Editors should have prevented publication
Allow me to add my voice to the slew of e-mails you are no doubt receiving criticizing your decision to publish Alex Knepper’s most recent column. You have defended your decision on the grounds that it provokes useful dialogue and that to not publish the column would amount to censorship. I believe that both claims are wrong.
In any society, there are broad community standards that define acceptable public speech. In ours, such standards are among the most relaxed in the world, and I believe this is a good thing. There are still standards, however. You would not publish a column that advocated murder or pedophilia. Would this be considered censorship? Mr. Knepper’s column essentially countenances date rape, which the vast majority of society believes is no different than any other kind of rape. The idea that censoring such an article would set a bad precedent gives credence to an illogical “slippery-slope” mentality. I doubt that this would be a case in which “first they came for the rape apologists, and I said nothing.”
I am also skeptical that giving voice to Mr. Knepper’s illogical rantings does anything to promote useful dialogue. For those who agree with him, it is likely to legitimate their views. It also serves to re-frame the debate on the matter. Because Mr. Knepper’s views are considered so outlandish by most, the “reasonable” moderates will now be seen as those who are further to the right in this debate than they would have been previously. This resembles a similar debate taking place over topics such as climate change and health care. How much of a voice should one give any lunatic whose argument lacks logical cohesion and statistics?
You are the editors of the student newspaper, and you have the power to prevent something like this from being published. You should use it. Instead of some sort of feeling of false-enlightenment, I believe that this episode has made The Eagle appear extremely immature, acting like a petulant child and saying whatever will bring it the most attention, regardless of merit. You are correct that this is a legitimate topic to discuss, but the way in which you have gone about discussing it is shameful.
I hope that you think more carefully about the implications of this column and that you consider much more carefully what you decide to print in the future. I hope that there is a movement to reduce your funding in the future, as this seems to be the only truly effective way to express disapproval with your publication.
Department of Economics
Despite shock, censorship unacceptable
As a member of the AU community, I, along with many many others was shocked and angered by Alex Knepper’s column. It attempts to blur the line of consensual relationships and acts of rape on innocent women.
Certainly no woman ever asks to be raped, and consent is never something that should be assumed under a drunken haze. Though Knepper’s column certainly stirred up anger, it was even more disappointing to see that the reaction of a few students was to vandalize stands of The Eagle around campus. At a University, the free exchange of ideas should be held paramount. It is morally reprehensible to attempt to silence someone because you disagree with their ideas. Speech codes have been attempted at many universities but continue to fail for good reason.
The staff at The Eagle has taken this opportunity to open up more lines of discussion through a forum, posting of letters and an outpouring of comments on the original column and others. The opposition to Knepper has certainly not been silenced, nor should it be. The marketplace of ideas should be the downfall of Knepper’s column. His views that legitimize illegal behavior will fail against any rational argument.
The real disappointment is in the few students opposed to The Eagle taking action to prevent news from being shared. This was an opportunity for a terrific show of force by AU students. Instead it is an embarrassing display of censorship and ignorance about how college newspapers operate. If every student who was offended pledged to go through training to be a rape crisis counselor, many women would be helped around our community. Knepper only talks of situations in the abstract, but there is a chance to help women that are in real need and those opportunities lie outside the offices of The Eagle or Facebook.
I can expect that people would disagree with what I’m saying, and I would love a conversation with anyone who thinks that. I hate to think that what I say might not reach anyone due to unchecked passion. We cannot legitimately claim to be a community that accepts all people and all ideas if we censor those ideas that we find objectionable.
Pro Deo et Patria,
No constructive value in Knepper’s column
I must say that the “constructive” value of this editorial is practically nonexistent. It reads as a rant or an attack, calling our queer and feminist activists “a sniveling bunch of emotional cripples,” “insular,” and “solipsistic.” I have no doubt that part of the reason there has been so much outrage regarding this article is because of its judgmental name-calling. I am also positive that much of the outrage has sparked from the paragraph about a “woman who heads to an EI party,” but rather than examine the many problems with that — as I am sure there are many others doing just that — I would like to confront the confused logic of this editorial.
One of my major problems with this editorial is its confusion between the physical act of sex and gender theory. How did we get from the social construction of gender to amorphous blobs in the bedroom? What kind of logical progression is that? Last I checked contemporary feminist and queer theory is about how society informs our masculine and feminine genders, not the physical act of sex per se. And none of these theorists presume us to be amorphous blobs — society informs our gender from the very minute we pop out of the womb. Perhaps a little visit with Judith Butler or another respectable theorist would help clear things up.
Being pro-sex and being feminist or queer are not mutually exclusive, and it is rather presumptuous of Knepper to assert that they are. I’m pretty sure that the “Gay Party” is not trying to abolish sex’s passion. Anyone who’s attended events like the Gay Pride Festival will have noticed the copious amounts of condoms available at every turn. It is also presumptuous to say that the “ying and yang of masculinity and femininity” is what makes sexual exploration exciting. This is not the case for everyone. Sometimes it’s when the line is blurred that sex is the most exciting.
Knepper draws a line, with heteronormative roles dominating the bedroom. Why are masculinity and femininity our only options? Knepper employs the same kind of logic when he asks us to draw a line of demarcation between rape and not-rape, citing date rape as incoherent. Why does everything have to be so black and white? What about the exceptions and the in-betweens?
