Sunday, February 14, 2010

'Rape' cartoon stirs controversy, but most protesters missed the point about why it's objectionable

Last Wednesday, the Oklahoma Daily ran a peculiar cartoon (above) in which it is difficult to tell what's going on. But the cartoon raised a lot of controversy, because some readers automatically assumed it made light of rape. 

The paper's editor even had to write an apology, after explaining that the paper didn't interpret it as making light of rape:  "The cartoon was centered around the possibility of condoms being made available in the basement of the dorms on campus. It depicted a male walking into the laundry room of the dorms, a woman standing near a washer or dryer and condom machine. The next frame is a shot of the woman up close. The last scene is the laundry room door being locked. . . . . Schuyler Crabtree, the cartoonist, said he wanted the cartoon to be satirical and poke fun at the idea that easier access to condoms would lead to more sex in the dorms. . . . . I would like to assure all of you no one at The Daily, including myself, think rape or sexual violence should be taken lightly."

First, the rape interpretation seems a bit of a stretch.  But college cartoonists are notorious for sometimes coming up with stuff that is difficult to figure out the point.  It would be easy to rip the young cartoonist, but please consider that he's just a student doing this in whatever spare time he has, and he's probably not being paid.  I've seen big time cartoonists strike out, too.

Second, some see the cartoon as insulting to women because, they say, it makes light of rape.  But if it does make light of rape (I'll leave that for you to decide), I suggest that the cartoon accomplishes the seemingly impossible task of insulting two genders at once.  Women, because it makes light of male-female rape, but also men, because it suggests that men can't control their desire to have sex with shapely woman in secluded places where condoms are readily available.

Predictably, hardly any of the commentators thought this cartoon was objectionable because it presented a negative stereotype about males.  Just the opposite -- most of the comments that objected to it impliedly suggested that the stereotype of males-as-sexual predators who can't restrain themselves is all-too-true. And that, dear readers, tells us a lot of our "rape" culture, none of it good.

One comment, however, nailed it: "Not funny. IF this is not a rape fantasy, which it may be, it is a canned stereotype of an adolescent male sexual fantasy. This kind of 'Harold and Kumar' humor is unoriginal and offensive to men, who the cartoonist suggests think this way, and to women, who are depicted as nothing more than objects of sexual gratification. What is especially offensive is including reference to our school in this twisted power fantasy. Really, is this how we want to see ourselves? Does this cartoon reflect Sooner pride?"

Here are some of the comments that objected to the cartoon because, they assumed, it made light of rape:

"I don't get it, is this freshman about to rape the woman standing next to the condom machine after he locks the door but before she gives clear consent? That's not what the condom machines are supposed to be for."

"Rape is certainly NOT the proper use of a laundry room... nor any room for that matter, Mr. Crabtree."

". . . . This is offensive. On a college campus, where women have a higher chance of being raped, the last thing the OUDaily needs to be promoting is a flippant attitude toward this behavior. You have reduced a violent reality to a CARTOON."

"Whether the suggestion that women should be raped in laundry rooms was intentionally or not, I expect an immediate apology from Schuyler Crabtree."

I'd suggest that if Mr. Crabtree needs to apologize to anyone, it's to the members of his own sex.  Unwittingly, he's given the feminists another excuse (not that they need an excuse) to trot out the worst stereotypes about males.