Who Thinks This Rape Cartoon Is Funny?

Jeanne Sager

question markIt's been a busy week for rape in the media. Photos of a girl being gang raped went viral on Facebook, and an accompanying video rocked YouTube. A professor began a campaign to have a book banned because he interpreted a rape scene as pornographic. 

And just this morning, in an event that has me seriously reconsidering ever letting my daughter go away to college, the editor of a university newspaper apologized for a graphic cartoon that most people in their well-adjusted minds would easily have recognized as cruel, humiliating sexual assault.

The brutalization of women still titillates and, shockingly, the media continues to perpetuate it without even realizing it.




sex position

The latest comic was written and illustrated as the "sex position of the week," but readers of the Purdue University student paper are split on what it really is. The "position" actually suggests a woman be surprised by a random guy coming up behind her and -- here's the key -- "not realiz[ing] a change has been made."

So where's the consent?

Exactly the problem readers had when they bombarded the paper with complaints, generating this apology:

"On Friday and over the weekend, we received a flood of e-mails and phone calls telling us that this sort of graphic is unacceptable. And as soon as we received the first one and looked at it again -- really looked at it -- we agreed. If someone engages in any sexual act with anyone without his or her explicit consent, it’s rape. The comic can easily be interpreted that way."

It can be interpreted that way? So there's another interpretation available? If so, please somebody, can you share with the class?

The hollow apology may be the most disturbing portion of this whole debacle. It illustrates there are people out there who still think there's a blurred line between rape and consensual sex. Perhaps even worse, the apology was written by a Zoe Hayes -- a woman who is apparently editor-in-chief of The Exponent. Who paraded out the old "well, I know a friend who was raped, so I'm really, really not a rape apologist." Unfortunately, her story about a classmate who suffered at the hands of a rapist does little to soften the blow of her un-apology. The wording is clear -- the friend is to hide in the closet, and the woman is not to realize she has another man's penis inside her.

And clearly some people are still okay with that, to the point they would publish a rape scene in a student paper just as matter-of-factly as they would run the daily forecast.

Or share a photo on Facebook of a girl being gang-raped like it was their best friend's prom pictures.

If these things bothered people the way they should, they would be too embarrassed to share them with the world -- be it in a major college newspaper or on a major social networking site.

The fact that they're not bothered enough to hide their rape fantasies is evidence that rape is not yet a big enough no no to be hidden away behind closed doors the way child porn or something equally shameful would be.

If it's shared on Facebook, it's safe to say it's not completely taboo.

And cases like the Purdue cartoon only give the rape apologists legs to further the blurring of the lines. They can point to this as evidence that some people thought it was perfectly fine, so the rest of you are just being a bunch of nitpickers.

The "apology" from The Exponent editors sounds woefully like a case of "well, if you're going to force us to apologize, we will, but don't expect us to like it." Cue the photo of the big mean feminist on their dartboard.

With that sort of attitude on college campuses, is the next generation in trouble?


Images via Margaret Ann Clark/Flickr; Students Against Abuse

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