This is exactly the kind of binary logic that smothers our ability to question the gray areas, and it goes against what academia teaches us. While I respect the right to freedom of speech, as well as difference of opinions, I do not find Knepper’s editorial to be at all constructive. If the editorial had been better written, perhaps it would have been constructive, but as is, its logic is flawed and misinformed, which doesn’t help anyone.
It is one thing to launch a discussion about “date rape” or the lines of consent in sex, but it is quite another to go on an anti-feminist, accusatory rant in which there is a “right” and a “wrong” party. Expressing a difference of opinion is fine, but please do it in a logical and respectable manner. Binary logic and accusatory tones will get us nowhere.
Knepper gives The Eagle a bad name
My name is Adam Barnhart and I am a senior graduating with a degree in history this-coming May. I have read The Eagle for the past four years and lately I’ve been very sad with the direction that the opinion section has taken.
I am not writing to you to trash The Eagle. Enough uninformed “readers” have done that and it serves no constructive purpose, no matter how much I may sympathize with their concerns. I know that 95 percent of your material is high-quality, engaging material written by excellent writers.
However, your continued support, implicit or explicit, of Alex Knepper is inexcusable and unprofessional. Knepper did not base his claim that, “Feminist religious dogma, long ago disposed of by neuroscientists and psychologists,” on any actual credible scientific studies. His later remarks that:
“To cry “date rape” after you sober up the next morning and regret the incident is the equivalent of pulling a gun to someone’s head and then later claiming that you didn’t ever actually intend to pull the trigger… “Date rape” is an incoherent concept…Feminists don’t understand history, psychology, biology or sexuality” are offensive, bigoted, uninformed, and ignorant. There is no credible or professional defense for this language. The fact that both of you knew the outrage and anger that this piece would cause and willingly published it anyway is unbecoming of credible, respected newspaper editors.
Alex Knepper consistently gives The Eagle a bad name. Both of you defended your actions in the name of creating dialogue. That is a noble mission and one that should be pursued with vigor, especially on a college campus. But there are many more constructive ways to build that community without creating such a negative disturbance on campus. Advertise programs that do conduct dialogue on the hard issues such as sexuality, date rape, consent, racism and political polarization. Use positive, constructive advertising and writing to influence the actions of others, not fiery exhortations against feminism.
I ask that you cease publishing material written by Alex Knepper. Both of you bring up the legitimate point of censorship. No one is asking you to censor legitimate material. But you can’t yell “Fire!!” in a movie theater. When the material harms the community, serves no legitimate, credible purpose, and there are many much better ways to address the issues that Knepper brings up, Knepper’s services are no longer demanded. The AU community has had enough of Knepper and we ask that you please come to your senses and cease publishing his opinions.
You both do a fine job of editing The Eagle. The Eagle’s material is top-notch and superb 95 percent of the time. Please restore my faith, and the faith of many others, in their school newspaper.
Adam S. Barnhart
Support for freedom of thought
I would like to personally thank you for not crumbling under pressure concerning Alex Knepper’s article. While I might not agree with its content, I fully support the Eagle’s decision to publish it. As an AU Alumni, my hope for AU’s respect for freedom of speech is minimal. However, with your support of freedom of thought, I have become slightly more hopeful.
Keep Knepper on staff
I’ve been closely following the backlash against The Eagle for publishing Alex Knepper’s column and I’m sure you have been under a huge amount of stress. I would just like to say that I support the work you’ve done and I believe you should keep Alex Knepper on The Eagle’s staff [as a columnist].
Editors must resign
Your actions concerning Alex Knepper’s column have made me ashamed to call myself an Editor of an American University publication. As Editors, it is your job to protect the integrity of your publication, not ruthlessly exploit it for some quick and sordid publicity. Alex has every right to his opinion, and every right to air it. However, it was your choice to publish his vitriol and to provide him with a forum within the pages of the publication you helm — as opposed to his own personal blog or facebook page, which would have been a much more appropriate venue for him to exercise his First Amendment rights. Therefore the anger and hurt that has resulted from this column lie squarely on your shoulders. His column contained nothing of editorial worth and did nothing to advance the journalistic goals of the Eagle. Surely, you knew this would cause outrage. And you risked the reputation and existence of the publication you lead for — what, exactly? You cannot believe that this controversy has led to any discourse on sexual rights or “furthered a conversation” on that topic. Rather, it has only exposed your own poor leadership skills.
I am shocked that you let this piece leave your editing desk because I know the feelings of pride and protectiveness that come along with being the Editor-in-Chief of a publication. That you would willingly lower the standards of the newspaper so quickly and without any foresight is shameful indeed. Now, it seems like the wisest course of action is to stop covering your own reputations and try to salvage the integrity of your publication.
American Literary Magazine
Both The Eagle and Knepper must apologize
I am writing to express my frustration and concern with the recent Alex Knepper column entitled “Dealing with AU’s anti-sex brigade.” The article, which attacked survivors of sexual violence and activists working to solve these societal problems and inequalities, was offensive and misinformed. Alex Knepper’s voice, though fueled by the pretense of “freedom of speech,” should not be allowed to extend to the realm of hate speech when he is being approved by an editorial board. Until he issues a personal apology to the campus community and is expelled from your staff, I will assume that The Eagle, as a publication, endorses his values and his ideas regarding rape, sexual assault, sexism and misogyny. As a concerned member of this campus community, and as a two-time sexual assault survivor, I refuse to support a publication with those stated values and will encourage others to abandon the paper as well until this situation is remedied.
