Yale Fraternity’s Chant Reveals Depth of Our Culture’s Misogyny


This article is crossposted from Amplify.org, a project of Advocates for Youth.

A follow up article on the Yale Daily News response to the DKE episode can be found here.

This is going to have to be short since I’m about to get on a plane, but I’m too angry NOT to write this.  I feel too nauseous.  I am too ashamed of my country and the culture we live in.

Apparently, a Yale University fraternity Delta Kappa Epsilon decided to induct a new class of pledges with the following chant:

No means yes!
Yes means anal!
No means yes!
Yes means anal!
No means yes!
Yes means anal!
No means yes!
Yes means anal!


Fucking sluts!

I don’t even know where to start.  Maybe this is just one more example of our culture’s deeply ingrained misogyny.  It’s certainly not the first time fraternity brothers have shown insanely poor judgment — and in the era of YouTube, that poor judgment often ends up on display for all too see.  In fact, DKE president Jordan Forney has already issued a public apology

But this goes far beyond just a chant at a Yale frat house. 

The problem isn’t that a group of young men at yelled something stupid, over and over agian.  The problem is that I’m no longer sure we’re shocked by people who turn rape and sexual assault into some kind of a joke.  It’s embarassing for those involved, sure.  But the sentiment they expressed is shockingly — and terrifyingly  — mainstream.

I ran across the Yale story right after reading a post by Digy quoting conservative icon Phyllis Schlafly talking about how it is impossible for a married woman to be raped by her husband:

 “I think that when you get married you have consented to sex. That’s what marriage is all about, I don’t know if maybe these girls missed sex ed. That doesn’t mean the husband can beat you up, we have plenty of laws against assault and battery. If there is any violence or mistreatment that can be dealt with by criminal prosecution, by divorce or in various ways. When it gets down to calling it rape though, it isn’t rape, it’s a he said-she said where it’s just too easy to lie about it”

Because a woman consents to marriage  — and, by doing so consents to a sexual relationship with her husband – apparently she can NEVER say no again.  It’s nice of Schlafly to acknowledge that violence and mistreatment are still unacceptable  — but, even by separating them out as separate categories, she frames the conversation in a way that minimizes sexual assault.  Rape, Schlafley implies, is neither violent nor mistreatment.  It’s just something that women have coming to them.  It’s in the job description to endure and survive.

Reading these stories back to back got me thinking.  Our culture doesn’t assume that all women deserve to be raped all the time.  After all, we’re still pretty obsessed with the preservation of female virginity – especially among young women.  America’s abstinence-only-until-marriage culture is still deeply ingrained, even if the programs that promote this ideology are finally begining to crumble.

I worry, though, that we’ve taken the Virgin/Whore dichotomy a step too far…  Have we hit a place where any sexually active woman – or any woman who has somehow failed to live up to our bizarre (and bizarrely sexualized) standards of sexual “purity” - is simply a lost cause?  She loses her agency.  She forfeits her ability to say no  — ever again.

Whether an assault is committed by a partner, by a spouse, or by a stranger, rape is a crime.  Whether the assailant or the victim is a man or a woman, sexual assault is NOT up for debate.  I can’t believe that we have already trivialized rape to the point that this is actually a debatable issue. 

But, with cultural attitudes like this, is it any wonder that so many sexual assaults go unreported?

1 in 3 women will be raped in her lifetime. 

I’ve heard that statistic a lot, but I don’t know if I ever really let it hit home.  1 in 3.  When was the last time you thought about the reality of that?  Seriously.  Look around the room.  Are there three women nearby?  Which one of those women is or will be an assault survivor?  Think about this the next time you walk down the street, the next time you’re hanging out with a group of friends, the next time you’re around the dinner table with your family.  Really look.  How many more women will have to suffer before we finally say THIS HAS TO STOP.

I’m sitting in an airport typing as fast as I can.  They’re starting to board my flight, and there are more than a hundred people in line already.  But now, as I look around, I can only wonder…  How many people here have been affected by sexual assault?  How many will be someday?  How many of their sisters or friends or daughters or mothers?  And what can we do to stop it? 

What can I do?

A few months ago, someone organized an event on Facebook called “National Punch A Slut Day.”  Literally thousands of people RSVPd that they would take part, possibly tens of thousands.  (I don’t remember exactly  — and the event is no longer accessible because the date has passed.) 

I was offended at the time, but now  — in hindsight  — I am simply horrified.  Because that’s how it starts.

One little game.  They play kissing tag on the play ground and pin a girl down even though she’s screaming “no.”  It’s recess.  They kids are only 6 years old.  It’s all just good clean fun.

One little Facebook joke. 
It’s wasn’t even a real event, right?  No one would ever actually punch someone.  Although she’d probably deserve it if they did, since she’s a slut and all.

One little chant.  “No means yes.  Yes means anal.  Fucking sluts!”  But it’s fine.  Some college boys just drank a little too much.  They were having fun.  And, after all, they’re sorry…

One little assumption.  If you’re married, consent automatically last forever…As long as your husband isn’t violent, you have no right to say no.  Ever.  Rape isn’t violent anyway.

