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May 3, 2012

It Doesn't Have to Say Rape to Be Rape Culture

We recently observed two examples of rape culture in action. Seeing the two incidents back to back, and watching how people reacted to them, really served as a depressing reminder for us of how many people out there still refuse to accept that rape culture is a real thing that does real harm. It also reminded us of how important it is to call this stuff out and talk about it when we see it so that hopefully more people will start to understand.

The first incident was a story about a radio DJ on a morning show in Cleveland. The show received a letter from a father who had seen his teenage daughter kissing another girl and was concerned that she might be a lesbian.
This morning GLAAD received several incident reports that alerted us to a horrific anti-gay remark that was made on today's episode of "Rover's Morning Glory," a popular morning show that airs on Cleveland's WMMS 100.7 FM radio (The Buzzard). Throughout the history of FM broadcasting, WMMS has been widely regarded as one of the most influential rock stations in America.

According to the incident reports (and later confirmed to us by an executive for Clear Channel, the station's parent company), the anti-gay remark was made by Dominic Dieter, one of the "Rover's Morning Glory" cast members. Responding to an e-mail from a father who (for reasons unknown) wrote to the station to say that he'd happened upon his teenage daughter kissing another girl. Deiter responded to the father, on-air, by saying:

"You should get one of your friends to screw your daughter straight." [GLAAD]

Nothing like a little corrective rape advice with your morning radio, right? It's horrifying that a man would not only give this advice to a father about his child, but share it with a whole radio audience as well. The homophobia of suggesting that a lesbian teen needs to be turned straight combined with the misogyny of advocating rape as the method for accomplishing that makes this one of the most disgusting and inappropriate comments we've heard in a while.

Unfortunately, not everyone saw it that way. We read a lot of the comments about this that appeared on various articles as well as Twitter and the Rover's Morning Glory facebook page. The majority of people who commented were just as offended as we were, but there were some who disagreed. Here's a sampling (we're paraphrasing a few of these and not linking directly to any of them because this is about the larger issue, not about calling out individual commenters):

I'm sorry...but where in this statement does it say "rape"? You guys all have your panties in a bunch over something #1. You never even listened too. #2. He never said "rape"...What he said was told as a joke. Yes a bad joke, but he never said rape. Lets get the facts straight before we go for a witch hunt.

Freedom of speech! [Every time the "freedom of speech" argument comes up in situations like this, which is every time there is a situation like this, I get a headache. I think it's a sympathy pain that I experience as the Founding Fathers turn over in their graves.]

You stupid crybaby losers, he never said raped. 16 is the age of consent in ohio. Yeah, I don't agree with him...but its dieter. If you take him seriously, you're the moron. Get over yourselves for fucks sake

People are over-exaggerating dieters comments... he didn't say 'rape'

Disgusting as that comment was, I'm disturbed that the DJ said "Get one of your friends to screw her," yet the article puts the word "rape" in his mouth. Obviously a young gay woman can't simply become straight, nor would she want to. But it seems, to me, a large leap between "get one of your friends to screw her" and "get one of your friends to rape her." I agree that only a moron would think a young gay woman would consent to that. But the comment struck me as demonstrating a profound and disgusting lack of understanding for what it means to be gay. It was horrible, but rape still seems a leap.
Variations on the phrase 'he didn't actually say the word rape!' came up again and again among Dieter's defenders. Apparently in their world it's common for teenage lesbians to consent to sex with men their father's age that have been hired by said father to cure their gayness, and "screw her straight" is just a term of endearment or something. (Of course, we don't even know whether this young woman is actually a lesbian or not, but we're describing the situation that way because that's the assumption that Dieter made about her when he made his comments.) Many people also seemed to be hung up on their belief that Dieter couldn't have meant it that way, that it was just a thoughtless joke and he didn't intend to promote homophobia and sexual violence with his comments. (Dieter himself said as much in the on air apology that he delivered after this outcry.) But it doesn't really matter. Maybe he didn't intend to advocate the corrective rape of a gay teen girl, but that's exactly what he did, and it still has the same harmful effects whether he 'meant it' or not.