Knepper’s column starts no dialogue
I sincerely hope that you both realize how incredibly uneducated you are about the legal definitions of rape, and what dangerous ground you are walking on by implying that your newspaper is starting a conversation about “confusing sexual situations”. You state that opinion pieces like Knepper’s are intended to “start a dialogue.” What, exactly, type of dialogue did you hope to start? Did you want us to all engage in a conversation in which we debated the definition of “rape”? Need I remind you that legal definitions of rape already exist, and that your little campus newspaper is not in any sort of authoritative position to start a “dialogue” about this?
If you are still so confused about what “rape” is, I suggest you contact some local organizations, such as the DC Rape Crisis Center, or Men Can Stop Rape. Or, how about contacting the DC police department, and asking them? I can assure you that all of these organizations will stand in firm support of rape survivors who have been drugged with alcohol and are therefore unable to legally give consent for sex. In fact, I hope that The Eagle staff members are all willing to chip in some money to send Alex Knepper to a Men Can Stop Rape training. Perhaps those awesome guys at MCSR can help Alex understand the ways in which his privileged position in life has led him down this path of misogyny.
Finally, I am deeply troubled by your insistence that protecting Knepper’s hateful, victim-blaming article is a form of “free speech.” I oppose censorship within reason; however, I oppose hate speech even more, and Knepper’s opinion piece is filled with vindictive and intentionally inflammatory victim-blaming rhetoric. Within a public discourse about sexual violence, not all voices should be heard equally. When we are engaging in a public discussion of social justice issues such as rape, we must recognize the very real dangers of allowing victim-blaming voices such as Knepper’s to be given equal footing with educated experts. I view your decision to defend Knepper’s piece as extremely problematic and dangerous. Moreover, your decision to run this type of garbage makes me wonder if you are really committed to “free speech,” or if you are merely interested in increasing your readership. On that point, at least, you have temporarily succeeded: thanks to your poor editorial choices, The Eagle, and the AU community, are receiving a great deal of negative attention on local and national Web sites as Knepper’s mean-spirited words are being ridiculed and criticized by educated and informed anti-sexual violence advocates and other concerned citizens.
Therefore, until The Eagle issues a formal, public apology to members of the AU community, I pledge to boycott your paper and aggressively inform all of my colleagues about your unethical behavior. Additionally, I will be contacting businesses which advertise in The Eagle to inform them that as long as The Eagle editors choose to run such ill-informed and hateful articles, I will boycott their businesses as well. From this day forward, I will think of you, The Eagle editors, as people who chose to promote hateful, victim-blaming rhetoric on AU’s campus. I sincerely hope that in the future, you will choose to educate yourselves about the realities of rape, and the legal definitions of rape, and make wiser decisions about what type of articles to run in your paper.
Doctoral Student, AU Department of Anthropology
Anti-Sexual Violence Advocate
Volunteer, DC Rape Crisis Center
Column caused trauma and shame
I’m all for freedom of speech and freedom of the press, but this is ridiculous. I have never ever been more ashamed of my soon-to-be alma mater. This kid, Alex, is a joke! It’s obvious that this is a stunt for him to get more attention and for The Eagle to boost its readership. I am disgusted! Rape is a serious matter. It doesn’t matter if it’s date rape or marital rape. It doesn’t matter if it’s rape that occurs in a dark alley or in the suite at a fancy hotel. It doesn’t matter if it occurs between two people who are best friends or two strangers. It doesn’t matter if it occurs between two women, two men, or a man and a women. It doesn’t matter what the scenario, if the sex isn’t consensual, it’s rape, plain and simple. I saw your quote in the Washington Post blog. You thought this article would “foster an interesting discussion”? Did you not think of the trauma and embarrassment and shame it would cause victims of rape to relive? Congratulations, you’ve been successful in raping these people twice! Alex Knepper does not deserve to write for this newspaper, and you my dear, do not deserve to call yourself editor-in-chief.
Brittany L. Johnson
Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity responds
We, the Brothers of Sigma Phi Epsilon, take issue with Mr. Alex Knepper’s article “Dealing with AU’s anti-sex brigade.” We are offended with his portrayal of any person who attends a social function as passively accepting sexual intercourse regardless of actual consent. Going to a party does not mean anyone explicitly wants sex.
Sigma Phi Epsilon prides itself on keeping high standards of decency, community and respect. Rather than submit to stereotypes of the “frat,” SigEp created the Balanced Man Program which teaches members to care for our bodies, our minds and the people around us. SigEp Brothers have subsequently taken alcohol and date courses in show of support. We are positive that other fraternities on this campus are teaching similar values and should be commended for such. For anyone to throw around terms like “frat” and implications of enabling and threatening student bodies, is an insult to the values and mission that Fraternities provide.
It saddens us that the tragedy of date rape persists in our society and affects all campus communities. The fight to eradicate the violence is not helped by individuals who make over-arching statements that come to the conclusion that anyone who attends a party, fraternity affiliated or otherwise, is consenting to sex. Legally and morally, this is not the case. The most recent large-scale study conducted by the Department of Justice of rape on college campuses, found an average 35 rapes per 1,000 female students over seven months. But this shocking number doesn’t tell the full tale. These are not passive participants to be made light of, they are people. These are not just tragic numbers; they are fellow students sitting next to you in classes. These are not just sad statistics, they are strong survivors.
