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So yesterday I posted about the repulsive, rapey banners that some frat guys hung from the balcony of their frat at Old Dominion University in Virginia. Banners that were so obviously problematic that the school administration immediately suspended the frat to investigate.
Here. as a reminder, are the banners in question:
I also quoted Amanda Marcotte, who noted that, when faced with clear evidence of rape culture like these banners, rape apologists like to
suddenly pretend they are aliens from another planet and only learned human language last week and therefore are incapable of picking up on humor, implication, non-verbal communication and nuanced language. They pretend to ascribe to a form of communication so literal that even the slightest bit of metaphor or implication, to hear them talk, sends them spinning into a state of confusion.
After I put up my post yesterday, several rape culture deniers wandered into my Twitter mentions, as if to prove Marcotte’s point, posting pictures of banners put up by sorority women at the school and demanding to know why I wasn’t attacking these women for their alleged promotion of rape culture as well.
— ( ͡◉ ͜ʖ ͡◉) (@NkDragunov) August 25, 2015
— WoolyBumblebee (@WoolyBumblebee) August 26, 2015
I suspect most of you are as nonplussed by this as I was. Because these banners don’t actually promote rape culture. And not because the people holding them up are women, not men.
The frat’s banners have a creepy, predatory edge to them. They are addressed not to the incoming freshmen women, but to the fathers of these women. They strongly suggest that any woman who walks through their doors — or is “dropped off” by dad — is going to be shown a “rowdy … good time” whether she’s “ready” for it or not.
They don’t explicitly use the word “rape” but given how completely they erase the agency of the young women in question they might as well just do that.
The rape threat is implicit, not explicit, but it is clear enough that most people seeing these banners can understand in an instant what they “really mean” and what the problem is.
The banners held up by the sorority women are a different thing entirely. They don’t put forth the message: “we are going to do things to you (whether you like it or not).” They are playful, not threatening, and tell prospective dates “we like sex, and if you get with us you might even get to do ‘butt stuff.'”
The first banner only asks that men pull out before they come; no one wants any babies. The second tells men they are “welcome” to use the back door, nudge nudge. Instead of saying “we will do things to you,” they say “you can do things to us.” Presumably in the context of consensual sex.
Just as rape =/= sex, talking about sex =/= talking about rape.
Is it creepy that when new freshmen men arrive on the campus they’re greeted with giant banners aimed at them and laden with sexual innuendo? Maybe, but it’s nowhere near as creepy as banners greeting freshman women (and their mothers) with not-very-subtle threats of rape.
I tried to get this point across to one of my Twitter interlocutors, the antifeminist Youtube gadfly WoolyBumblebee; it didn’t take. Some excerpts of the ensuing “discussion.”
Rape threats, even implicit ones, are rape culture. Mentions of sex aren’t. You’d think this wouldn’t be hard to understand.
Does WoolyBumblebee really not understand that if someone says “you can put it in my butt” they are not threatening to rape you?
It might not be the appropriate thing to bring up at, say, a dinner party. And if you say it repeatedly to someone not interested in sex with you, it would be sexual harassment.
But it wouldn’t be a rape threat.
WoolyBumblebee more or less conceded this point shortly afterwards. And returned to claiming (or pretending) she didn’t see the threat in the banners posted by the frat guys.
Around and around we go!
Or we would have if I hadn’t gotten off the internet to watch an episode of Mr. Robot.
The question I am left with, as I generally am in the wake of “discussions” with those who seem to be incapable of understanding the basics of human language, is this: Are these people really this literal-minded and obtuse, or are they just pretending?
If the former, how exactly do they manage to even work a computer? Did they make bird noises at their laptop or into their phone for weeks on end before someone explained that’s not how Twitter works? Do they understand the difference between filing their nails and filing their taxes?
It’s gotta be an act, right?