Yesterday, an extremely upsetting news story about the University of Vermont’s chapter of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity made the Internet rounds. Apparently, a survey given to members of the chapter asked, in addition to harmless questions like what are your hobbies, fave music, etc, “If you could rape someone, who would it be?”
It’s been 24-hours since I heard this and I’m still seething (see above keyboard freakout). I’m seething because I’m not surprised. At all. This is not to put down Greek culture as a whole (I’ll let others do that), but in my studies about rape culture and my experience as a sexual violence peer educator back in college, it’s clear to me that groups of men often try to impress each other using women as the tool. Some of these same men have also committed sexual acts that meet the definition of rape, but seem to have “no idea” that what constitutes acquaintance rape and consent. See also: Judd Apatow’s oeuvre, aka getting girl drunk so she’ll have sex with you (Superbad, 40-Year Old Virgin). That little tactic, boys, is called r-a-p-e. Learn it. Know it. Don’t Do it.
So to see a survey like this in which men are actively calling out who they want to, as Whoopi Goldberg would call it “rape rape,” I am horrified. But, I am not surprised. I know these statistics are a bit out-dated, but in 1980 Malamuth and Check reported that 69% of the men they sampled would rape a woman if they could get away with it. Did those men raise the men who wrote the frat survey? Somebody told them it was okay to treat women this way. Makes me wonder if it’s just an act when men say they didn’t know they raped someone in those “he said/she said” situations. I mean, isn’t pretending you didn’t know that “no means no,” while also benefiting from society’s propensity to victim blame (see: comment threads on the Vermont stories), basically “getting away with it?”
And I repeat:
Yesterday, the CDC’s The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS) also came out: Oh, the poetic timing of the Universe! You can read the executive summary here, but some key findings are:
- More than 1 in 3 women (35.6%) and more than 1 in 4 men (28.5%) in the United States have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
- Nearly 1 in 5 women (18.3%) and 1 in 71 men (1.4%) in the United States have been raped at some time in their lives, including completed forced penetration, attempted forced penetration, or alcohol/drug facilitated completed penetration.
- More than half (51.1%) of female victims of rape reported being raped by an intimate partner and 40.8% by an acquaintance; for male victims, more than half (52.4%) reported being raped by an acquaintance and 15.1% by a stranger.
- An estimated 13% of women and 6% of men have experienced sexual coercion in their lifetime (i.e., unwanted sexual penetration after being pressured in a nonphysical way); and 27.2% of women and 11.7% of men have experienced unwanted sexual contact.
This is what’s happening to people who you know and love, University of Vermont Sigma Phi Epsilon members. And only ONE of you came forward about the survey… You deserve to lose more than your charter, a punishment I doubt will fully impress upon your members what a question like that on a survey really means to women and men who have experienced sexual violence or to the future of our society that continues to condone and propagate rape culture… or to your own lives and the type of person you want to be.