Mr. Knepper’s arguments may be illogical and hurtful, but he is not the source of the problem in this discussion. Date rape continues to occur with or without Mr. Knepper’s outrageous remarks. All college students must take it upon themselves to stop date rape. Whether that means talking to someone in the Women’s Initiative or the GLBTA Resource Center, participating in Take Back the Night, or even simply listening to a friend without judgment — we can all do something.
Date rape is an appalling epidemic that faces everyone. For ourselves, our friends and communities we must stand up. Instead of blaming the survivor, we can logically examine what causes a person to believe they have the right to another’s body. Instead of making inflammatory statements for personal fame, we can come up with solutions. Instead of blaming fraternities, we can reach out to them as an ally.
It pains us that Mr. Knepper’s article represents many ills of this world. Date rape is persistently robbing our communities of sexual security. The more we learn about the issue of date rape in our community the more active we can become. The more we understand the harm it does and the survivor’s strength, the more we can do to support those affected. The more individuals get invested in this issue, the faster an unwavering collective ‘we’ will stand up against this crime. American University, we must all stand up. We must stand together. Not just to stop hurtful speeches of one writer for The Eagle, but to stop painful actions across our community and across all college campuses. The Brothers of Sigma Phi Epsilon pledge our continued support to the community, AU’s survivors, and the collective “we” to educate and eradicate this tragic plague.
The DC Delta Chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon
The balancing act of journalism
While every student at our University has the right to express their views, First Amendment rights come with certain implied responsibilities in their free exercise; namely, if you are in a position of authority where you are giving out information as a member of a media source, you ought to express your views logically and reinforce them with factual assertions. For the powerful freedoms of the press to be treated otherwise is to neglect the tremendous ethical responsibilities writers have to their readers and to the whole community to express any view they choose, but in an accurate and straightforward manner.
I’m suspicious of any direct censorship or line-cutting anywhere, anytime, and The Eagle should let even the most polarizing, outrageous voices be heard, simply because they have the right to express themselves. History shows us that when journalists fear reporting on controversial topics, or editors shy away from publishing controversial articles, built-in biases and slants tend to expand. Thomas Jefferson probably regretted it when he said “a revolution every 20 years or so is good for the people.” Applying that as a metaphor, the question to consider here is simply: when does defying convention become an obstacle to effective journalism?
Benjamin Franklin said that “the pen is mightier than the sword.” He was right. The power of the press lies not in the disseminating factor of “stirring up opposition” that European royalty so feared in the 18th century, but in the power of ideas to implant themselves in the minds of readers. Once an idea gets in someone’s head, they will remember where they first heard about it. The impact any radical notion makes on someone depends on who that person is. This is why words are so powerful, and for authorities, so dangerous.
Reporters and editors at The Eagle have to exercise a degree of discretion that should do as little as possible to impede on freedom of expression, but, of course, the caveat is that they also need to buy and sell papers and maintain their readership. The Eagle is a fine paper in many ways, usually offering general outlines of both sides to any argument. One of the major failings of the Knepper article was that it was not accompanied by a counter-position, which is expected to come out in Thursday’s edition. The question here is: do newspapers have an ethical obligation to censor or not publish articles that are so inflammatory that they risk promoting an unethical message? AU and The Eagle do not condone Knepper’s message, yet for some of those offended by his article, The Eagle gave his ideas tacit support by publishing them for all to read.
The question that remains for us is this: where do we draw the line between free speech and responsible publishing? Alex Knepper stated Tuesday that he is leaving The Eagle at the end of the semester, which seems to have saved the paper the embarrassment of having to fire him. I don’t think it sets a good precedent to fire someone just because he expressed his opinion. His right to do so is guaranteed in the First Amendment. The issue with Knepper is not that shouldn’t have written what he wrote; there’s no stopping a man bent on getting his name out whatever ways he can. The issue here is where, or if, a school paper should self-censor to prevent outrage or public fury.
Alex Knepper could have used his position as a columnist to advocate for the positive ideas he has, rather than simply garner a reputation as an overtly opinionated, prejudiced writer. Now we won’t get to hear any positive ideas he has about, well, much of anything. He chose the easy way out; in talking about the “implied consent” of female students interested in attracting male attention, by equating their actions as soliciting for sex, he disregarded the “implied responsibility” of his position. A ‘contributing writer’ is one thing; a ‘columnist’ another. By virtue of his position, the writer sparked a torrent of angry Facebook statuses, thousands of comments, and a Washington Post article. Much good may it do him. He’s succeeded in getting his name in the Post, but his reputation here seems to be already set in stone.
Sigma Chi fraternity responds
As the President and Social Chairman of Sigma Chi, a social fraternity here at American University, we were extremely disappointed that the Eagle would publish such an irresponsible depiction of rape. We do not wish to dignify the author’s statements with a direct response and we certainly understand and recognize his right to speak his mind. Our goal is to make sure that our entire campus community understands the seriousness and reality of the dangers associated with this issue.
Unfortunately this danger is a reality to many. It is something that has affected women at not only AU but at college campuses all across the country. This is a very personal issue. To discuss it with this level of disregard for the victims of these acts is morally reprehensible. Our hope isn’t that the campus community gets into a useless debate with the author, but rather to take action to prevent these types of heinous acts from claiming future victims.
