Antonia D'orsay

What do you see?

Filed By Antonia D'orsay | April 02, 2010 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: The Movement
Tags: censorship, feminism, Feministe, homophobic behavior, Rape Apolgia, Rape Culture, Sexism, The Eagle Online, The Sexist, Trans, transgender, transphobia, transsexual

(Trigger warning: Yeah, from me. So it's bad.)

I take in a fair amount of information in a given day. It ranges from the absurdist to the terrifying, and all manner of points on a three dimensional grid around them. Late the other night, I happened to check in on Feministe, a blog generally dedicated to feminism and feminist issues.

Jill over there wrote a column on a piece by a gay man named Alex Knepper, a columnist for The Eagle, the award winning independent student newspaper of American University. The column is titled Dealing with AU's anti-sex brigade, and was published on the 28th of March.

Mr. Kneppler is described by students at the school as "conservative". He, however, says he is not. He does like to create conflict and stir the pot.

I read the post by Jill down to the point where she provided an excerpt from the article. At that point, I jumped to the article itself, and started this.

Let's see why:

One of the themes I've been seeing in most of my interactions with the "G" segment of the LGBT+ population which generally tends to have issues with trans stuff to some degree is that they often don't understand some basic concepts surrounding what is found on college campuses as "gender studies" or "women's studies" and the like. Now, it is not universal among all of the G segment, and I'm not talking about all of them -- just those that have issues with trans stuff.

That area of study up until recently was overwhelmingly filled with women in a collegiate setting, and for much of the existence of such courses have been perceived as somewhat hostile to men. This creates a reasonable possibility that part of the reason for the lack of understanding is that, well, they didn't exactly have any encouragement to learn about such stuff.

I was, apparently, laboring under the impression that they'd at the least made some effort to do so, or that at the least the current generation of gay men in a collegiate setting at present were a little up to date on such stuff. It was a false impression if I go by the article that Mr. Knepper has written.

Mr. Knepper appears to be somewhat hostile to the current activists in power in the wider community. He expresses a great deal of contempt for feminism, as well.

Some examples of this from his brief article:

What a sniveling bunch of emotional cripples! I have never encountered a more insular, solipsistic view of human sexuality than at this college. The rigidity of Pat Robertson has nothing on feminism.


...the goal of contemporary feminism and Gay Party activism is not to explain sex, but to abolish its passion.


Feminism envisions a bedroom scene in which two amorphous, gender-neutral blobs ask each other "Is this OK with you?" before daring to move their lips any lower on the other's body.

He also acts as an apologist for date rape, and blames the victim of such in a startling expression of sexism and misogyny that he earlier denies being:

Let's get this straight: any woman who heads to an EI 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.

Now, keep in in mind that this gentleman is a gay man, and it is not unreasonable to assume that he'd feel the same way about an encounter with another man.

In the comments section (which was closed at least once following publication of the piece) he says the following:

Believe it or not, this column went through about five edits to remove remarks deemed too inflammatory.

His ideas about feminism are established for him in the comments, as he describes here:

feminism is the flip-side of the religious right. Feminists envision women as powerless, fragile little dolls who will crack at their core with the flick of a finger. Imagine men sitting around, whining like you people do. This is an embarrassing setback for women.

I will point out that what he says there is *precisely* the opposite of the truth. And keep in mind that trans folk have a somewhat troubled past themselves with feminism, especially trans women - including some people he actively cites himself.

One of the worst comments he makes is:

You don't have a "right" to escape reality. If you are an anonymous, attractive young woman in a sexually-charged environment, you have tacitly agreed to sexual come-ons, at the bare minimum. And if you follow a guy to his room in such an environment, you shouldn't be surprised when he starts making out with you and squeezing your ass. In fact, you should probably be aroused.

That is, literally, blaming the victim.

He defends himself with the expected trope:

Actually, I know two women who have been raped and they each find the feminist descriptions of the traumatized woman to be insulting.

Which completely ignores certain realities and is also incredibly misogynistic. It's also the same things as saying something like "well, I know a couple gay people who think that the gay movement should just go away because they are embarrassing."

The only reason to introduce the idea that you "know someone" in a particular group is to cite them as a defense of your position, and the best and most cool thing about it is that they don't have to exist -- as we all have learned far too many times from the attacks made against us.

As you can probably gather, this very short little article got some people to feel some passion, and quite well. So much so that during the evening, someone vandalized the stands for the paper by taking them out of the stands and tossing them around, then tacking a poster above it that says there is no room for rape apologists.

I'm willing to bet it was a woman.

This was so startling an act of vandalism that it resulted in Amanda Hess interviewing him for the Washington City Paper. I will second something Amanda says -- free newspapers make money the hard way: by circulation. They count how many people take and how many are left. Messing up a stand like that does indeed have a damaging effect on the newspaper's ability to make money.