We keep revising the definition of rape in our culture.  We tell ourselves that this time, it’s just a joke.  We didn’t mean it.  It was an innocent mistake. 

But someday we have to face the question  — and I beg you to join me in starting this conversation today  — when will we draw the line?  Because before too long, if a woman EVER consents to sex (and maybe even if she doesn’t) then she deserves whatever’s coming to her…For the rest of her life. 

She’s only a slut, after all. 

And yes will mean yes forever.

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  • invalid-0

    I cant even believe the discussions that are even going on about this story. Its a joke now to create a hostile environment  or make one worse and entice violent against women .Could this be any more of a hate crime. They did it because there was no doubt in their minds that they thought would get away with it. It should be treated as if they were hurling racial epitaphs or any other discriminatory remark against  a chosen group of people and it should be labeled as what it is , a blatant threat of violence.You work hard all your life to send your children to College only to have them harassed to the point of suicide. One in four women will be sexually assaulted at  College according to statistics so do we not send them. Do they not deserve an education without being in constant danger.Something has to be done now one rape is TOO many

  • invalid-0
  • forced-birth-rape

    ~Most of the people in my family has been raped and molested, boys included. My mothers side of the family does not take rape serious at all, even the women who have all been raped them selves. I do not know any one who has ever called the police after being raped or molested. If I was one of the girls at yale and I heard those boys saying that, I would be scared to death, leave, and never go back. A person can be verbally terrorized, that is what these vile boys did. Rape is not funny, people say I was only joking, the recipient of the joke gets to decide if it is funny. Any one who can joke about rape does not “CARE” about rape, it is trivial to that person.~

  • forced-birth-rape

    “one rape is TOO many”

    ~Thank you freebird 95!!!~

  • drdredd

    I can’t say I’m all that surprised. I went to Yale 15 years ago, and DKE was the most obnoxious and disgusting frat back then, too. 

     

    Saddened, but not surprised.

  • invalid-0

    How sick…  and at Yale, of all places.  A shame.

  • invalid-0

    I heartbroken and horrified by your your statement that most of the people in your family have been raped. If noone has reported these rapes than the the rapists are out there hurting more people . Please get help for you and your family to break this vicious cycle of abuse. At the very least make an anonymous call to authorities so they can investigate no matter how much time as passed you are all victims and deserve justice. 

  • squirrely-girl

    … was of the poor woman or women out for a jog or bike ride that happened upon a group of men chanting en masse about anal rape. How do you even begin to deal with that?!

  • ahunt

    What is interesting is the Yale Daily News has attempted to make the issue about the response of the Yale Women’s Center, complaining that the reaction was “overwrought” and “almost” as absurd as the behaviors of the fraternity.

     

    http://www.yaledailynews.com/news/2010/oct/18/the-womens-center-must-continue-to-break-the/

  • invalid-0

    I am  heartbroken and horrified by your your statement that most of the people in your family have been raped. If noone has reported these rapes than the the rapists are out there hurting more people . Please get help for you and your family to break this vicious cycle of abuse. At the very least make an anonymous call to authorities so they can investigate no matter how much time as passed you are all victims and deserve justice. 

  • squirrely-girl

    Statement from Board of Directors Regarding Incident at Yale

     

     

    Delta Kappa Epsilon International Fraternity Board of Directors strongly condemns the actions taken by some members of our Yale Chapter last week. The sentiments expressed during the new member activity are deeply offensive, and do not adhere to the standards of morals and behavior that we expect of all DKE members.  DKE has instructed the Yale Chapter to discontinue all new member activities until further notice. 

     

    The chapter’s decision to participate in an open forum on campus last Friday was a good step in acknowledging the seriousness of this incident, and we believe the chapter members have become aware that their behavior is wrong not only because of the effect it can have on other people, but also because they as individuals should not hold or express these sentiments in any respect or manner.

     

    Our Executive Director will be visiting with the chapter next weekend to review this incident and set forth a plan of action for the chapter. 

  • ahunt

    Out here in rural podunk….gals would hit the target berm and check the status of the CCW.

     

    On campus…? No choice but to run…and hope the howling pack is too drunk to give chase.

     

    It doesn’t get any stupider…or more inexcusable.

  • amie-newman

    You are right – this is about the larger issue of sexual assault and rape being acceptable in not only this culture but cultures around the world. We see these incidents as “unfortunate problems” but these young men, at Yale, are conditioned by a society that has taught them that they are allowed to rape and assault women; that it is their right to do so. They have been taught that women are only bodies, that they are objects to be owned. We all play a role in perpetuating this and we all must play a role in stopping it.

    I listen to Phyllis Schafly and I actually feel sad for her. She honestly believes that women should have no control over our bodies and lives. She honestly believes that when a woman and a man marry, the female gives up bodily autonomy, decision making or any sense of herself.