As a fraternity on this campus we look forward to working with other groups to promote rape awareness, education and prevention.
Robby Soos, Patrick Elwell
Kappa Rho Chapter of the Sigma Chi Fraternity
Alumni disappointed with publication standards
I edited and wrote for The Eagle’s editorial pages in the early ‘90s. I wouldn’t have let this through, nor would the two editors-in-chief whom I served.
Knepper drew a false conclusion that demeans a group of people — women. Full stop.
He’s allowed to say that women who drink a lot and go to a room with a man are telling them they’re ready to screw. He’s allowed to think it and he’s allowed to believe it, whether or not it’s true.
The problem is threefold:
1. It’s disgusting and indicates a loathing and perhaps fear of people who are not Knepper or like Knepper.
2. The statement about women and rape is a non sequitur. His article could have been a well-reasoned exploration of how attempts to make people feel safe and welcome on a largely liberal campus lead to a largely conservative, even puritan environment, and take the fun out of sex. It could have suggested ways to reintroduce the fun and spontaneity of getting it on while not abandoning the desire to make kids feel safe. By diving into a swift, unwisely considered assertion of what rape is and is not, he abandons a new angle on an old story — campus Puritanism — and goes for shock value because he knows it gets attention.
3. Knepper’s editors at The Eagle should not have concentrated on editing the story first; they should have asked themselves if it was acceptable to their standards and the standards of the school, however qualitative the measures are of determining that. At that point, the question should have been whether to spike the story or send it back for a rewrite — not to render it toothless, but to render it coherent. A controversial take on these topics is always welcome. A shocking take a la Grand Guignol, is a waste of everyone’s time and accomplishes nothing.
What must happen now? I suggest that Knepper get remedial training in writing, editing and reporting, and that The Eagle suspend him for a time. The Eagle should not throw him to the mob, it should help educate him through journalism. As for his editors, they need the same, only more. If no one on the journalism school’s staff or on the newspaper’s staff has the inclination or time, then Knepper and his editors should resign or be fired.
Shame on everyone from top to bottom if that is the outcome. Journalism is about lifelong learning, including through informed opinion writing. Knepper could have done a great job here. Instead, he hurt everyone whom he wrote about in this story and everyone who touched it.
A different take on Knepper’s column
Jeremiah Headen rightly lost the vice presidency of the Student Government over an ignorant Facebook note. Its contents — an ode to hegemonic masculinity — slammed men for claiming their gender identity without fitting into a specific mold. It ended with an unnecessary, all-caps call to raid booty and women from neighboring villages.
The comments on The Eagle’s Web site, mostly by social justice activists and advocates, as well as involved and offended student voices, condemned Headen for being an “anti-queer misogynist” and for undermining American University’s commitment to being a “safe space” for the “gay community.” He was also rebuked for using the offensive term “hermaphrodite” as a substitute for “intersex.”
What a wonderful bunch of voices! I have never encountered a more progressive, open view of human sexuality than at this college. The willingness of these students to learn about safe and respectful sex here should be celebrated by social justice activists.
Contemporary gender theory, accepted and often revered by social scientists and academics, states that men and women are born autonomous, only to have gender identities imposed on them by socialization and cultural pressure. This is known as “social construction theory.”
Like the other great movements in history, the goal of contemporary feminism and queer activism is not to justify disrespectful acts, but to abolish them at the root. The idea that nonconsent and coercion make sexual exploration exciting has been revisited and revised by modern feminist scholars. Sex isn’t about individual desire, it is about mutuality, respect and pleasure. It’s about excitement, exploration and comfort. Feminism envisions a bedroom scene in which two confident, sexual beings ask each other for consent and ensure the mutual pleasure in an activity rather than risk violating and potentially scarring their partner or partners. Better yet: sex-positively and the belief in consent extend to fetishism, sadomasochism, kink and cross-dressing. How risqué!
For my pro-sex views, I am variously called a misandrist, a feminazi, and — my personal favorite — a “bitch.”
Let’s get this straight: any person who heads to a party and drinks five cups of the jungle juice is unable to provide consent. To justify manipulating someone who is inebriated, taking advantage of someone with physical threats, date-rape drugs, and coercion, and/or disregarding someone’s ability to enjoy or consent to sex is the equivalent of pulling a gun to someone’s back and shooting it in the dark. When you fuck someone who cannot soberly and comprehensively inform you of their comfort in a sexual situation, you’re fucking alone.
“Date rape” is an important concept. Verbal and enthusiastic consent makes dating and sexual relationships easier to navigate without hurting someone else. It’s not clear enough to merely “assume” consent, because the lines of consent in sex — especially anonymous sex — can become very blurry. If that bothers you, then stick with Alex Knepper and his brigade of anti-feminist, pro-rape minions! According to Knepper, you should avoid sex at all costs until you are ready to be harassed, abused, and raped — and then ignored and laughed at.