Now, lest one think that I'm saying all of this strictly from a woman's perspective, I will note that he mentioned cross dressing earlier, and cited it as part of his defense in the comments.

His response to Ms Hess when asked about this was:

"The entire concept of cross-dressing has no place within feminism," he explained. "[O]ne cannot 'cross' the line of something that does not exist."

She then asked him something else, and it's what got me moving:

Finally, I asked him if the "yin and yang of masculinity and femininity" is truly "what makes sexual exploration exciting," then isn't it kind of boring to be gay? "Certainly not," replied Knepper, who is gay. "Gay men--by which I do not mean the eunuchs who constitute the vanguard of so-called queer activism--are far more likely to understand that dressing one's boyfriend up like a girl and fucking his ass with a dildo is to feminize him. The feminine element of sexuality is not literally about being female--it's about surrender and submission.

That part bothers me, personally, because I see, in it, a huge degree of sexism, and deep and abiding insults to gay men in general. I am not, however, and never have been, a gay man. Except to the people who want to kill all the gays.

Now, what I'm interested in here is the reaction of the gay men who are readers here -- yes, even the ones who generally dislike me. I'd like to get their take on the things he's said, their ideas about the concepts he's raised.

And so I'm putting this up pretty much like this, without further comment by me, since I'm sure many folks have already made a determination about my views for me, much like Alex has by suggesting that should I go into a room with a guy then I'm consenting to sex.

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K. Travis Ballie | April 2, 2010 4:10 PM

My name is Travis Ballie and I am a gay man currently attending American University. I am a frequent reader of Bilerico. This controversy has touched on the work I partake in, as co-founder of American University Students for Choice and Mens' Outreach Director for Womens' Initiative. I have reproduced below my personal response to the column which you mention:

DISCLAIMER: I am not endorsing or condemning the actions taken by any individual student(s) in responding to the recent column. This response is in no way affiliated with my capacity as either an executive board member of AU Students for Choice or Mens’ Outreach Director of Womens’ Initiative.

I am a strong supporter of freedom of the press, I believe however that the power of journalism comes with a responsibility. When a newspaper refuses to adhere to an editorial policy that has any form of adequate standards, regardless of their political viewpoint, they breed discontent among their readership base. The Eagle’s repeated failure to address this issue proactively is to blame for these incidents, no one else. It is however in their right to choose whoever they want to publish. It is after all their reputation, relevancy and credibility on the line.

We DO have to protect the most vile forms of free speech, however as students we have the power to question op-ed editing policies and advocate for better quality control. Quality control is defined as standards set by the newspaper with input from various sources, one of which is reader response. It is up to the newspaper ultimately to decide where their standards lie. We have peer edited scholarly journals and peer edited opinion columns in newspapers all over America that prevent these types of controversies by setting ethical standards. Such standards are clearly needed in this case.

This is also why it is dangerous to conflate rape apologist language as being something "progressives" or "feminists" fight against. There’s no community in our great Nation that can claim to not have used rape apologist langugage, it is that widespread. Progressives and some "feminists" aren't called out enough for using rape apologist language, and I don't think they say it any less than conservatives in many cases. It comes down to a question of ethics and not ideology, and how professionals, be they scientists peer reviewing a journal piece or op-ed editors peer reviewing a submission, deal with setting an ethical standard. My propisition is that The Eagle needs to begin looking at their policy regarding language addressing rape and sexual assault and perhaps reconsider their ethical approaches to such language.

In response to the very strong and passionate outrage at rape apologist Alex Knepper’s latest column "Dealing With AU’s Anti-Sex Brigade" []), an unidentified student not endorsed by any organization decided to take direct action.

The Eagle has repeatedly refused for months to show adequate sensitivity, compassion, and common decency to the well-being of rape survivors on campus and is complicit in promoting a rape culture where survivors are blamed for the crimes of sexual assault perpetrators.

They have repeatedly failed to adequately work with many organization’s on campus who believe that we can have a strong, free press on campus free to print different viewpoints without allowing hate language which promotes implicitly or explicitly violence against others.

While I am saddened that the inaction of American University’s campus newspaper has allowed outrage to spread to this point, I am hopeful that they will in the wake of recent events reconsider the editorial policies that hundreds of students have been criticizing for over half a year.

A free press is not an insulated press, readers have every right to respond to op-eds they disagree with, but I encourage responses to be in the forms of letters to the editor, submitting their own op-eds and applying to write for The Eagle as a columnist or reporter.

I stand for free speech, not hate speech. It’s time The Eagle took responsibility for their words.

I dunno Antonia, I see a childish little boy trying to be a man by showing off.

