wow. I can not believe that qoute or that story. But it gets worse.
Later that night as I was sharing the story of what happened at the library with my other freinds, one of them revealed her own experience of sexual assault at a frat party.
After reading up on this some more at the American Association of University Women or (AAUW) website, my friend was just one of countless other girls who were assaulted on college campuses:
-20-25% of women will be raped during their college career
– 3 % of college women nationally have experienced rape or attempted rape during the academic year. This means for example that a campus with 6,00 coeds will have one rape per day during the school year.
-13 % of women are stalked during the academic year, and each stalking episodes lasts an average of 60 days
-90% of women know the person who sexually asaulted them
I hope that in hearing this story it may lead you to think twice about making a rape joke, or maybe get you to speak up when you hear this kind of language being used. Moreover, I hope I can raise awareness about sexual assault and violence on college campuses and in general.