Feminists have reconstructed our understanding of history, psychology, biology and sexuality. To make these truths speak louder and in more specific terms, I would like to recommend my five favorite books about the power of consent, sex-positivity, and gender theory on improving our culture and our lives: “Yes Means Yes! Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World Without Rape,” edited by Jaclyn Friedman and Jessica Valenti, “Cunt: A Declaration of Independence Expanded and Updated Second Edition,” by Inga Muscioand Ph.D. Betty Dodson, “He’s a Stud, She’s a Slut, and 49 Other Double Standards Every Woman Should Know,” also by Valenti, “Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of Sex,” by Judith Butler, and “I Never Called It Rape: The Ms. Report on Recognizing, Fighting, and Surviving Date and Acquaintance Rape,” by Robin Warshaw.
Put down the Ann Coulter and embrace the sexual freedom — and total, absolute, want for respect and safety — of feminism!
Knepper’s writing is hate speech
I can say that in my personal opinion I am a strong supporter of freedom of the press. I believe, however, that the power of journalism comes with a responsibility. When a newspaper refuses to adhere to an editorial policy that has any form of adequate standards, regardless of their political viewpoint, they breed discontent among their readership base. The Eagle’s repeated failure to address this issue proactively is to blame for these incidents, no one else. It is, however, in their right to choose whoever they want to publish. It is after all their reputation, relevancy and credibility on the line.
We do have to protect the most vile forms of free speech. However, as students we have the power to question op-ed editing policies and advocate for better quality control. Quality control is defined as standards set by the newspaper with input from various sources, one of which is reader response. It is up to the newspaper ultimately to decide where their standards lie. We have peer-edited scholarly journals and peer-edited opinion columns in newspapers all over America that prevent these types of controversies by setting ethical standards. Such standards are clearly needed in this case.
This is also why it is dangerous to conflate rape apologist language as being something “progressives” or “feminists” fight against. There’s no community in our great Nation that can claim to not have used rape apologist language; it is that widespread. Progressives and some “feminists” aren’t called out enough for using rape apologist language, and I don’t think they say it any less than conservatives in many cases. It comes down to a question of ethics and not ideology, and how professionals, be they scientists peer reviewing a journal piece or op-ed editors peer reviewing a submission, deal with setting an ethical standard. My proposition is that The Eagle needs to begin looking at their policy regarding language addressing rape and sexual assault and perhaps reconsider their ethical approaches to such language.
In response to the very strong and passionate outrage at rape apologist Alex Knepper’s latest column “Dealing With AU’s Anti-Sex Brigade” [www.theeagleonline.com]), an unidentified student not endorsed by any organization decided to take direct action.
The Eagle has repeatedly refused for months to show adequate sensitivity, compassion, and common decency to the well-being of rape survivors on campus and is complicit in promoting a rape culture where survivors are blamed for the crimes of sexual assault perpetrators.
They have repeatedly failed to adequately work with many organization’s on campus who believe that we can have a strong, free press on campus free to print different viewpoints without allowing hate language which promotes implicitly or explicitly violence against others.
While I am saddened that the inaction of American University’s campus newspaper has allowed outrage to spread to this point, I am hopeful that they will in the wake of recent events reconsider the editorial policies that hundreds of students have been criticizing for over half a year.
A free press is not an insulated press, readers have every right to respond to op-eds they disagree with, but I encourage responses to be in the forms of letters to the editor, submitting their own op-eds and applying to write for The Eagle as a columnist or reporter.
I stand for free speech, not hate speech. It’s time The Eagle took responsibility for their words.
Women’s Initiative Director Responds to Knepper
Late Sunday night, Alex Knepper’s column “Dealing with AU’s anti-sex brigade” was released online. Despite The Eagle’s assertion that Women’s Initiative will “counter Alex Knepper with a column of [our] own,” WI will not use this space to take part in a debate that seeks only to divide the campus community and create controversy.
This column is not directed at Alex Knepper, but to The Eagle and to the AU community.
To the Eagle — It is irresponsible and shameful of you to use rape to generate readership. This is not a fun argument about an abstract concept between Alex Knepper and the crazy feminists. Real people, both women and men, hurt physically and emotionally because someone took control of their body without their permission. And real people hurt when their experiences are trivialized by the hate speech your organization chose to print. The Eagle owes sexual assault survivors and their friends and family, along with the rest of the AU community, an apology.
As students and as human beings, we have the right to attend a party without being sexually assaulted. We are entitled to wear what we choose to, to have a drink, or to move to a new space with an acquaintance without fearing for our security. We are the only ones who can decide with whom and when we will have sex —passionate, spontaneous and consensual sex. If you don’t feel that you gave consent, you have the right to feel violated. You also have the right to talk to someone about what was done to you, even if you don’t want to report it to AU or the police or go to counseling. The DC Rape Crisis Center (http://www.dcrcc.org/) can help you explore different options so that you can decide which path will best help you heal.
I’m relieved to see that students and faculty alike are upset and angered by this column. However, I hope that we don’t allow our anger to grow into hate. Rather than allow The Eagle to divide us and waste our positive energy debating their columnist, let’s use our anger to build a safe and empowering community for men and women alike. I hope everyone will come out to Take Back the Night this year (Monday, April 12 at 7:30 p.m. in the Amphitheatre) to support survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. This is a powerful space where we can come together and demonstrate that these are things we care about eradicating from our home at AU. We can change our community from one of indifference to one of safety and love.
Director of Women’s Initiative
Column compromised The Eagle’s integrity
As a student in American University’s School of Communication, I would like to express my disappointment in The Eagle’s editorial staff members. Under the First Amendment, Alex Knepper certainly has the right to freely express his hateful and inflammatory views through a variety of mediums; however, the editorial page of our student-run newspaper is not one of them.
