Defending the Frat Boys of Old Dominion: Boys Will Be Boys, Silencing, and Donald Trump

Okay. I admit it. I have rape culture fatigue. I saw this story this week and I thought, “Ugh. Disgusting piggery.” But that was about it. I thought about reposting the story, but then I was just so tired of having to talk about it. So I didn’t. After all, I just posted this story last week…”Florida frat suspended after member caught on video saying ‘let’s rape some b*tches’“. I mean, surely people agree that these types of things are wrong, misogynistic and definitively stupid. Right? Right?!? [Please tell me I’m right.]

But then, this morning happened. I had just dropped my kids off at school and I flipped the radio over to hear the morning news as is my custom. Just as they were going to the news they teased that they would be taking calls about the Old Dominion story after the news break. I decided to stay tuned in and hear what people thought. Part of me is very, very sorry I did. By the time I got home (a 15 min drive) I had heard such analysis as:

  • Boys will be boys.
  • Clearly this was just meant to be funny. People need to lighten up.
  • If this was the 50s or 60s no one would have batted an eye.
  • Political correctness is ruining America
  • If we have to be subjected to Pride parades, I don’t see why this is a big deal.
  • I would give the kids a pass, this was just a joke. Who among us didn’t do something stupid in college?
  • If we have raised our girls well, we won’t need to worry. They will steer clear of frat houses like these.

These sentiments were expressed by both men and women. There were 2 callers I heard who disagreed and thought that this was unacceptable, caused a hostile environment and was cause for disciplinary action. One was a man and one was a woman. Additionally, although the host said in the days of Animal House this would have been seen as just kids having fun, he also noted that is not the current climate and kids should know by now that this kind of behavior will be punished.

There are many points I could make about the above statements, but I will limit myself to just a couple. The first point I would like to make has to do with political correctness and calls for the people who are calling this what it is to “lighten up”. In my experience being told to “lighten up” is a form of silencing. Silencing refers to techniques used to stop discourse when people complain about sexism or other issues. Silencing techniques include harassment, intimidation, shaming and humiliation intended to discourage people from speaking out or punishing them for having spoken out.

Secondly, “If we have raised our girls well, we won’t need to worry. They will steer clear of frat houses like these.” Really? So, if we raise our girls properly they don’t need to worry about rape? Or boys who try to take advantage of them? You mean like the girl’s at St. Paul’s Prep? Here’s a better question, why is it the girls who need to be raised properly to avoid predatory boys? Why are we not more concerned about properly raising boys who are not predators? Oh, I forgot, “boys will be boys”. SIGH.

I’m sorry. Boys will be boys is a lie from the pit of hell. The men I know are so much more than that sad, narrow definition of what it means to be male. If I was a man, I would be offended that people think I am no more than the sum total of my hormones and sexual urges. Men and boys can and should be able to control themselves and we do them a grave disservice when we disrespect them by excusing this type of behavior and chalking it up to the fact that they are incapable of anything else.

The type of behavior the callers want us to chalk up to a foolish youthful prank is the very type of thing that left unchecked leads to the story I linked to out of Florida, behaviors like those at St. Paul’s Prep and to the unfortunate statistics found in The Department of Justice report from December of 2014 titled Rape and Sexual Assault Victimization Among College-Age Females, 1995–2013.

You know what else this type of thinking leads to? A man like Donald Trump being the GOP frontrunner.

Her mouth said no, but she got pregnant anyway.

So as you may have heard this week Rep. Todd Akin had some truly mortifying things to say about rape.

” First of all, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.”

Mr. Akin speaks of punishing the rapist and not attacking the child, but what sir of the WOMAN? Shall we punish her as well? I find it telling that Mr.Akin chooses to focus on both the rapist and the baby but completely ignores the woman stuck in the middle. In fact, Mr. Akin’s entire statement here reduces the very real victims of rape to “the female body”. Perhaps he needs to read the article I read today by  on the Huffington Post about how an actual rape victims felt upon reading his statement.

“Rape is so isolating — it ruined my world for a long time,” Law, now 43, said in an interview with The Huffington Post. “If I had had to carry that rapist’s baby to term, quite honestly, I might have taken my life.”

