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AU date rape column angers students

Jenna Johnson

CampusMedia.jpgAmerican University students are demanding that the campus newspaper fire one of its columnists and issue an apology after publishing a column Monday that called date rape "an incoherent concept."

The column in The Eagle newspaper was written by Alex Knepper, 20, a sophomore political science major. Knepper wrote that a woman who attends a fraternity party, drinks more than five glasses of alcohol and follows a guy to his room is indicating that she is willing to have sex and should not "cry date rape" the next morning.

Knepper, who is openly gay, often writes on topics that infuriate students and hopes to someday be a political commentator. In an interview Monday he said that "real rape," which occurs when a stranger "thrusts sex into a non-sexual situation," is a heinous crime and rapists should be severely punished.

Not surprisingly, the column has already received more than 175 comments and several letters to the editor. Early Monday morning an unknown person or persons collected hundreds of copies of the paper from around campus and piled them in front of the student newspaper office, under a sign reading: "No room for rape apologists."

"I have a fun time stirring the pot," Knepper said in an interview Monday. "I don't mind being hated for my views."

Knepper and his editors are standing behind the column. Editor in chief Jen Calantone said she decided to publish the column because it would "foster an interesting discussion." The Eagle, which publishes twice a week, plans to print numerous letters to the editor and rebuttals to the column in its Thursday paper. Editors are also in the process of organizing a Thursday night forum so students can ask questions and share their opinions.

Calantone also wrote a letter to readers, which was posted on the newspaper's Web site Monday afternoon.

By publishing this piece, we were not trying to display our tacit support of Knepper's views. However, as journalists, we are not in the business of censorship. As an editor, I would not feel right to fire or censor a writer who has offended people, because I believe that he has raised questions that warrant discussion.

Many students say they were appalled by the column and the newspaper's decision to publish it.

"This column promotes the culture of blaming the victim and excusing rape. That sort of speech has no business in the student paper," said Drew Franklin, a senior audio production major who is helping to organize a protest of the column. "The publication itself crossed a line."

Sarah Brown, director of the university's Women's Initiative, wrote in a letter to the editor that it was "irresponsible and shameful" for the The Eagle to publish the column.

As students and as human beings, we have the right to attend a party without being sexually assaulted. We are entitled to wear what we choose to, to have a drink, or to move to a new space with an acquaintance without fearing for our security. We are the only ones who can decide with whom and when we will have sex -- passionate and spontaneous consensual sex. If you don't feel that you gave consent, you have the right to feel violated. You also have the right to talk to someone about what was done to you, even if you don't want to report it to AU or the police or go to counseling.

About 50 students -- including Knepper, Eagle editors and sexual assault survivors -- gathered Monday evening to discuss the column. Some students live-tweeted the event and discussion broke out on Twitter.

@meghanlsweeney Eagle Editors: didn't think piece would have such an impact on commmunity. Meant to do more good than harm Oops. Eagle fail.
@Tehmeg I love Alex Knepper
@jcwalkwithus I have seen people cry today. I have heard stories of rape and sexual assult. I have seen people relive trauma. I do not love Alex Knepper.

On Tuesday a group of students plan to deliver a list of demands to The Eagle staff, asking that editors fire Knepper and publish an apology, among other things. Franklin said they will also distribute fliers, put up signs, stencil the slogan "No room for rape apologists, Take back the Eagle" around campus.

By Jenna Johnson  |  March 29, 2010; 7:25 PM ET
Categories:  Campus Media  | Tags: American  
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Comments