Despite the fact that Knepper’s column is labeled as an “editorial,” The Eagle staff still ought to uphold journalistic integrity within the opinion section of their publication. If Knepper had written a clear, thoughtful, well-researched article with a point, perhaps that would have deserved a place on the editorial page; however, it is clear that his most recent column falls far short of the standards for any good opinion piece. Knepper’s article lacks a central point, any kind of discernible structure and substantiated evidence. The content meanders through an SG election controversy, “gay party” activism, a commentary on “passionate” sexuality, a criticism of feminist thought, and a call to invalidate the concept of date rape. Obviously, this article is nothing more than a forum for Knepper to broadcast his offensive opinions and incite controversy within the AU student body - it is in no way a true editorial, and The Eagle staff should know the difference.
Many of The Eagle staff members are currently studying in SOC, where I am sure you have learned something about journalistic standards and ethics. By choosing to run Alex Knepper’s column as an “editorial,” you have compromised the integrity of your publication. You are allowing hate to masquerade as journalism. If Alex Knepper is capable of writing an article that achieves the true standards of publishable material, then I will be happy to read about his opinions in The Eagle and choose to respectfully disagree with his point of view. Until then, however, The Eagle staff should be ashamed that he continues to get away with compromising the credibility of our student “newspaper.”
Responsibility lies with the editors
After Alex Knepper’s latest article, “Dealing with AU’s anti-sex brigade”, many discussions of censorship have taken place in response to the loud calls for the dismissal of Alex Knepper. But instead of looking at what Alex Knepper is writing, we should be angry and arguing how The Eagle’s editors’ choices in articles poorly represent the student body and its choice to censor comments on its online forum.
To fire Alex based on his opinions, even his hate speech, would be more censorship. However, maybe Alex should be fired based on his lack of factual information and logical arguments in his articles. It’s poor journalism. His previous articles have no end goal and do not create dialogue but incite anger. His article on ROTC recognition on campus did little to encourage people to support our ROTC students but instead created a heated debate on feminism. He harms more causes, both conservative and progressive, than does good for them. There is room on this campus for all voices, but whose voice is he lifting up? He does little to understand the other sides of his arguments and when offered with counter arguments, he responds in unprofessional forums in an unprofessional manner. Bad journalism disgraces the university and leads me to question the leadership of The Eagle editors.
Alex Knepper’s articles have hate speech in them, but they are protected under law. If you call for action, take it upon yourself to lead a movement for accountable journalism on campus. The fact that Alex Knepper is published on an almost weekly basis reflects poorly on the student body that claims to be progressive and ready to protest injustice. If the readers want to stop him from writing they are going to need a lot more action than petitions and letters. I challenge those outraged by poorly written articles like his to infiltrate a broken system and go out for The Eagle to write something that will invoke healthy dialogue on campus and make the campus proud of a currently disreputable paper. We have the School of Communication with majors that should encourage and produce plenty of talented writers competing for space in a newspaper. The best of the best should be writing, not a novelty act.
Class of 2012
Knepper must resign
First, let me say how disgusted I am with the opinion piece published in the March 28 edition of The Eagle titled “Dealing with AU’s Anti-Sex Brigade.” I had no idea that this publication was in the business of excusing sexual violence, denigrating entire groups of people (feminists, LGBTQ community) or allowing an avowed bigot to spew his disrespectful views on the campus community. Columnist Alex Knepper either needs to resign at once or be removed from the paper’s editorial staff.
I would like to add that even though I have not always agreed with Knepper’s views or opinions, I recognize that he has a right to his opinion and a right to spread that opinion through a published column. Normally I would not follow up on an opinion piece, but his latest rant was far more than I and many others could stomach. In his piece, Knepper wrote:
“‘Date rape’ is an incoherent concept. There’s rape and there’s not-rape, and we need a line of demarcation. It’s not clear enough to merely speak of consent, because the lines of consent in sex - especially anonymous sex - can become very blurry. If that bothers you, then stick with Pat Robertson and his brigade of anti-sex cavemen! Don’t jump into the sexual arena if you can’t handle the volatility of its practice!”
Anyone who has studied and analyzed patterns of domestic and sexual violence would know that this entire statement is devoid of any knowledge into the crime of rape. No means no, end of story. Consent is the “line of demarcation.” Furthermore, someone should not be afraid to be sexually active because of the possibility of rape - it is a horrific crime and is never the victim’s fault. Date rape (defined as rape by a stranger in this case), according to the National Crime Victimization Survey, accounts for less than two percent of rapes reported. Most sexual violence is in fact perpetrated by someone close to the victim.
Before he publishes a column ever again, Knepper needs to educate himself on basic notions of privilege, power and tact for that matter. That, and I didn’t even talk about his idea of “old-school masculinity.”
Even the title of the piece in question is misleading: I don’t know of many people on campus more sex-positive than AU’s feminists and LGBTQ community.
Class of 2010, SPA
Column should have been printed
I, for one, think it a good thing the column was printed. As someone who identifies as traditionally straight, I have always struggled to find a voice when it came to issues of consent and sexual assault. Straight guys have often felt an overpowering fear of rape, too: being accused of it. This is in no way comparable to the incredible trauma and degradation of the act, but it has had the effect of containing the discussion. I harbored fears of talking about the issue as I didn’t want to be accused of being pro-rape or misogynistic.
