"Rape Only Hurts If You Fight It"

Connecticut college students protest "satirical" editorial.

By Lynn Harris
Published February 14, 2007 6:14PM (EST)

A Broadsheet reader at Central Connecticut State University has alerted us to the controversy on her campus caused by a recent editorial in the school's newspaper, the Recorder. The title of said article: "Rape Only Hurts If You Fight It." As you can imagine, the fuss is not over the fact that the word only should technically come after hurts.

Here's a sample from the piece, written by then opinion editor John Petroski:

"In actuality, rape's advantages can very much be seen today. Take ugly women, for example. If it weren't for rape, how would they ever know the joy of intercourse with a man who isn't drunk? In a society as plastic-conscious as our own, are we really to believe that some man would ever sleep with a girl resembling a wildebeest if he didn't have a few schnapps [sic] in him? Of course he wouldn't -- at least no self-respecting man would -- but therein lies the beauty of rape." (Enjoy the entire article on Page 7 here.) (PDF)

According to the Hartford Courant, "student editors at the paper said the article was meant to be a satirical jab at the sensationalistic nature of the modern news media. But dozens of students said the article ... caused deep pain for those who have already been raped, and that it reinforced age-old, misogynistic stereotypes."

In a statement, CCSU president Jack Miller defended Petroski's freedom of speech, but slammed his topic of choice: "It is a clear violation of responsible journalism and the community standards of this institution, where it is inarguable that rape is not a fit topic for humor or satire ... Rape is a profound violation of body and spirit, and to make light of this, even in satire, is abhorrent."

The Record issued a statement expressing regret for any harm caused, but also defending Petroski as a "gifted satirist" (Hartford Courant paraphrase) whose message "fell on deaf ears" (Record statement). Petroski has, amid continuing protest, stepped down.

OK. Satire. I'm trying to keep an open mind here. "Wildebeest," to be sure, is always funny. But how was this piece a satire of sensationalism? Swift: Too many people? Eat kids. Petroski: Too much rape? Encourage it ... Huh? Call my ears deaf, but I'm honestly not getting it. Unless Petroski is smarter than we think: Perhaps the fallout he knew this would cause -- the, dare we say, "sensational" reaction -- is some sort of meta-comment? Yeah ... no. Here's a constructive course of action: Make "command of satire" a graduation requirement?

Lynn Harris

Award-winning journalist Lynn Harris is author of the comic novel "Death by Chick Lit" and co-creator of BreakupGirl.net. She also writes for the New York Times, Glamour, and many others.

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