The article isn't about rape, it's about chicks who sleep with dudes when they're drunk, wake up the next morning, feel embarassed about it, and then make-believe that they were raped to make themselves feel better.

~~~***OMG liek I would have never slept with that guy! I don't think (can't remember if) I was THAT drunk... he must have RAPED ME! OH NOES***~~~

Posted by: steampunk | March 30, 2010 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Is that you, Alex?

Hard to believe it's not about rape when rape is specifically mentioned repeatedly throughout the column.

Posted by: DrewF1 | March 30, 2010 1:25 PM | Report abuse

It's about misogyny and the idiocy of a 20 year old gay child.

Posted by: anarcho-liberal-tarian | March 30, 2010 1:41 PM | Report abuse

Freedom of the press people. If you only want in the paper views of which you agree go live in Iran. Knepper has a valid argument because half of the people after hearing of "date rape" and the circumstances leading up to it automatically say "why did she put herself in that situation anyway." And the other half say "why can't men control themselves." Its called responsibility for your own actions. Learn about it and practice it. Until then allow everyone even journalists to exercise their right to free speech and freedom of the press or be responsible for your own actions or should I say reactions and take it for what it is and stop making a bigger problem by supressing kneppers right to speak his opinion. Grow up!

Posted by: dot11 | March 30, 2010 1:54 PM | Report abuse

Wake up Alex!!Date Rape is real rape- when she said she didn't wnat to have sex with you she meant it, and it dosen't matter how drunk you got her so you could just go ahead and use her to get off...Yeah, you're a real man now ,huh? Think so?...nah,you and your creed are morons and the authorities should collect your DNA to check that you haven't raped someone else and in care ther are any new rapes areoud AU. Don't try to hide behind the 1st amendment- it dosen't entitle colleg brats to promote abuse of women.BTW men get raped too!!

Posted by: lsf07 | March 30, 2010 2:06 PM | Report abuse

The problem for me here isn't what's being covered. It's the behavior of the guy plying a coed with drinks to get in her pants. If we're going to "discuss" the act, let's not forget to include that. A guy often invites a girl to his room, because he thinks she's drunk enough to "give in." That's not consent, folks.

Posted by: xnuzboss | March 30, 2010 2:11 PM | Report abuse

Freedom of the press is a constitutional mandate that forbids the government from sanctioning newspapers for printing decent. That doesn't mean that those same newspapers aren't expected to exercise journalistic ethics, not does it mean that the communities those publications serve can't hold them accountable when they violate those ethics.

Posted by: DrewF1 | March 30, 2010 2:16 PM | Report abuse

*Dissent, not decent.

Posted by: DrewF1 | March 30, 2010 2:16 PM | Report abuse

No means no, but likewise, yes means yes. Can't say yes and then change your mind after the act is done.

Posted by: thetan | March 30, 2010 2:28 PM | Report abuse

steampunk & thetan: The law specifies that a person under the influence CANNOT legally consent. Regardless of whether a drunk person says yes, he or she never legally consented to sex if they were drunk at the time.

Posted by: CJH2 | March 30, 2010 2:54 PM | Report abuse

"No means no, but likewise, yes means yes. Can't say yes and then change your mind after the act is done."

Actually, that's not true. A woman can say yes (or a man) but at ANY time they can say no or stop you HAVE to stop.


Posted by: mNomeNa | March 30, 2010 3:08 PM | Report abuse

Alex is a narssistic punk. He thinks he's clever and too cute by half. Would he show his mother or sister this drival?

Posted by: jckdoors | March 30, 2010 3:09 PM | Report abuse

I think Alex has a point. While I'm not saying date-rape isn't wrong, it just pales in comparison to the violence and harm of being physically assaulted by a rapist in some dark alley randomly.
From a male perspective, a lot of casual sex is coerced sex. You have to buy a girl dinner, make with the small talk, impress her with your car etc, to then get her in bed. Maybe she needs a few drinks first. When i was in college, that's how you got laid. As long as the gentlemen doesn't punch the lady or use physical force, I dont think coerced sex should be considered on the same level as out and out rape.

Posted by: MarilynManson | March 30, 2010 3:18 PM | Report abuse

You can rant and rave about the topic of date rape or you can focus on the real issue here; firing a journalist writing an opinion column for doing his job. All newspapers will tell you that when agreeing to offer an opinion column to the public through their publication they are well aware that the opinion may attract hate and discontent as this one has. If they were going to fire the guy for doing his job then why have an opinion column in the first place. If a publication has a set in stone rule list of acceptible topics which don't include subjects such as this, then they usually dont have opinion columns. Such publications provide news but very little in the way of discussion worthy topics because those topics may get too uncomfortable to print and invite public unrest which is much too horrid to think about. Conversation is valuable and opinion columns invite conversation. Witch hunts do little to solve the problem. If this opinion causes this much unrest then perhaps all are served better by focusing on and taking steps to solve the actual problem, date rape. But more importantly the opinion columnist should be applauded for bringing the issue to the forefront in such a way that might start the revolution that fixes the date rape issue once and for all. It is a brave person who dares to voice his opinion especially when it is an unpopular one. Tolerance of others opinions is what great societies are made of and speaks of the intellectual maturity of its people.

Posted by: dot11 | March 30, 2010 3:20 PM | Report abuse

As this matter is largely a mistake made by the editors, I am providing the missing editor's name. They are both responsible. Hopefully he is added to this story.