    I am sickened by this chant and furious at the fraternity but I’m not surprised. Do we think that we can “passively” fight against the pervasiveness of misogyny in this culture? No – we need to actively fight it and this includes MEN. Will, you are truly a role model and until all women and men actively stand against a culture which accepts abuse and misogyny, we won’t change this simply by saying that this was just one incident or it’s just a fraternity or just one video…as you say, Will, where do we draw the line?!

    Thanks for being angry about this but thanks even more for doing something about it, Will.

  • crowepps

    We would all do well to remember that, at Yale, the effectiveness and inclusiveness of women’s advocacy is inversely proportional to its radicalism.

    The Yale Daily News editorial suggests that since this was just a TASTELESS JOKE that went a LITTLE too far, that the women’s center who objected didn’t have to be so NASTY.   The power structure is far more likely to tolerate your advocacy if involves sucking up instead of demanding things.   Particularly noted this:

    Feminists at Yale should remember that, on a campus as progressive as ours, most of their battles are already won: All of us agree on gender equality. The provocateurs knew their audience’s sensibilities and how to offend them for a childish laugh. They went too far. But the Women’s Center should have known better than to paint them as misogynistic strangers and attackers among us, instead of members of our community; after all, they once partied in the brothers’ basement.

    http://www.yaledailynews.com/news/2010/oct/18/the-womens-center-must-continue-to-break-the/

    Whether or not the chant was misogynistic is obvious, however, the fact that the chanters were are not ‘strangers’ but ‘members of our community’ to me is actually the worst part.  While I might not be too upset by some tourist visiting my town thinking it was ‘funny’ to reference rape, I would be very alarmed to find out my NEIGHBOR had that attitude.

     

    Even if I had previously gone to a party at his home.

     

    ESPECIALLY if I had gone to a party at his home.  There’s something about finding out you had a narrow escape from a danger who weren’t aware of at the time that gets to you on a gut level.

  • damndamien

    It didn’t occur to the frat boys that their words might be heard by victims of sexually violence. Idiots!

    Read The Damn Bulletin http://damnbulletin.blogspot.com

  • harry834

    The same can be said of many actively anti-abortion and/or anti-feminist female advocates. For this point in my life, I don’t include female friends who have personal opinions against abortion or feminism in my definition of “traitor”. Check with me in ten years.

    Will share this on my Facebook wall once the current discussions have a chance to run their course. Can’t have too many things on your wall.

    Catch me, Harry Nagendra (aka Clarence Clockwork at men’s rights site Stand Your Ground) at Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/hnagendra

    Best to you all in all your work. My voter registration card is ready to go.

     

  • crowepps

    Phyllis made herself a tidy fortune by leaving the kids home with the nanny and traveling around getting paid to make speeches about how other women should stay home.

  • meg

    Oh I think it did very well occur to at least some of them. Maybe some of these guys are perps themselves and just ‘gotten away with it’ and there is probably some “tradition” there too. And to the group of guys as a whole it did not matter one way or the other. As long as they were doing their male-bonding group-thinky frat boy thing. This chant at its best,  kindest and most thoughtful, is about indifference to women — and at its plainest most moderate interpretation it is about violating and humiliating women. I do not think sensitivity towards victims of sexual violence goes with chanting this song. I do not think caring one way or the other who would hear these words and be affected by them goes with chanting this song.

  • meg

    Feminists at Yale have now had sexism and misogyny mansplained to them.

  • meg

    Yes, the “overwrought” Women’s Center and their not quite but “almost” as absurd reaction to the “tasteless jokes” of the “foolhardy DKE” and the “impressionable brothers”…Impressionable? These  guys are too old to be cub scouts I think. These very privileged students who were smart enough to be in college in the first place. A college attended by past and future politicians and world leaders These are grown men, adults. They know what rape means. I am doing my best to fathom that Yale Daily put forth this piece of writing, this insult to the intelligence. 

  • embell

    In NJ, in the early 1980s, a motion came before an assignment judge that sought to dismiss a rape charge against a man who, while separated from his wife, beat her up and raped her.    At that point ine the state, common law held that marriage was an irrevocable consent to sex.  The judge was offended that the law seemed to support a dismissal of that count (the assault indictment remained).  He felt bound to uphold the common law but wrote an opinion strongly opposing the state of the law.  The dismissal was appealed, and the Appellate Division reinstated the rape charge, basically using the lower court’s opinion, and chiding him slightly for not refusing to continue the standing law.  The rape charge was reinstated and, shortly thereafter, the assignment judge was elevated to the appellate level.  This marriage exception for rape probably still exists in some jurisdictions though, sigh. 

  • ddb

    The article is well written, with much passion.  As a victim of an attempted assault I speak for many – NO is NO and will ALWAYS mean NO. This simple rule  is only one aspect of this horrifying issue. This disgusting mindset won’t stop until men, women, society, and our judicial system alike treat these crimes as what they are - horrific violent assaults against first and foremost the women, but also our families, our communities and the world.

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