Womens Health

Video: Yale Fraternity's Misogynist Chant: "No Means Yes, Yes Means Anal"

| by

This article is crossposted from Amplify.org, a project of Advocates for Youth.

This is going to have to be short since I'm about to get on a plane, but I'm too angry NOT to write this. I feel too nauseous. I am too ashamed of my country and the culture we live in.

Apparently, a Yale University fraternity Delta Kappa Epsilon decided to induct a new class of pledges with the following chant:

No means yes!
Yes means anal!
No means yes!
Yes means anal!
No means yes!
Yes means anal!
No means yes!
Yes means anal!

Fucking sluts!

I don't even know where to start. Maybe this is just one more example of our culture's deeply ingrained misogyny. It's certainly not the first time fraternity brothers have shown insanely poor judgment — and in the era of YouTube, that poor judgment often ends up on display for all too see.  In fact, DKE president Jordan Forney has already issued a public apology. 

But this goes far beyond just a chant at a Yale frat house. 

The problem isn't that a group of young men at yelled something stupid, over and over agian.  The problem is that I'm no longer sure we're shocked by people who turn rape and sexual assault into some kind of a joke. It's embarassing for those involved, sure. But the sentiment they expressed is shockingly — and terrifyingly  — mainstream.

I ran across the Yale story right after reading a post by Digy quoting conservative icon Phyllis Schlafly talking about how it is impossible for a married woman to be raped by her husband:

 "I think that when you get married you have consented to sex. That's what marriage is all about, I don't know if maybe these girls missed sex ed. That doesn't mean the husband can beat you up, we have plenty of laws against assault and battery. If there is any violence or mistreatment that can be dealt with by criminal prosecution, by divorce or in various ways. When it gets down to calling it rape though, it isn't rape, it's a he said-she said where it's just too easy to lie about it"

Because a woman consents to marriage  — and, by doing so, consents to a sexual relationship with her husband - apparently she can NEVER say no again. It's nice of Schlafly to acknowledge that violence and mistreatment are still unacceptable  — but, even by separating them out as separate categories, she frames the conversation in a way that minimizes sexual assault. Rape, Schlafley implies, is neither violent nor mistreatment. It's just something that women have coming to them.  It's in the job description to endure and survive.

Reading these stories back to back got me thinking. Our culture doesn't assume that all women deserve to be raped all the time. After all, we're still pretty obsessed with the preservation of female virginity - especially among young women. America's abstinence-only-until-marriage culture is still deeply ingrained, even if the programs that promote this ideology are finally begining to crumble.

I worry, though, that we've taken the Virgin/Whore dichotomy a step too far...  Have we hit a place where any sexually active woman - or any woman who has somehow failed to live up to our bizarre (and bizarrely sexualized) standards of sexual "purity" - is simply a lost cause? She loses her agency.  She forfeits her ability to say no  — ever again.

Whether an assault is committed by a partner, by a spouse, or by a stranger, rape is a crime.  Whether the assailant or the victim is a man or a woman, sexual assault is NOT up for debate. I can't believe that we have already trivialized rape to the point that this is actually a debatable issue. 

But, with cultural attitudes like this, is it any wonder that so many sexual assaults go unreported?

1 in 3 women will be raped in her lifetime. 

I've heard that statistic a lot, but I don't know if I ever really let it hit home. 1 in 3. When was the last time you thought about the reality of that?  Seriously. Look around the room. Are there three women nearby? Which one of those women is or will be an assault survivor? Think about this the next time you walk down the street, the next time you're hanging out with a group of friends, the next time you're around the dinner table with your family. Really look. How many more women will have to suffer before we finally say THIS HAS TO STOP.

I'm sitting in an airport typing as fast as I can. They're starting to board my flight, and there are more than a hundred people in line already. But now, as I look around, I can only wonder...  How many people here have been affected by sexual assault? How many will be someday? How many of their sisters or friends or daughters or mothers? And what can we do to stop it? 

What can I do?

A few months ago, someone organized an event on Facebook called "National Punch A Slut Day."  Literally thousands of people RSVPd that they would take part, possibly tens of thousands.  (I don't remember exactly  — and the event is no longer accessible because the date has passed.) 

I was offended at the time, but now  — in hindsight  — I am simply horrified. Because that's how it starts.

One little game. They play kissing tag on the play ground and pin a girl down even though she's screaming "no."  It's recess. The kids are only 6 years old. It's all just good clean fun.

One little Facebook joke. 
It's wasn't even a real event, right? No one would ever actually punch someone. Although she'd probably deserve it if they did, since she's a slut and all.

One little chant.  "No means yes. Yes means anal. Fucking sluts!"  But it's fine. Some college boys just drank a little too much. They were having fun. And, after all, they're sorry...

One little assumption.  If you're married, consent automatically last forever...As long as your husband isn't violent, you have no right to say no. Ever. Rape isn't violent anyway.

We keep revising the definition of rape in our culture. We tell ourselves that this time, it's just a joke.  We didn't mean it. It was an innocent mistake. 

But someday we have to face the question  — and I beg you to join me in starting this conversation today  — when will we draw the line? Because before too long, if a woman EVER consents to sex (and maybe even if she doesn't) then she deserves whatever's coming to her...For the rest of her life. 

She's only a slut, after all. 

And yes will mean yes forever.

This post was originally published at RH Reality Check, a site of news, community and commentary for reproductive health and justice