Charlie Szold, Managing editor

Posted by: starrinlauren20 | March 30, 2010 3:25 PM | Report abuse

"No means no, but likewise, yes means yes. Can't say yes and then change your mind after the act is done."

Actually, that's not true. A woman can say yes (or a man) but at ANY time they can say no or stop you HAVE to stop.

------------------------

Saying no during the act is not the same as saying no after the act when you had said yes before the act.

Posted by: thetan | March 30, 2010 3:28 PM | Report abuse

AU has an alternative news source anyway thats much better www.auexaminer.com. They posted a reply to how The Eagle handled it:http://auexaminer.com/2010/03/29/where-is-the-line/

Posted by: girlpower | March 30, 2010 3:58 PM | Report abuse

Here is a relevant article published this morning by another American University publication, AWOL.
http://www.awolau.org/2010/03/30/why-is-the-eagle-so-hostile-to-feminists/

Posted by: wheezylou | March 30, 2010 5:20 PM | Report abuse

the au examiner says it best:

"We believe that it is the job of a publication to screen out content that has no intellectual value. This includes hate speech, libel, and other forms of defamation. Discussing a controversial topic without name-calling is possible. As the gate keepers and watchdogs of the campus, it is our job to discern the difference between information that students don’t need, and the information that students do need. Nobody needs hate speech, nobody needs to be called names. Drunken consent is a complicated topic, both legally and morally. But calling those who disagree with you a, “sniveling bunch of emotional cripples,” does not contribute anything to this discussion. It retards it, and it gets it stuck in situations like this."

Posted by: ms0500 | March 30, 2010 5:21 PM | Report abuse

I can't which is more despicable, the article or some of the comments here.

"casual sex is coerced sex" -- WHAT!?

"No means no" and if one partner is in a state where they impaired from saying "no", you back off, plain and simple.

This is purely despicable and the paper owes an apology to the entire student body. There is no justification for this kind of evil.

Posted by: Liebercreep | March 30, 2010 5:46 PM | Report abuse

I once went to a party with a lot of booze, a lot of bud, and if I have to rape a girl to get her into bed, it's not worth it. IMO

Posted by: cr10 | March 30, 2010 7:58 PM | Report abuse

How dare anyone question this column! Not only is the author openly gay, he is twenty years old and obviously knows everything. Except for the gay thing, a sure hire at FOX. Sadly FOX has quite enough of that already. Pity.

Posted by: tcement | March 30, 2010 10:29 PM | Report abuse

Those aged 18-20 are also adults and not "kids" or "teens", meaning they shouldn't be called those words. Rape is anytime a person is forced for sex, whether that person is coherent of the situation because of impaired judgement because of alcohol. Alex Knepper's comment about rape shouldn't have been received too angrily but rather as opportunity for dialouge. If a drunk young woman does follow a young man into his room and she says that she's been date raped, then responsibility for that goes to the young woman and young man.

Posted by: LibertyForAll | March 30, 2010 10:38 PM | Report abuse

Good job Alex. You made some excellent points. Looks like you've definitely struck a nerve there. If you're fired, I would take it as a compliment and move on.

Posted by: architectguy | March 31, 2010 2:15 PM | Report abuse

Alex Knepper and many others need to look up the criminal statutes in their jurisdiction before they take another sexual action or give sexual advice since their definition of what is illegal doesn't match the laws in the US.

People understand that robbery is a crime even if you rob someone you know and don't use a gun or a knife so there is no excuse for those who seem incapable of understanding that rape is a crime even if you rape someone you know and don't use a gun or a knife.

To MarilynManson and anyone else who claims coerced sex isn't a crime, again check your criminal statutes. If you really believe what you did wasn't a crime then please go to the police and tell them exactly what you did, when, where and to whom.

Posted by: abyss2hope | March 31, 2010 5:18 PM | Report abuse

The Eagle needs to use all this attention to do what newspapers do best: foster a conversation. So the paper screwed up by letting a mediocre rant ruin a perfectly good topic: drinking and sex and the dangers of mixing the two. Big deal. That's why you have another edition, and another and another. You have the country's attention now, Eagle editors. Show us you're serious about your journalistic mission of using discussion to effect change. Give us more than an apology and a counterpoint column. Do a special edition on drinking and sex and the dangers we all know are out there on your campus. Find someone who's been accused of rape in this situation, and someone who's been a victim, and someone who has tips for avoidance. Get testimonials from people who have been in these situations. Talk to attorneys and cops and judges and lay out the definitions of and punishments for rape. You opened the can of worms. The only way to make it better is to swim in it.

Posted by: ewalsh | April 1, 2010 3:56 PM | Report abuse

NewsBusters -- Sex, Lies, and Media Bias: A Chronicle of Censorship on Campus
http://newsbusters.org/blogs/alex-knepper/2010/04/01/sex-lies-and-media-bias-chronicle-censorship-campus

Posted by: StewartIII | April 1, 2010 9:12 PM | Report abuse

In 1993 Katie Roiphe addressed this issue in a more reasoned way in her book, "The Morning After: Sex, Fear, and Feminism". It does not hurt to revisit the problem, if the discussion is about ideas rather than personalities.

Posted by: JFS9 | April 4, 2010 7:08 PM | Report abuse

Hey everyone, some interesting new stuff in this interview Alex Knepper did with The New Gay: http://thenewgay.net/2010/04/a-conversation-with-alex-knepper.html

Posted by: bug88 | April 5, 2010 10:31 AM | Report abuse

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