October 14, 2010
Yale is not new to fraternities acting in despicable, misogynistic ways. The Women’s Center has tried to deal with horrible forms of chauvinistic actions conducted under the guise of fraternity rush processes. Yale’s female freshmen are not new to the feeling of being unsafe– as last year’s “Pre-Season Scouting Report” demonstrates. And yet again, as of last night, Yale’s campus was privy to a deeply problematic display of male assertion and power. Beginning around 9:30 pm, members of the DKE fraternity marched with their pledges around Yale’s Old Campus (the home of almost all of Yale’s freshman women) chanting slogans such as “No means yes, yes means anal” and “My name is Jack, I’m a necrophiliac, I f— dead women, and fill them with my semen.” Although the impact of this event remains to be seen, we must consider how deeply disturbed this action is.
The words: “No means yes, yes means anal.”
If “[n]o means yes,” there is no such thing as rape. Women lose their agency in sexual acts and encounters, and moreover in personhood. Women’s words mean nothing. Instead, women exist as sex objects, to be used under any circumstances. ”No means yes, yes means anal” not only denies the fact of rape, but also mitigates the experience of any person who has been the victim of such an act. Even if the woman is a willing participant in a sex act (from kissing to intercourse), the boundaries are not hers to define. This situation is what the chant “No means yes, yes means anal” invites.
The symbol of the action: A mob of men inciting violence and intimidating women, in a place where almost all freshmen women have their residences.
What is the significance of a moving gang of men, chanting in deep, throaty, voices for sexual assault– more specifically, for rape? Historically, there are many precedents for this action. A gang of men chanting anything is an assertion of a masculine presence. A masculine presence declaring the invasion of female agency perpetuates an already despicable set of behaviors present in the Yale community. To perform this action where the youngest women in the Yale community live, in their first full month of school, in the location where they are supposed to study and live, is fear-mongering.
The action itself: An organization calling for young men to participate in such an action, in order to be included in said organization.
This act was committed under the aegis of the “rush” process, in which new pledges must perform a series of tasks in order to join the fraternity. In order to join the fraternity, these students, called pledges, do various tasks to prove a sense of loyalty to the organization. The fraternity, in return, provides a sense of community and social privilege. A fraternity is supposed to uphold the ideals of brotherhood and good citizenship. The Yale chapter of Delta Kappa Epsilon required its rushes– young, impressionable men– to incite violence through verbal assault directed at equally young women, or else risk not being able to join the organization. To pressure young men to choose to either make such a drastic action, or not be part of an organization (an organization dedicated to brotherhood and community, no less), is horrendous.
Broad Recognition urges you to write your residential college deans and Dean Mary Miller, and demand that real administrative action be taken against DKE and those who hold positions of power in that organization. Their rush chairs and president should have guided these pledges to become upstanding members of the Yale and New Haven community. While all participants should be held in contempt, it is the rush chairs and president of DKE who are responsible, and must be disciplined. Please join us in asking that, this time around, Yale take action on behalf of its female students. Yale’s women have endured enough in this vein– it must cease now.
Note: The Women’s Center is holding a forum on Friday, Oct. 15, in LC 102 at 1pm, to discuss this event with Dean Mary Miller and Dean of Student Affairs Marichal Gentry, and with members of DKE.
Hannah Zeavin is a junior in Yale College. She is Managing Editor for Broad Recognition.