This article does every traditionally straight guy the service of providing an opportunity for outrage. I have rarely been more incensed than in reading this article, and while I feel the vandalism and threats of violence were out of line, I totally understand their origin. My own feelings subsided quickly when I realized this was the first time I felt coherent when it came to sexual assault: I knew with certainty I did not agree with Alex Knepper’s definitions of masculinity, femininity or sexual assault.
This essentialist view of gender is outmoded. This definition of date rape is bewilderingly insensitive and goes far beyond the realm of the “provocative.” He has the right to say it, and I’m glad The Eagle printed it.
This is a way to get those who identify as traditionally straight active. It has been a galvanizing moment for me and I believe it will be proven to be so for many previously unconcerned members of the community.
SPA, Class of 2010
The Eagle should be boycotted
I understand free speech. I really do! As an activist I value it immensely. I am not at all saying that The Eagle does not have the right to publish Alex Knepper’s vile rape-apologist diatribes. I am merely saying that The Eagle is morally reprehensible for doing so.
As long as The Eagle gives a place for rape-apologists and prints opinions that mock the massive problem of date rape, I cannot, in good conscience, continue to support The Eagle. Therefore, I shall be encouraging my fellow AU community members to talk to those who advertise in your publication to inform them that as long as they support a publication that supports rape-apology and date rape, we shall not support them, and shall, in fact, be boycotting them.
Either your publication’s Victorian-style insistence that date rape is OK goes, or your revenue stream does.
Knepper is offensive and misinformed
I am writing to express my frustration and concern with the recent Alex Knepper column entitled “Dealing with AU’s anti-sex brigade.” The article, which attacked survivors of sexual violence and activists working to solve these societal problems and inequalities, was offensive and misinformed. Alex Knepper’s voice, though fueled by the pretense of “freedom of speech,” should not be allowed to extend to the realm of hate speech when he is being approved by an editorial board. Until he issues a personal apology to the campus community and is expelled from your staff, I will assume that The Eagle, as a publication, endorses his values and his ideas, regarding rape, sexual assault, sexism and misogyny. As a concerned member of this campus community, I refuse to support a publication with those stated values and will encourage others to abandon the paper, as well, until this situation is remedied.
Knepper’s arguments can’t be legitimized
There is a fine line between free speech and journalistic integrity. It is true that censorship should not exist and people should have the freedom to express their own viewpoints, but newspapers should be held to a higher standard. I am disappointed that The Eagle has bought into the fallacy that all viewpoints, no matter how poorly supported by factual evidence and reason, deserve an opportunity to be aired in the same medium. Running Knepper’s column is akin to CNN giving equal air time to an astronomer and a man who believes that the universe revolves around Earth. Such a viewpoint is certainly free to be expressed, but it is inane to assert that the views of the Earth-centric man deserve the same level of credence as those of an astronomer.
Knepper is free to express his views, but by printing them in The Eagle, even if the editors and staff do not agree with his ideas, it acknowledges that his arguments are at least as legitimate as the proposed Women’s Initiative rebuttal, and that is untrue. Most of what Knepper wrote was emotional, sensationalist nonsense and spent more time committing ad hominem attacks on parties that would be justifiably outraged by the hateful writing that he produced. There was a constructive way for Knepper to air his opinions, and instead he has employed tactics which can only be viewed as intentionally offensive in order to boost readership of his column.
In this situation, I think it is most appropriate to censure Knepper. Not censor. Censure. Knepper is free to express his views elsewhere, but not in a legitimate publication. Should Knepper’s hate-speech filled columns continue, I will have to reconsider The Eagle’s status as a legitimate newspaper.
Column attacked victims
I found Alex Knepper’s editorial “Dealing with AU’s anti-sex brigade” to be not only inflammatory and uninformed but also incredibly insensitive considering that a date rape was recently reported by an AU student and well publicized by Public Safety. The date rape reportedly occurred under the very circumstances that Mr. Knepper touches on in the editorial; they are so similar, in fact, that I question whether the recent event was his inspiration for this tirade. If that is true, shame on The Eagle and Mr. Knepper for not having compassion for the victim who now has to read the now well publicized quote “To cry ‘date rape’ after you sober up the next morning and regret the incident is the equivalent of pulling a gun to someone’s head and then later claiming that you didn’t ever actually intend to pull the trigger.” This completely uncouth statement implies that the victim, whom the university goes to lengths to protect through informative programming, is, if not the criminal, deserving of equal blame for the event. That this attack on the victim is coming from the university’s own student-run newspaper is an embarrassment for the entire AU community. To expand the offense of this article to the community as a whole, this article communicates to students that if someone is to “drink five cups of jungle juice” and “walks back to a boy’s room”, then students are entitled to have sex with that person whether or not consent was expressed. I hope that the error of publishing this article will change The Eagle’s procedure when editing articles that could pose a danger to the AU community; editorial or not. If Mr.Knepper’s sentiments are shared by the fraternities of this university, and I sincerely hope that they are not, then I believe there is reason for the university to investigate into the situation. I may not share Mr.Knepper’s supposed “pro-sex” views, but I do feel very strongly as a female student that attitudes like his are a serious threat to my safety and those of my peers.