To the amazement of its authors and their editors, an Eagle column this week sparked campus-wide controversy and prompted public pushback. Outraged students debated the piece in their classes. Campus organizations issued official statements of criticism. Simply put, people were peeved. The column in question, “‘Sex’-perimentation defines Welcome Week,” ran last issue in our Scene section. It was certainly provocative. Most sex columns are. But the piece did not warrant the criticism it has received.
Two campus groups have claimed the column describes a rape sequence. The first was Women’s Initiative. In a letter to the editor printed below, the group’s director, Sarah Brown, makes the argument that the column’s author’s “normalize sexual assault.” She says the piece “places the responsibility of stopping sexual assault on women.” AU Students For Choice made similar claims this week. In an e-mail to 221 recipients, co-directors K. Travis Ballie and Jenny Burke called the column “alarming” and wrote that it describes “an explicit rape.”
The column describes nothing of the sort. In its opening passage, a girl is having a drunken hook-up with a random guy. She may be making a bad decision, but she is not being assaulted. Any ambiguity about this point disappears in the next paragraph. The girl wakes up, and she realizes the guy wants to cuddle with her. All of a sudden, she starts thinking that maybe her one-night stand could turn into something more. The column’s authors then go on to argue that hook-ups do not turn into serious relationships.
But that is beside the point.
For better or worse, many drunken hook-ups on this campus are completely consensual. Women’s Initiative knows it. AU Students For Choice knows it. Sometimes, people get drunk intending to hook-up! The authors of “‘Sex’-perimentation defines Welcome Week,” simply tried to talk openly and frankly about a fairly common situation. The Scene section’s editorial staff, which is comprised entirely of women, reviewed and approved the piece before it went to print. They thought it was fine. And it was fine.
The editors of The Eagle know rape is horrific. This newspaper sees sexual assault as a serious problem worthy of serious coverage. The editorial page always welcomes editorials and letters to the editor on these issues. The news section will continue to cover stories related to them, including the activism of Women’s Initiative and AU Students For Choice. Above all, The Eagle would never discuss a topic as serious as rape and sexual assault in a way that brings levity to the situation. The column was laden with tongue-and-cheek lines that we would never associate with such an important topic.
These groups are right to rush to the defense of rape victims. They should speak out against assault. But their knee-jerk reaction to one paragraph, which was seemingly taken out of context, in a harmless sex column undermines their larger causes. Baseless charges and unwarranted outrage make these groups look silly. On issues as serious as rape and sexual assault, they should know better than to cry wolf.