It would be dishonest of me to not say that I see a lot of the failings of youth in what he writes -- he's not much different from the frat boys I knew at UofA, really.

But youth isn't an excuse for him -- and it's kinda insulting, as well, since this isn't an unusual screed for him based on his history with the particular paper.

Nor is his youth solely responsible -- he's parroting a lot of the stuff that one hears from people much older than he is.

What I didn't mention I see in his writing is a huge amount of internalized stigma and a lot of confusion about what sex and gender are.

And that raises the questions: who is he showing off to? What does he get out of showing off, and why is this kind of thought considered showing off?

Dismissing this doesn't do it the justice it deserves.

My thought wasn't to give him an excuse or to dismiss or downplay it as youthful folly.

Oh, and I don't dislike you.

2wheels2four 2wheels2four | April 2, 2010 7:04 PM

What he said was stupid, and logically inept. It's not as unusual as it should be for college-aged persons, of private universities in particular, to either publicly or privately broadcast opinions that torture a topic to within an inch of its limits. It makes them feel worldly. It attracts attention. It causes reaction. It gives them an intellectual chubby.

Sit in a bar or coffeeshop located in close proximity to any highly regarded and well-known private university in the late afternoon or evening and listen to the conversations. Intellect without benefit of life experience makes for some very verbose comedy. I attended a private college in St. Louis and graduated a little over 25 years ago. I now live less than a half-mile from Reed College in Portland, OR. Some things haven't changed a bit, except the truth of "If I'd known then what I know now, I wouldn't have sounded like such an asshat."

His spew, to put it succinctly, was inflammatory, insulting and wrong. You and everyone else who did were right to call him out on it. Kneppler may never be fully competent to drive his own mouth, or computer keyboard, but I personally attribute it to an over-zealous opinion of his own importance. Too bad he's got a soapbox larger than a campus-area bar.

I'm a gay man but I don't dislike you, Dyss. But I'll still throw in my two cents. :)

Yeah, trappings of youth and all. It seems there's always a college paper willing to publish stuff like this. I think it's partly because lots of dudes (gay and straight) go to college with issues about women that, once they graduate, will never be resolved but they'll just be able to put into the back of their minds and act out on subconsciously.

And a lot of them see themselves as young Christopher Hitchenses, saying whatever pops into their heads to get a reaction. They'll end up in marketing, if we're lucky, journalism if we're not.

Anyway, I know it's not in vogue to say "Well, he's young...." but considering how half-baked his ideas are, and how even the parts you quoted contradict one another, I don't know. I have a feeling he'll change as he gets older.


I don't know that I'd say "end up in marketing" is a good thing, lol. Marketing is one of the major fields we need to change for the better -- especially in the Big Four on Madison Ave, lol.

And first we have commentor Travis, failing to understand the entire point of the post. ""feminists" aren't called out enough for using rape apologist language, and I don't think they say it any less than conservatives in many cases." You've got to be f***ing kidding me, right? Here's the very first google response for the terms 'conservative' and rape and it is written by a self identified proud conservative and contains this lovely passage, amoung others:

"A generally attractive woman wearing a tight halter top on a hot summer day will garner attention from men, and especially men who envision that a woman like that is one who is inviting sexual advances (wanted or not) - hell, that's what it's like in porn, so it must be true, right??? Anyhow, if you say that provocative or revealing clothing has anything to do with it, then it lends some credence to the sexualization argument, but of course, feminists would prefer to argue from a power/lack of power position as it is seems more socially explainable, textbook-wise."

Feminst bashing and rape apologism, they go together like peanut butter and jelly.

Okay, same experiment but with the term 'feminist' and 'rape'

" A vital task on the feminist agenda has been to challenge and discredit such ideas—to deny that what a woman wears, where she goes and with whom, or what sexual choices she has made in the past have any relevance to whether she should be seen as having consented to sex on a particular occasion."

Your 'feminists are equally rape apologist' defense is utter bullshit.

K. Travis Ballie | April 2, 2010 10:21 PM

Cathy I am a proud feminist and a proud progressive,
but we've been led to assume that because a community or environment may label itself progressive or feminist, it is immune from the intensely ingrained culture of mysogyny and rape. Rape happens most
often to victims by people they know. It's often the very people we see as role models, colleagues, friends,
family. Now I did not say that progressives are
equally responsible as conservatives for maintaining a rape
culture, but too often people who self-identify as "progressives" or "feminists" are given a free pass, and we assume our left of center communities are safe.

My words are so harsh towards two communities because I cherish them so much and my desire is to see them improved. Furtheremore, when we relegate this to liberal vs conservative debate, we needlessly polarize an issue (rape) when we can message this as a community non starter, period, in any form in any of our communities.

