AU students vandalize Eagle, demand firing of “rape apologist” student columnist

Earlier this week, students at American University vandalized copies of The Eagle, its main student newspaper, over a column by student Alex Knepper in which he calls date rape “an incoherent concept.” Anonymous students littered hallways with Eagle copies taken out of their stands and hung a sign that read “NO ROOM FOR RAPE APOLOGISTS.”

In the column, Knepper explains that feminists are sucking all the passion out of sex by pushing for “a bedroom scene in which two amorphous, gender-neutral blobs ask each other ‘Is this OK with you?’ before daring to move their lips any lower on the other’s body.” He continues:

“For my pro-sex views, I am variously called a misogynist, a rape apologist and — my personal favorite — a “pro-date rape protofascist.”

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!”

Knepper also expounded on how feminists want to ban “gendered thrills” like cross-dressing. In the comments section below his column, Knepper wrote that the article had gone through five rounds of edits to remove “remove remarks deemed too inflammatory” before it went to print.

AU student K. Travis Ballie, a feminist and LGBT activist, told Amanda Hess of the Washington City Paper section The Sexist that the vandalism, which included copies flung at the door of the AU Eagle‘s office, is unsurprising given similar Eagle pieces that had appeared and inflamed campus tempers recently.

“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,” she wrote in an e-mail.

Hess also spoke to Knepper, who told her that he stands by his column. “There is no room for rape apologists on campus. If I see any, I’ll be sure to rebuke them,” he wrote to her in an e-mail.

Knepper’s column ran just as University officials are considering refining their sexual assault policy to include more specific language and differentiate between different forms of sexual assault on a student’s disciplinary record.

On Wednesday, Eagle editors wrote that they were not sorry for publishing controversial opinions, but felt that they “should have demanded that Knepper’s column be written in a tone befitting such a serious issue.” American University’s Vice President for Campus Life Gail Short Hanson and Provost Scott Bass also responded to the uproar with a letter that condemned rape while at the same time affirmed its commitment to freedom of expression. In a

Knepper’s column won’t shock you if you’re familiar with the quality of a typical piece in the Eagle. If you’re not, a 2008 story WCP ran about college newspapers in the District provides the proper amount of context:

“Hatred of a college paper usually drips from the sour grapes of bitter activists upset by the latest op-ed. But the Eagle arouses a unique, more wholesome kind of hatred. Among its critics are most former employees and several detached observers with no discernible ax to grind. Also faculty. One writing professor joked that his colleagues spend their end-of-semester party opening a random issue and doing shots for each grammatical error.

Says a critic: “Nearly every article they produce, on subjects of whatever topic, have the same ‘man on the street’ quote from the same group of five or 10 people, who are obviously just friends of the reporters and have no connection whatever to the event.” In some cases the paper even quotes its own opinion columnists as sources.

Lack of reporting initiative and editorial efficiency at the paper have led to a reputation for bureacratic inefficiency. Rival papers either condemn the Eagle or ignore it.”

So there you have it. If Knepper’s words have you seething, take comfort in the fact that the paper which chose to run it in its current incarnation really, really sucks.

Via The Sexist

20 Comments on “AU students vandalize Eagle, demand firing of “rape apologist” student columnist

  1. Now there’s something that’s worth a protest. I’m surprised that kind of blame-the-victim mentality is only drawing calls for his resignation as writer, and not suspension as student.

  2. To be fair, Knepper wasn’t saying that “date rape” is OK. He’s saying the lines are incoherent — “There’s rape and there’s not-rape, and we need a line of demarcation.” I don’t think Knepper is arguing that if a girl says “no” and the man continues that it’s not rape; his issue is with that “the lines of consent in sex — especially anonymous sex — can become very blurry.”

    I think he’s speaking of a case in which a drunk girl goes home, has consensual sex with a guy, regrets it in the morning and cries rape.

    Do I think this happens? Barely. He’s setting up a straw man to attack while trivializing the many instances of real rape that do happen.

    Should his column have been published? Not in the current form; I think, like the Editors had said, that given the subject, the editors should have pushed him to be more coherent in his concept and arguments. If he wants to argue that date rape isn’t rape, he’s certainly free to, but he should have outlined the subject in greater detail. Otherwise it’s an argument as equally incoherent as his conception of date rape.

    Should the paper, on the other hand, have censored the viewpoint itself? Absolutely not. However contentious or offensive the viewpoint is, it’s something that should not be censored. Indeed, the comments in the article have a fair number of people who come to Knepper’s support, as well as those arguing passionately against the point of view (even excluding the amount of people just wishing him death / calling for his censorship/expulsion) — so you can’t objectively say it’s not one-sided.

    It’s a bit like this: A paper shouldn’t refuse to publish an editorial criticizing the Obama heath care reform bill, but if the editorial just reads, “Obama sucks!! Health care reform is evil!!” and so forth, making no critical arguments, then it shouldn’t be published. The job of the editor is to spot one from the other.

    I think the paper and the school had the right response: the paper apologized for the lack of editorial oversight it should have exercised in the case, but still defended the article’s publication on free speech grounds. The school also responded by roundly and absolutely condemning Knepper’s views, providing more information and definitions on sexual assault, but also definitively said that Knepper had the right to express his viewpoint and would not be subject to disciplinary action.

  3. There’s an easy solution to this problem: Knepper needs to have more sex!

    Since his article came out I’ve had sex probably three dozen times, and never did I have to get an official statement of “Intimacy accepted upon previously agreed bounds; you may proceed” before “moving my lips any lower on the other person’s body,” or any other of the many acts I’ve performed.

