CONTENTS: Sexual Violence, Rape
When I read this story about the freshman week events at Leeds University, in England, I remembered something similar happening in Canada this fall. A chant used in at least two Canadian universities in freshman initiations goes like this:
Students told CBC that the chant — led by a group of SMU orientation leaders during "frosh week" — has been a tradition at the school for years. The video shows a group of men and women saying, "SMU boys we like them young ... Y is for your sister, O is for oh so tight, U is for underage, N is for no consent, G is for grab that a**.""Sexually charged???" Perhaps in the sense that cannibalism is a cuisine. A 2010 newspaper article casts light on what might be happening to terms such as rape among the young that makes them see it as "sexually charged":
A spokesman for SMU told Global News that the chant differs every year, and this year's version "was more sexually charged than earlier chants" and that it's "certainly the last year the chant will be sung."
Not long ago, Professor Lise Gotell, an expert on sexual assault law at the University of Alberta, was taken aback to hear her 15-year-old son describe his football team’s crushing defeat as being “totally raped.’’
She wasn’t sure whether to call the coach, or the cops.
“Can’t you just say that you were humiliated? I asked him,’’ she recalls on the phone from her Edmonton office. “He explained that he meant to convey that ‘They turned us into their bitch.’’’
As if that were any better.
“There’s something about this sexualization and the use of rape as a colloquial verb that is really startling,’’ Gotell says. “Culture is a terrain that we should take very, very seriously.’’
The terms and idioms about rape and sexual violence have been domesticated. This does not mean that they have been tamed, but that they have been brought into general conversations like wolves in sheeps' clothing.
And the result? If you watch the YouTube video in the above link you notice that the people chanting about "no means yes" are not thinking about what they chant. These rape idioms serve to normalize one-sided sexual aggression or violence as simply normal sex, sex as it is supposed to be, sex as it is served to many on some pornographic sites. Or at least something worth joking about in the sense of sexual titillation.
For example, in Leeds:
An investigation into a student club night has been set up by Leeds City Council, after it received complaints from a local councillor and individuals. The investigation comes as over 2,000 students sign a petition to close the night down.
The club night, called Freshers Violation is run by Tequila at Mezz club in Leeds. Students on social media have complained about a video posted on the club's Facebook page which, the objecters say, "promoted rape culture".
The video, which has since been taken down, included a presenter asking a student: "How are you going to violate a fresher tonight?" The student replied: "She's going to get raped."
The text under the video, which can still be read on the Facebook page despite the video's removal, reads: "Fu*k me I'm a fresher! Another huge night at Tequila with pole dancers, a violation cage and lots of second and third years seeking out new freshers."
Mmm. Hard to see how those messages wouldn't promote rape culture. After all, these are messages used to lure students into the club. And notice how the event has the flavor of happening in a "gentlemen's" club!
But note, also, the fact that all the events I linked to provoked strong and swift opposition and a shutting-down of the phenomena. Still, we need to understand much better what causes this idea that rape is at least funny if not what sex should be all about, on the level of popular culture and inside some sub-groups. What drives this thinking? To what extent has it become more common? What are its ties to popular music, pornography, movies? And what are its consequences in terms of sexual aggression in actual relationships?