Perhaps my words towards progressives and feminists (which I include myself as both) are overly harsh, but I'd rather hurt feelings than promote complacency about challenging very problematic situations within our own communities. Some examples:

PETA (which i do not consider either feminist or progressive; but apparently many do in our community) has promoted a horrendously dangerous view of womens' bodies:

A recent incident in which the head of the Marijuana Policy Project further illustrates how progressives sometime (more times than many of us are willing to admit about our own communities) fail to adequately handle accusations of rape and sexual assault/misconduct. MPP failed to deal with a director who clearly was sexually assaulting multiple female employees:

Or how about the story of Mr. Lombard, a pro-gay rights activist of faith who was discovered to be a perpetrator of sexual assault:

And there's also the perennial question of prominent feminists and progressives who are arrested for sexually assaulting others, like this CSU professor who claimed to be a feminist educator:

I cannot even begin to list out how many times I heard progressive and feminist men in particular say very lewd, demeaning and very rape apologist language when talking about prominent conservative, anti-feminist women like Sarah Palin, Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin. Can you imagine being a progressive survivor of sexual assault, and hearing these sexist, pro-rape comments from fellow progressives? The message many progressives have sent is transphobic and rape apologist attacks on individuals are wrong... unless they're against conservative women. That's FALSE.

NEWS FLASH. Just because I share a community with fellow progressives and liberals does not mean I'm going to needlessly accuse all conservatives of being rape apologists when they are not, nor assume all progressives are safe spaces free of rape apologist language when they are not.

NOTE: In this comments I may have alluded to rape as something that happens only happens to women by men. Being queer and understanding the limits of the gender binary I know this to be false, however we must not kid ourselves that most cases of rape and sexual assault involve self-identified women as survivors and self-identified men as perpetrators.

Given I'm told that I'm pretty, I'm teased because I "dress provocatively", and I'm trans, does that mean that I'd deserve rape and beatings because I was asking for it, being a really cute deception?

In my experiences, I'd rather hug a pretty transwoman.

And Knepper is nothing more than an adult child. He needs to be swatted on the nose with a newspaper and told to grow up.

I just want to know why you think no one likes you. You seem to be pretty popular on the site, actually. Provocative, yes. Disliked, I don't think so.

Feminists envision women as powerless, fragile little dolls who will crack at their core with the flick of a finger.

Really? Are you kidding me!? Wow, this kid couldn't have it more wrong if he tried. The mind boggles.

If you are an anonymous, attractive young woman in a sexually-charged environment, you have tacitly agreed to sexual come-ons, at the bare minimum. And if you follow a guy to his room in such an environment, you shouldn't be surprised when he starts making out with you and squeezing your ass. In fact, you should probably be aroused.

Thank you, Mr. Knepper for telling me how I should feel if some random ass man gropes my ass without my consent. Wow. Just wow. I'm glad he knows what women have tacitly agreed to. What a knob.

By the way Antonia--totally not disliked by me. :)

For sure, this guy is immature and inexperienced, but I think if you look beneath the youthful arrogance, he expresses a legitimate frustration many young men feel when they encounter an often inflexible feminist perpetrator/victim rhetoric about rape which doesn't acknowledge the agency of young women, and refuses to admit that consent and power, domination and submission, and the inherent irrationality of the sex drive are factors in every sex act, coerced or consensual (and sometimes the line between the two is pretty hard to make out). I think he's not incorrect to point out the hypocrisy. It's not surprising to me that many well-meaning young men are confused.

battybattybats battybattybats | April 3, 2010 11:27 PM

This is a mass of despicable ignorance.

With regard to date-rape well he almost reaches the sane conclusion but shies away from it to defend drinking and sex.

But no consent given while under the influence of any drug that effects behaviour is true consent. Not for EITHER party!

And date-rape doesn't just happen to women and the perpetrators aren't just men. I know men who have suffered serious attempted rape and actual rape at parties by women using violence and getting someone drunk in order to rape them.

Yes thats a can of worms people just dont want to deal with well tough!

Feminism does have a massive case to answer for on its history of villification and destruction of gender-diverse peoples identities experiences and lives. There is blood on the hands of many feminists because of the hate they have spewed at S&GD people.

And the same is true of parts of feminisms sex-negativity and the ways it has harmed many people.

But this twit needs to do some research and develop his thinking skills as he has done plenty of harm to sex-positivism and sex and gender diversity with his comments.

That paper better get themselves the most knowledgable and well spoken sex-positive S&GD-supportive feminist with a good understanding of ethics imediately to show how a critique of the wrongs of feminisms past does not involve rape-apology in the slightest and to educate the papers staff on how better to handle these issues and how to apologise.

And then they can go and explain to anti-S&GD and sex-negative feminists how to apologise and the penance they'll need to do to save as many lives as they have ruined. Cause plenty DO owe S&GD humanity an apology.