Law said she couldn’t believe her eyes on Sunday when she read that Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin of Missouri declare in an interview that pregnancy from “legitimate rape” is “really rare” because “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

“First of all, what is legitimate rape?” she asked. “Whether it’s date rape, whether the woman was beaten to a pulp, whether it’s a 14 or 15-year old kid carrying her father’s child, it doesn’t matter. Having to deliver the baby of a rapist — that’s torture.”

Another rape survivor in Missouri was so incensed by Akin’s comment that she called into St. Louis television station KTVI to share her feelings. “It was like I had been slapped,” she told the anchor. “I heard that comment and I just began to shake. I was fit to be tied.”

The second question that comes to mind is, how exactly does Mr. Akin think that the woman’s body differentiates between rapist sperm and consensual sperm?  Seriously?!?  I certainly hope he wouldn’t suggest that most of the 35k+ women who are impregnated every year as a result of rape must have actually wanted it or they wouldn’t be pregnant. My guess is he would say that is preposterous; however, it is the logical conclusion of his statement.

I find it fascinating that a man who will never have to worry about carrying a child who is the product of rape is presuming to tell women who have been how they should feel and what they should do. Don’t get me wrong, men can be and are raped. “About 3% of American men — or 1 in 33 — have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime,” according to the National Institute of Justice & Centers for Disease Control & Prevention’s Prevalence, Incidence and Consequences of Violence Against Women Survey, 1998.  The number for women increases to about 1 in 6. The crime is just as violent and shame inducing for a man as it is for a woman however; the man will never be faced with having to carry to term and deliver the child of their attacker. There are 435 voting members of the House of Representatives and 100 members of the Senate. If the statistics were the same for them as it were for the female population 79 of them would be victims of completed rape, 15 of them would be the victims of attempted rape and 4 of them would be pregnant by their attackers. If this were the case I seriously doubt we would be having the same discussion.

This whole thing brings to mind another post I wrote a few months ago called “Raped Too Much”. In which I discussed Liz Trotta’s comments about how women in the military should stop complaining about being “raped too much”.  Statements such as the ones made by Ms. Trotta and Mr. Akin continue to add to what is referred to as “rape culture”. In her book Shakesville, Melissa McEwan defined rape culture this way:

Rape culture is 1 in 6 women being sexually assaulted in their lifetimes. Rape culture is not even talking about the reality that many women are sexually assaulted multiple times in their lives. Rape culture is the way in which the constant threat of sexual assault affects women’s daily movements. Rape culture is telling girls and women to be careful about what you wear, how you wear it, how you carry yourself, where you walk, when you walk there, with whom you walk, whom you trust, what you do, where you do it, with whom you do it, what you drink, how much you drink, whether you make eye contact, if you’re alone, if you’re with a stranger, if you’re in a group, if you’re in a group of strangers, if it’s dark, if the area is unfamiliar, if you’re carrying something, how you carry it, what kind of shoes you’re wearing in case you have to run, what kind of purse you carry, what jewelry you wear, what time it is, what street it is, what environment it is, how many people you sleep with, what kind of people you sleep with, who your friends are, to whom you give your number, who’s around when the delivery guy comes, to get an apartment where you can see who’s at the door before they can see you, to check before you open the door to the delivery guy, to own a dog or a dog-sound-making machine, to get a roommate, to take self-defense, to always be alert always pay attention always watch your back always be aware of your surroundings and never let your guard down for a moment lest you be sexually assaulted and if you are and didn’t follow all the rules it’s your fault.

Apparently now we must also worry about whether our body will betray us by not discerning the rape sperm from the consensual ones and allowing us to become pregnant. Or God forbid proving that a woman actually wanted to have sex with her attacker. The whole thing kind of gives new meaning to “her mouth said no but her [fill in the body part] said yes.”

Just for the record. I do believe in the sanctity of life. I am against late term and partial birth abortion except to save the life of the mother. I believe abortion should happen as rarely as possible. I do not believe people like Mr. Akin have any business criminalizing a woman who chooses not to carry and deliver the child of her rapist. How can that be justice?