I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw this article this morning. Students at an Australian university created “pro-rape” Facebook group? And Facebook allowed it to stay on their site for months? Was this some kind of disgusting, unfunny joke? I almost checked my calendar to see if it was April Fool’s Day.
But no, sadly, it’s still November, and this Facebook group was very real. A group of students at the all-male St. Paul’s College decided a few months ago to create a “pro-rape” Facebook page called “Define Statutory,” in which they proudly declared that they were “anti-consent.” The page was public and the group’s members openly displayed their affiliation with the group on their Facebook profile. The page stayed online from August until very recently, when it was finally shut down.
The Facebook page’s existence is apparently just a symptom of the culture at Sydney University, one that is often “sexist” and “sexually violent” toward women. Rape, assault and harassment are disturbingly common on campus, and although the university is attempting to downplay the seriousness of the issue, people are starting to speak up about the situation for women on campus. Many women say that because of “the privileged atmosphere of colleges, combined with a culture of binge drinking and few restraints on behaviour,” most rapes go unreported.
“This is a story that has to be told,” said Reverend David Russell, the outgoing master of Wesley College, “there is no question in my mind, women are seen as meat. That is the awful, ugly truth of it.” Linda Burney, the New South Wales Minister for Women, said that “The idea that a group of young men that are going to become leaders within our community – leaders in the law, leaders in medicine, leaders in business – studying at an elite college, at an elite university, think it’s OK to post information like this encouraging rape on a website is absolutely abhorrent.”
The site has been condemned by the university, the New South Wales Police sex crimes unit, and the New South Wales Rape Crisis Centre. But Hortense at Jezebel raises another important question: how is it possible that Facebook, a site that refuses to allow women to post pictures of themselves breastfeeding, let this page exist for three months? Maybe it was the supposed “hilarity” of a “pro-rape” group (which was posted in the “sports and recreation” section of Facebook), but for some reason, I’m not laughing.
The creation of this Facebook page – and the fact that Facebook allowed it to exist for as long as it did – are proof enough that rape culture is alive and well. I am sickened by the thought that these young men could be among Australia’s future leaders. I hope this also serves as a wake-up call to Facebook, and that next time, they pay as much attention to ending rape culture on their site as they do to images of women breastfeeding their children.
Photo courtesy of Lifeasdaddy's Flickr Photostream.