"Rape is just surprise sex."
I think the fact that I did not punch the guy who uttered these words to me and scream "SURPRISE!" is a testament to my new found anger management skills. Unfortunately for these new skills, shortly after this encounter, I made the mistake of picking up a copy of the September 2008 issue of Campus Talk .
It wasn’t the two airbrushed wanna-be Playboy Barbies on the cover of this outstanding publication that caught my attention, but the headline "Tighten the Leash! How 2 train your girlfriend." No, the editor could not be bothered to spell out the word "to" and yes, I should probably go back to anger management classes.
This tasteful article is offset by a picture spanning the top half of the page. The image is part of a woman’s face, with bright green eyes and perfect make-up; she could be any girl under 25. The viewer only sees from the bottom of her nose to the top of her eyebrows. The light focuses on her eyes, which are wide open, pupils narrowed and eyebrows arched in surprised. From the shadows behind her, you see nothing but a thumb cutting across her cheek and a shadow of a hand firmly clamped across her mouth. Above the picture is the preface to the article: "I love you. You’re perfect. Now change!"
Indeed we all wish that at some point we could "train" our significant others; but as much as we’d like to pretend otherwise, training is not an option and there has to be give and take in every healthy relationship. For every dinner I don’t cook, there is a load of dishes for me to do.
However, what could have become an amusing social commentary about the lessons we learn as we live together turned out to be nothing more than a poorly written users manual for bullying, violence, and deceit in order to create a Stepford girlfriend.
The article itself only takes up half of the page, but suggests that a girl can, and should, be trained by her boyfriend to like sports, dress sexier, drink beer, be a minx, and talk less. The ultimate goals listed are to have your girl pole dance, stop talking altogether, and get her to drink her weight in beer as you introduce her to new and enticing sexual adventures. Great. Thanks, Casanova.
The image accompanying this article, which should invoke a feeling of terror in its viewers, comes across as artificial and surreal when taken in context. The very pairing of this article and this picture mocks the validity of violence against women, and for all intents and purposes turns it into a mere joke. In an era that is celebrating the advancement of women, this college-targeted publication is condoning the act of getting the woman you supposedly care about so drunk "that even moonshine tastes like Gatorade" and encouraging her to "slut up her wardrobe" in order for her to be considered attractive.
The seriousness of violence against women is further downplayed by the "totally useless fact(s)" at the bottom of each page. The publication plasters inconsequential tidbits like "A giraffe can go without water longer than a camel can" side-by-side with facts such as "Rape is reported every six minutes in the United States." That particular "useless fact" was found just under the how-to article titled "Man Up Your Apartment."
According to RAINN statistics, one woman is sexually assaulted every two minutes. RAINN also indicates that 1 in 6 women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime and that college age women are 4 times more likely to be assaulted. (Check the facts at http://www.rainn.org/ ).
With publications like My Campus Talk, I don’t foresee these statistics dropping any time soon. Targeting the undergraduate populations this magazine could have the potential to educate, but instead it chooses to encourage the continued objectification and degradation of all women by approaching the issue of violence against women with a casual indifference and dehumanizing manner. These students will graduate; sadly, many will enter the real world carrying these ideals. We cannot advance as a society if we effectively disenfranchise half of our population. College is a place that prepares our children for the future, and I am hoping that our future is not a place where "rape is just surprise sex."