AU date-rape column provokes conflicting sentiments, even among its editors



As a student at American University, as a future journalist, as a news assistant for the newspaper The Eagle, as an intern for the Student Press Law Center and as a woman, I have been in the midst of a free speech battle for the last few weeks. Now I’m at a loss for words.

On March 28, The Eagle printed a column by Alex Knepper titled, “Dealing with AU’s anti-sex brigade.”

Knepper attacked feminism and called date rape “an incoherent concept, saying “any woman who heads to [a fraternity] 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.”

People keep asking me how I feel about this whole thing. No one is satisfied when I say that I’m not sure. It’s difficult to remove yourself and form an honest opinion when you’re so personally invested in the issue.

As a student, I can understand where my peers are coming from. They have every right to be offended and upset.

As a future journalist, I know you have to push the limits every once in awhile to foster discussion and debate.

As a news assistant for The Eagle, I am hurt that my fellow American University students would let one column tarnish the entire paper’s credibility and reputation – as well as that of my editors’ and my own. I am hurt that someone would combat what they perceived as hate speech with further hate speech – by dumping over a thousand newspapers in front of the office, by calling Eagle staffers “rape apologists.” (Response to the column from the campus community prompted an apology from the paper's top editors.)

As an intern for the Student Press Law Center, I realize that student free expression is an uphill battle. Based on my time here, I have come to see that censorship over controversy – in any form – is not the way to solve problems.

As a woman, I recognize the need for this kind of debate, because the line between drunken sex and date rape is not clear. As much as people might argue otherwise, consent is a very hazy issue – just as hazy as your thought process with a few too many beers.

Ultimately, this column fostered conversation that needed to be had – both about rape and free speech. And that’s why, as me, Stefanie Dazio, I truly believe that the column should have been printed. Maybe not in the exact wording that it was, but nevertheless, its point still stands.

We should never shy away from controversy simply because it offends or outrages someone. Because when we do that, we censor our minds. And that offends me on all levels.

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