Purdue Student Paper Runs Instructive Rape Cartoon [Update: But They're Sorry About It!]


Purdue University paper The Exponent ran a supposedly funny cartoon Friday depicting a sex position it called “The Prestige.” But to many readers, it looked a lot like rape.

The cartoon showed a couple having sex doggy-style, when the man sneaks away and, without the woman’s knowledge, is replaced by another man. Man #1 then waves at the woman through a window — “If properly executed,” reads the caption, “the receiving partner will be astonished as if a magic trick has just occurred. Tah-dah!” Leaving aside logistics (its unlikely that the receiving partner would fail to notice this little switcheroo), “astonished” might not be the most accurate word for the woman’s likely emotional state. Perhaps “enraged” or “violated” might be better.

What the cartoon depicts is a man having sex with a woman without her consent, which isn’t magic, it’s rape. And while we’re sure the cartoonists will say they were just trying to be funny, joking about sexual assault harms not just survivors, but everyone on the Purdue campus. Writes the website Students Against Abuse,

In 2009, women made up 42% of students enrolled (39,697). It is the opinion of the creator of this site, that The Exponent is creating an unsafe environment for its female students as well as depicting females as sexual objects, whose victimization is viewed as a source of entertainment.

Exponent editor Zoe Hayes says the paper didn’t mean to “condone non-consensual sexual situations,” and the staff plans to discuss the cartoon in the paper today (today’s issue isn’t online yet — any Purdue students want to scan that discussion for us?). But like the editors of the Johns Hopkins News-Letter, maybe the Exponent staff should have thought about the misogynistic implications of their content before it went to press.

Update: Hayes has issued a full apology, which states in part,

I deeply regret that I didn’t see what was depicted, and I apologize to the campus, to any survivors of sexual assault and, well, to any decent person who saw the graphic Friday and was offended. You’re right. We are absolutely in the wrong on this one and we’re doing our best to correct it. Part of that includes heightened awareness, on my part and on the part of the opinions editor, of what constitutes an acceptable graphic or editorial content. Part of that is painfully reviewing this issue in the light of comments on various websites and Facebook pages – both those attacking and those defending us. And to those defending us: While we appreciate some of your arguments on our behalf, ladies and gentlemen, suggesting that someone was “asking for” rape is misguided and precisely the problem here.

Stop The Exponent [Students Against Abuse]
Cartoon Inappropriate For Purdue Paper? [WLFI, via Inside Higher Ed]

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