Some people seem to think that if it's not 100% blatant, if the person isn't literally shouting "Rape is okay! Rapists rule! Yay for rape!" from the rooftops, it's not an example of rape culture. They may even agree that something is offensive or in poor taste, and yet they're more willing to give the benefit of the doubt to the person advocating rape than to the crowd of Cassandras off to the side yelling "hey, this is rape culture and it's not okay". We don't know yet whether Dieter is going to lose his job over these comments, but at least there was enough of an outcry that he was suspended and forced to apologize. Hopefully the conversations that this has sparked will educate at least a few people about the issue of corrective rape and the reasons why comments like Dieter's are so harmful.

The other incident was maybe minor in comparison to the Dieter fiasco, but still a page out of the same book. This was posted by a friend of ours on Twitter:

It's always so funny to make jokes about how no really secretly means yes. We can imagine how this meeting went:
"Okay, we need slogans for our new rule about how you can't change the toppings on our artisan pizzas."

"I've got it! We'll combine that saying '____ is the new black' with that 'no means no' anti-rape slogan."

"Brilliant! Let's go get cheesy bread."
Some of the people who responded to the tweet agreed that the slogan was problematic, but some didn't:
How does that connect to rape culture? You're reaching a bit....That has nothing to to with the advert. There are things that are worse than that.

I'm vehemently against rape culture, but I didn't connect that statement to it. Mainly b/c the campaign contains specific language that makes it about their pizza, and in no way connected to sex, dating, etc.

Searching the same topic on tumblr brought up some less polite disagreements involving charming phrases like "oversensitive bitches". And yes, obviously this slogan isn't literally about rape. It's about pizza toppings. But it's just really not helpful to make jokes about the line between no and yes being blurred, and to imply that no doesn't always mean no. In a society where rape jokes are a staple in many TV shows and movies, slut-shaming attitudes like the belief that a woman can be "asking for it" by dressing or acting a certain way and not by actually saying yes are prevalent, and phrases like "that test totally raped me" are common, I could easily see "no is the new yes" being adopted for use in non-pizza contexts. It's just one more thing, and maybe it's a small thing, but it all adds up.

What do you think of these two incidents? Have you ever observed something that you thought was an example of rape culture only to have other people say you were wrong or oversensitive or humorless? What do you think is the best way to call out stuff like this when you see it?


Kristin said...

Both incidents horrify me. Dieter's comment is wrong on so many levels that I can't believe anyone would defend it.

And, the ad exec who came up with that campaign should be sent back to kindergarten. He obviously failed to learn that words MEAN something and that words have power. Those words are definitely associated with rape.

Yandie, Goddess of Pickles. said...

I think you're bang on with both incidents.. The first one makes me sick to my stomach, and although I don't have the same visceral reaction to the Dominos campaign, it's still in pathetically poor taste.

Today as I was driving to work, I saw a Giant Truck with a sticker on it reading "Dodge the Father, Ram the Daughter."

I fucking *love* people.

Epiphora said...

But it's just really not helpful to make jokes about the line between no and yes being blurred, and to imply that no doesn't always mean no.

I SO AGREE, and anyone who doesn't see it kind of freaks me out, honestly. It's a stupid way of promoting a product anyway (why would you want to highlight the fact that the toppings can't be changed?) and using language that has been used A LOT to refer to incidents of sexual assault is horrible. And uh yeah, that DJ implied rape, no question about it.

Anonymous said...

To be fair, the comment most likely meant 'she just needs to try a guy and she'll turn straight' but it's obviously still horrible.

Anonymous said...


Your comment is exactly what we're talking about. Maybe he didn't mean to advocate the corrective rape of a gay teen girl, but that's exactly what he did and it still has the same harmful effects whether he 'meant it' or not.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know how to contact Dominos and voice our opinions of this add? Thx!