The Sexist

NPR Talks Rape Apology, Homosexuality at American University

Yesterday, the controversy unfolding over Alex Knepper's sexual assault opinion columns in the American University Eagle hit National Public Radio. The dialogue between Knepper, AU LGBT and feminist activist K. Travis Ballie, and host Michel Martin touched on Knepper's homosexuality, the politics of sex at drunken fraternity parties, and one important policy point—the lack of a victim's advocate on the AU campus. At one point, Martin asks Knepper, "Do you find it at all problematic, Alex, that you don't date women and yet you're judging their conduct in a situation that you are unlikely to be in?" An odd question for a program that's invited two gay men on to debate the topic, no?

  • Richard

    That sounds like an amazing radio show to listen too.

    Although Travis is an amazing advocate for these issues, I do wonder why he instead of someone like Sarah Brown of AU Women's Initiative or many other women were not chosen.

  • Amanda Hess

    Richard, you're right that there are a lot of great advocates at AU. But it seems very odd to me to suggest that Knepper (or, by extension, Ballie) shouldn't talk about rape because they're gay. What does that imply, that rape apology makes more sense when it comes from straight guys? Shouldn't we focus on the substance of the argument?

  • snobographer

    Rape apologists on NPR. I fucking despair.

  • Richard

    Sorry my answer runs long. 

    "Rape apologists on NPR. I fucking despair."

    I was actually really happy with the NPR interview because I felt like Alex definitely got more taken to task than in any other media report I've seen.

    "Richard, you’re right that there are a lot of great advocates at AU. But it seems very odd to me to suggest that Knepper (or, by extension, Ballie) shouldn’t talk about rape because they’re gay. What does that imply, that rape apology makes more sense when it comes from straight guys? Shouldn’t we focus on the substance of the argument?"

    I was expressing my surprise at the bizarreness of two gay men (with a man interviewing them) discussing the two sides of an article that was rather specifically about consent between a male and female.

    I do not think that Travis and Alex should not talk about rape because they gay, rape is an important issue that affects everyone. In fact, Travis has helped me tremendously in my own work on the issue, so I encourage him to talk about it as much as he can.

    I do however think that the interviewers question was a valid one. He asked if Alex felt as though he found it odd to be judging women in situations for which he himself was not involved. The core of Alex’s response is that people who cannot give testimony should be able to judge situations.

    I think part of the ‘substance’ of the debate might actually to be for people to understand there own limitations in understanding every topic. Reading the Knepper column, you definitely get this sense of omnipotence (which I might exude problematically as well) about his judgment, despite the fact that he himself is extremely disconnected from the situation he is describing.

    I also think exploring why certain groups of people might be prone to believe things that are not true is a valid one. For example, a politician who has never gone to public schools deciding that public schools are terrible and should be replaced with a voucher system might believe that because of a valid exploration of issues or his experience may bias his perspective.

    Although its hard to pin down an exact piece of information Alex might have been missing, I think one I could point to is in one of his many extrapolations of the article and within the article itself is that Alex seems bewildered by this idea that a female going back to a guys room would be going back for anything but sex. It is likely that had he experienced this first hand, he might have seen that there are a lot of other reasons (to sleep, just make out, etc).

    Muddying the waters even more, in the interview Alex says “I think it's unfortunate that no straight man has come forward to talk about this.”

    I think large swaths of straight men have come forward (like myself) against what he has said. He is implying however that those who support him have not out of fear. I think that’s interesting, though probably not very true in the sense that he means.

  • pipi long stockings

    This whole interview is infuriating. Alex is basically buying into the "rape is a drunken accident" myth and NOBODY in the interview bothered to correct him.

    He is equating date rape to a woman having consensual sex while drunk, then calling it rape the next day. I know that under the law one cannot consent to sex while drunk, but in reality plenty of women and men have sex while drunk and nobody calls it rape.

    Both victims and rapists know the difference between a regrettable drunken hook up and rape.

  • Eo

    I watched him on to tv and read his follow up articles on another site. Hes not a rape apologist, he carefully chose his words to bait the people he wanted to bait, and 1000s of people bleated "rape apologist" in unison. As for a gay male supposedly not having the right to talk about sexual interactions between hetereosexuals, heterosexual sex has long been judged and written about lesbians and this Alex guys commentary is pretty rational and dte compared to a lot of other ideas that are out out there, all hetero-sex being rape for example. This isnt the first time Ive read about a gay man commentating on heterosexual politicised sex, I welcome it because gay men arent gagged in the same way that straight men are. Challanging feminist constructs shouldnt be taboo or lead to vandalism, I'd rather see rational debate.

  • pipi long stockings

    Yeah Eo! Alex Knepper is just speaking truth to power! Those powerful feminists are too busy rolling in cash and controlling the laws and government to see that Knepper is just challenging this overwhelmingly matriarchal society. And those poor accused rapists, the law is so harsh on them, it's almost impossible to win a rape trial against a woman!

    Really Eo, what dream world are you living in where feminists have the power?

  • Eo

    pipi long stockings, totalitarian feminist ideas dictate many interactions between heterosexuals, they are not any different from the old codes of gentlemanly behaviour and chivalry except that they insist the codes are legal as opposed to traditional.

    Alex is a good example of the power of the chivilary/feminist lobby, he spoke out about some problems with date rape theory, which is demeaning to women IMO and there was a book burning followed by a witch hunt. That would indicate that the feminist lobby has power on campus... and think about this, feminism empowers itself by claiming disempowerment, remember that next time you are being told how disempowered you are.

    Isnt your president a feminist? Doesnt the feminist lobby there get 1.25 billion a year to promote the make believe (gendered) view of IPV largely unchallanged?

  • pipi long stockings

    Isn't our president black? You must think blacks are in power too. I would just love to hear some of your theories about how racism doesn't exist.

  • pipi long stockings

    oh, by the way Eo, I found your comparison of children getting cuts to rape especially hilarious because of how stupid it is, but also quite unfortunate because you have a daughter.

    I really hope your daughter never has to experience rape or sexual assault because hearing that she should "just get over it" from her idiot of a dad would truly be a horrible experience.

  • chris

    Uh, so does a group of people complaining about an offensive article and throwing (not burning) some newspapers around mean that feminists are in power on that campus? Would an article like that get printed at all if feminists had so much power, since most of them are clearly opposed to it?

    And uhh... "totalitarian" feminist ideas? Seriously? Maybe you should work on your apparent fear of women expressing opinions before you comment here for a while.

  • Sarah

    One point that may have been overlooked in both the article and the comments is that even if Knepper is right (although I don't think he is), the university setting might be considered a special case. We're talking about people who, because of American alcohol laws, are largely inexperienced with alcohol and parties where lots of alcohol is consumed. We're not talking about an older, established woman who meets a man at a party or bar, has sex with him, and regrets it the next day. We're talking about very young women who may be experimenting with going to parties, getting to know their peers, and enjoying unfettered access to alcohol for the first time in their lives. They may be unsure of what or how much they are drinking, and they certainly don't know their own alcohol limits. Perhaps they should know better than to put themselves in harm's way by cutting loose and drinking at parties, but my argument is that of course they most likely will not know better because they don't have prior experiences to draw on. Doesn't it seem fair to have a policy that will err on the side of people *not* taking sexual advantage of women who may have inadvertently put themselves in a vulnerable position?