American University Student Newspapers Vandalized Over “Rape Apology”
In a spirited diatribe entitled "Dealing With AU's anti-sex brigade" published yesterday in the American University Eagle, AU's resident anti-feminist thinker, Alex Knepper, argues that feminists who rally against rape are turning act of sex into a sorry ritual in which "two amorphous, gender-neutral blobs ask each other 'Is this OK with you?.'” According to Knepper, age 20, feminists are also responsible for stamping out the "yin and yang of masculinity and femininity [that] makes sexual exploration exciting," abolishing passion, and also somehow discouraging "inherently gendered thrills" like erotic cross-dressing. Knepper ends the column by providing a helpful reading list for his misguided peers, including works by Camille Paglia, the Marquis de Sade, and Christina Hoff Sommers.
An unidentified member of the campus community has responded with a more direct retort: They removed copies of the paper from their stands and posted a message above them reading, "NO ROOM FOR RAPE APOLOGISTS."
According to these photos sent in from an American University student, the message for Knepper has been posted near several Eagle newsstands around campus; in one photo, a stack of Eagles appears to have been strewn haphazardly across the floor in front of the paper's offices. "A few people had taken probably several thousand copies and threw them over against our door," says Jen Calantone, Eagle editor-in-chief. The vandalism was light; no papers were destroyed, and newspaper staff have since removed the posters and redistributed the papers. Some copies were crinkled.
In an e-mail, American University student (and campus feminist and LGBT activist) K. Travis Ballie explains the perceived impetus for the move: "In response to the very strong and passionate outrage at rape apologist Alex Knepper's latest column "Dealing With AU's Anti-Sex Brigade," an unidentified student not endorsed by any organization decided to take direct action," Ballie writes. "The Eagle has repeatedly refused for months to show adequate sensitivity, compassion, and common decency to the well-being of rape survivors on campus and is complicit in promoting a rape culture where survivors are blamed for the crimes of sexual assault perpetrators."
Knepper's column anticipated this criticism. In it, he wrote that on American University's campus, "For my pro-sex views, I am variously called a misogynist, a rape apologist and—my personal favorite—a 'pro-date rape protofascist.'" (I guess that one didn't fit on the poster). Knepper's column went on to provide a sampling of some of Knepper's "pro-sex views":
Let’s get this straight: any woman who heads to an EI party as an anonymous onlooker, drinks five cups of the jungle juice, and walks back to a boy’s room with him is indicating that she wants sex, OK? To cry “date rape” after you sober up the next morning and regret the incident is the equivalent of pulling a gun to someone’s head and then later claiming that you didn’t ever actually intend to pull the trigger.
“Date rape” is an incoherent concept. There’s rape and there’s not-rape, and we need a line of demarcation. It’s not clear enough to merely speak of consent, because the lines of consent in sex—especially anonymous sex—can become very blurry. If that bothers you, then stick with Pat Robertson and his brigade of anti-sex cavemen! Don’t jump into the sexual arena if you can’t handle the volatility of its practice!
Despite the column's defensive stance on the "rape apologist" label, Knepper didn't anticipate the ad-hoc campus campaign against him; when I called him around noon today he hadn't yet heard of the removal of the papers and the "RAPE APOLOGIST" posters. After perusing the evidence, Knepper agreed to answer some questions over e-mail. "Well, this is the new feminist orthodoxy: censorship," he wrote. "It started with Catherine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin, and it's an utter betrayal of the ideals of women like Wollstonecraft, Stanton, and even Friedan. I'm also very concerned with the highly fragile view of women that this promotes: I can't say something that offends them without stirring them to vandalism? Carmen Rios states that my column can act as a 'trigger' for survivors. Does anyone treat men with kid gloves like this?"
I asked Knepper whether he thought there was any room for rape apologists at American. "There is no room for rape apologists on campus. If I see any, I'll be sure to rebuke them," he wrote. I also asked him to expound on the whole feminist cross-dressing ban thing: "The entire concept of cross-dressing has no place within feminism," he explained. "[O]ne cannot 'cross' the line of something that does not exist." Finally, I asked him if the "yin and yang of masculinity and femininity" is truly "what makes sexual exploration exciting," then isn't it kind of boring to be gay? "Certainly not," replied Knepper, who is gay. "Gay men—by which I do not mean the eunuchs who constitute the vanguard of so-called queer activism—are far more likely to understand that dressing one's boyfriend up like a girl and fucking his ass with a dildo is to feminize him. The feminine element of sexuality is not literally about being female—it's about surrender and submission. One might say that my homosexuality is the ultimate expression of my deep-seated hatred for women, though, right?"
On Facebook, members of the university community aren't questioning the implications of Knepper's sexual orientation, but they are debating the tactics used to protest his articles. "If you don't like the Eagle, don't read it, support the AU Examiner, write a counter column, or start your own newspaper—DON'T act like children [and] follow the same idea-bashing tactics that the christian-conservo-right do every time they come to a school and insure it has the right books on the shelves," wrote one. "i think a lot of people who might be allies on this are really alienated by this type of vandalism," wrote another.
The Eagle, for one, isn't particularly pleased—but it has been inspired to take some action. "It's upsetting, because our general purpose as the campus newspaper is to start these types of discussions," says Calantone. "We were happy when people started talking about and criticizing this column, but it's upsetting when it devolves into a kind of vandalism situation." The newspaper is planning to hold open campus discussion on Knepper's column this Thursday evening.
UPDATE: This story was updated at 2 p.m. with comments from Knepper.