    The reality is that it almost never works out the way Knepper thinks feminists say it should. It’s pretty damn clear to anyone who’s not a sociopath what signifies “consent” and what signifies “not consent.” If he thinks he needs to get explicit approval in triplicate from his partner before moving forward, I bet you I’ve figured out why he wrote such a stupid column in the first place: He hasn’t had much sex!

    This stinks of a problem that only someone sexually inexperienced would think worth discussing. It’s ironic, though, since writing that op-ed will likely make it impossible for him to get the experience he just demonstrated he needed.

    To sum up: only people who haven’t had sex (probably including Knepper and these imaginary feminists he’s conjuring) think of sex in these terms.

    The rest of us are perfectly capable of having a good time without getting accused of date rape.

  4. Alex has a pretty wide misogynist streak, which is made all the more…interesting? unusual?…by his homosexuality. In any case, he long ago learned that rhetorical bomb-throwing is the way to make a name for yourself, and notoriety is a pretty good way to ensure financial reward, even absent other merit (see Jon & Kate, Ann Coulter, the Kardashians, etc.).

    Alex’s shtick is pretty predictable at this point. He takes hold of something that he, and some cross-section of others, find objectionable. I’m not entirely unsympathetic to some general parts of the critique, even. Anyway, Alex takes an issue and then gives it the Sarah Silverman treatment, with a dose of Michelle Malkin thrown in, as well as maybe some Marquis de Sade. It’s an “out there” enough brew that it will draw many reactions, which is, after all, his ultimate goal.

  5. I can’t wait to read The Hoya’s op-ed condemning the protest at The Eagle since they haven’t seen a protest they like regardless of the cause.

  6. Actually, I think he is saying date rape is ok.

    His line: “[A]ny 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? ”

    He’s saying that this woman’s actions can be interpreted as consent, which implies that it’d be ok for a guy to have sex with her. Which, if he didn’t get actual consent, would be date rape.

    Also, the idea that date rape doesn’t exist because “there’s rape and there’s not-rape” is itself incoherent. This is the equivalent of saying that rape on a Wednesday can’t exist because there’s either “rape or not-rape.” Well, no, rape on a Wednesday is just a sub-category of rape: rape that occurred on a Wednesday. Date rape is likewise a sub-category of rape: rape that occurred when the rapist is an acquaintance of the victim.

  7. Even though this didn’t happen on our campus, I want to hold a forum on this and the Cuddler’s previous comment.

  8. I don’t have an opinion about this Alex person one way or the other, but “COL Student” sounds AWESOME! “Three dozen times”?!?!

  9. this man has probably never had a real conversation with a feminist. and probably never had sex.

    why do college newspapers only publish inflammatory or centrist authors? this stuff becomes inevitable…

  10. @anamolous,

    You asked “why do college newspapers only publish inflammatory or centrist authors?” The answer: because with the PC police now out in full force—at Georgetown and elsewhere—any author who is not “centrist” is automatically seen as “inflammatory.” Any time an author steps outside the bounds of pre-approved topics and positions, it becomes “racist,” “sexist,” “divisive,” “hurtful,” “insulting,” etc., etc., etc.

    I don’t blame the papers for who they print. I blame the readers who, based on their own lack thinness of skin, assume that anything they disagree with must be somehow “inflammatory.”

    Also, I 100% agree with both Matt and COL Student. Those are two uniquely well-written Vox comments.

  11. I don’t think the Duke lacrosse players would be so averse to Knepper’s ideas.

  12. Please, by the time you posted that, he probably did it 10 dozen times!!! He must be the man!! I envy him soo much.

  13. I KNOW!!!!! He should teach a Learning Annex class.

  14. Pingback: Vox Populi » Comments of the Week: Finding solutions

  15. Thanks for the praises, Tim.

    Knepper went on CBS’ Good Morning America to debate the column. And . . . he sounds pretty reasonable and elaborates on his argument on about the same grounds as I thought he was going for. He points out that in his most inflammatory quote “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,” he deliberately chose the word ‘indicate’ as opposed to actually giving consent to point out how the situation looks to an observer. He specifically states that if, at any time, a girl says ‘no,’ and the man has sex or attempts to have sex with her, it is undeniably and absolutely rape. And, again, with his point that the lines of sex are blurry and verbal, affirmative consent is rarely given (see ‘COL Student’ and his seventy-dozen sex romps, above), context is key here.

    Again, I think he’s overstating the case — he says that there are ‘thousands’ of false date rape claims, though I’d certainly question that over any appreciable reasonable period of time. And he discounts the fact that most real rape cases don’t even get reported, which is a far worse issue. His final comment comparison about how, as a gay guy, he wouldn’t walk around in the rural Deep South late at night holding hands with a male partner compares to date rape sounds, well, exactly like “She was asking for it,” which is an abhorrent return to blaming the victim — but more importantly, it’s not his original point. His point wasn’t women that go to parties, drink and head back to dorms with guys deserve to be raped, his point was that women who do go to parties, drink and head back with guys and allow themselves to engage in sex with guys even if they (internally) don’t want to should not be considered date rape, since there was no way for the guy to know that there was a lack of consent.

  16. Wait? This guy got onto Good Morning America with this crap? Doesn’t someone write a “I don’t believe in date rape” article somewhere all the time? I’ve heard all of his arguments before… I just can’t believe (and am almost impressed) that this guy him a segment on Good Morning America.

  17. This guy is just mentally ill. American University should not have given this wing nut a forum in which to spread his angry and crazy views. The guy has an ax to gind and no actual facts to back up his opinions. Alex Knepper is in dire need of adult supervision.

  18. Pingback: Vox Populi » Financial difficulties force American U’s Eagle to go weekly

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