College humor around sexual violence needs to stop

Women at Miami University received a nasty surprise last week when a flier emerged in a men’s bathroom of a co-ed freshman dorm describing the “Top Ten Ways to Get Away with Rape.”

The flier featured suggestions from slipping drugs into a girl’s drink to climbing through a girl’s open window, and concluded with a rallying cry for college boys to “live it up” and take advantage of their unique situation while they still can.

The university has filed a police report about the incident and launched an official investigation. But finding the person responsible for the flier alone is not going to stop the dangerous nonchalant attitude towards sexual violence dominant on today’s college campuses.

If the flier was intended to be serious, that’s just scary.

More likely, however, it was written by some juvenile freshman trying to get a laugh. But when did violation of a woman’s body and dignity suddenly become so funny?

Apparently, it always has been. We see it on our own campus. Open mic night at Ground Zero features a regular barrage of rape jokes—always by male comedians. Students indiscriminately make comments about sexual assault intended as “humorous,” without considering what people in earshot might have gone through in their pasts.

Unforgettable, of course, is the repulsive viral email that spread through USC’s Greek Community in March of 2011. The email contained blatant sexism, racism, body policing and—of course—justification for sexual assault, and was written, according to the author, by a member of USC’s chapter of the Kappa Sigma fraternity.

Even Facebook started as a way to compare the attractiveness of girls at Harvard College, and audiences laughed heartily at that when the 2010 film The Social Network came out in theaters.

The American Association of American Women reports that three percent of college women are victims of rape or attempted rape every year and that 95 percent of sexual assaults at or around college campuses are unreported.

These alarming statistics will not change until the culture of permissiveness changes. Sexual violence is never funny—not in a café, not with friends and certainly not on a flier.