Alyssa Ratledge ’11: Sex crimes, complacency and complicity

Opinions Editor
Friday, October 29, 2010

“No means yes! Yes means anal!”

Not exactly the sort of sentiment you’d expect from our nation’s top college students, is it? But on Wed., Oct. 13, 2010 — yes, that’s this year, a full decade into the 21st century — it was the mantra of Yale’s Delta Kappa Epsilon. The fraternity’s entire pledge class marched through campus chanting this and other lovely slogans with great relish. You can watch the video on YouTube; I don’t advise it, but then again, I only made it through the first minute.

There has been an outcry in feminist circles, including from Yale’s Women’s Center, which deemed it “hate speech” and called for serious repercussions on the frat from the university. So far, the Yale administration’s response has been tepid — they of course decry the frat’s words and reaffirm that no does in fact mean no, but haven’t made any move to reprimand the students or the frat beyond ceasing pledge activities.

But don’t worry, women: One administrator reassures us that she “wouldn’t say the question of disciplinary action has disappeared from the conversation.” Isn’t that a relief? It’s possible that some members of a group vocally advocating a felony crime against fellow students might get disciplinary action! They might be put on probation! Doesn’t that reassure you about your safety on campus?

At Brown and other Ivy League schools, there seems to be a sense of relieved pride that such an event would never happen here. We are far too progressive, too modern; we believe in egalitarian gender roles and sex-positivism; we understand laws regarding sex offenses and consent. But is that true? This month at Columbia, a male a cappella group posted ads around campus featuring member pictures above the words “Rape me.” Apparently they did not realize until being told that such a catchphrase wasn’t totally hilarious. Columbia’s response to student complaints: none.

Just a few years ago here at Brown, one campus fraternity printed Spring Weekend T-shirts reading, “It’s better to beg for forgiveness than to ask for permission.” This slogan isn’t specific. It could, technically, be referring to any aspect of Spring Weekend debauchery. But the sexual implication is obvious, and would have been, regardless of how many times I was grabbed, accosted or propositioned that weekend by shirt-wearers on Wriston.

Certainly this is nowhere near the caliber of the Yale incident, but it reflects the same attitude toward women and consent, among both perpetrators and administrators. Two friends of mine complained to a dean about the shirts prior to Spring Weekend; nothing happened. No one was particularly surprised. Sexual assault is rarely taken seriously on college campuses, and unfortunately, neither is its lionization.

Universities’ halfhearted responses to incidents like these are perhaps even more frightening for campus women than the incidents’ existence in the first place. Years of institutionalized sexism do not disappear quickly, especially on Ivy League campuses with a faction of men who feel entitled to everything, including sex, because of their daddies or trust funds or varsity letters. Couple this with the clear disincentive for universities to investigate and punish perpetrators of sex offenses — every incident must be tallied and publicly reported under the Clery Act — and victims, whether male or female, receive a whole lot of nothing from the people who are supposed to help them.

There are horror stories from across the country of college students, both men and women, who go to school administrators after being raped and are told to keep quiet, not to inform the police, just to have everything be kept nice and neat and internal. Victims are not offered rape kits or told about their full range of administrative and legal options, much less offered the support they need post-assault.

Brown and other top schools, including Yale, have made strides to improve this in recent years, primarily through increasing psychological support services for victims. But the mystery surrounding “disciplinary hearings” remains, and according to the Justice Department, the vast majority of accused campus rapists do not face any serious sanctions, and often no punishment at all. Yes, even at Brown.

Conversely, there’s the case of William McCormick III, who is currently suing the University because he was removed from campus after being accused of rape. Whether or not the rape allegations have merit, the administration did seem to act in an uncharacteristic way due to the accuser’s father’s status as a fundraiser, casting even more doubt upon the channels in place to deal with sex offenses — and universities’ ambiguous stance on such incidents at all.  

Rape is a crime. This is not a question and it is not up for debate. Whether they are furtive or overt, people mocking this in a university campus setting need to face more than superficial chastising. Women cannot feel safe, and therefore cannot be full participants in the campus community, when others gleefully chant about committing violent crimes against them — and when college administrations make it clear they don’t care.


Opinions Editor Alyssa Ratledge ’11 is a public policy concentrator from Mesa, Ariz.

One Comment

  1. Patriot Saint-moral says:

    This message is to educate the wider community that the recent pictures of Emma Watson circulating at Brown… must be considered a mental, emotional, psychosocial and psychological rape (g-d and feminists forgive I dont have any other words) of Emma Watson and must therefore be punished… here is my idea on how you stop the said rape of Emma Watson….if you want me email you the pictures i mentioned (to be considered as shock value only) please email me at

    I don’t know in response to what comment to put this….but I would like my ANGER over the recent EMMA WATSON PHOTO SCANDAL TO BE HEARD PUBLICLY LOUD AND CLEAR by many people, but above by your editors. Please be kind enough to publish my comment…. If you would be kind enough to send a copy of this letter….along with the attached pictures (the pictures are for shock value only, to expose to the world that there are those among us, who would turn the Emma Watson in the top picture, into something similar to the Emma in the bottom picture) to the Brown Daily Herald. I am ready answer any questions/comments he may have….you can contact me on facebook: Daniel Dhimma Cohen, (

    It does not not matter if it’s Wikileaks, The Pentagon Papers, or The Latest Emma Watson Photo Scandal, THE TRUTH MUST BE, AND WILL BE KNOWN….THEREFORE IM POSTING MY COMMENT….IN DEFENCE OF EMMA WATSON. (as well as exercising my right to free speech)….


    I came to the enlightened conclusion that there is only 1 possible way of stopping this cyber abuse of Emma Watson. Put my two enclosed pictures of Emma side by side with the caption i provided with the caption (only what is in CAPS) DEAR STUDENT BODY OF BROWN UNIVERSITY, YOUR UNIVERSITY NEEDS YOUR COURAGE, NOT YOUR NAME!. WE WANT GRYFFINDORS NOT SLYTHERINS (referring to the moral qualities of 2 of Hogwats’s Four Houses). ARE YOU RESPONSIBLE FOR TURNING ME (referring to the first picture of Emma in the attached picture picture) INTO THAT? (Referring to the second picture of Emma in the attachment). SORRY THE SECOND PIC OF EMMA IS SOMEWHAT SHOCKING BUT, I WANT SHOCK VALUE. THE ABUSE OF EMMA MUST STOP……. HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS SCREENING PROHIBITION SHALL ONLY BE LIFTED WHEN SOMEONE SAYS YES. DO YOU HAVE THE BALLS TO COME FORWARD? (sorry the language here but I want shock value). AFTER ALL YOUR FREEDOMS OF SPEECH AND EXPRESSION ARE BEING COMPROMISED right underneath the side-by side pictures pictures.
    I am sure you would all agree with me that this is ONE OF THE MOST SERIOUS ISSUES AS IT CONCERNS BROWN’S REPUTATION AND NEEDS TO BE DEALT WITH URGENTLY. Please ask Brown University for permission to reprint this article (if you do decide to turn my message into an editorial in their student newspaper. Dear ladies and Gentlemen, let’s stand up for Emma Watson and morality, and be her knights in shining armor….I am counting on you to help me with my anti-immorality and anti-rape crusade…. Gandi once said “be the change you want to see in the world…”… This is why I am posting this message…..
    Thank you for your understanding and cooperation, All questions and comments are of course welcome, please don’t hesitate to reply
    Yours Sincerely, Daniel Dhimma Cohen on Facebook. We can turn this into a good debate.

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