Students at DePaul University in Chicago are divided over a new campaign to raise rape awareness that's centered around selling t-shirts that say "Consent the D" on them.
According to its founders, "Consent the D" is "a non-profit, pro-consent movement started by a DePaul University student, to raise awareness about sexual violence, generate funds for a non-profit fighting sexual violence, and make a statement during this critical time." The t-shirts are $15, with half the proceeds going to the Chicago-based organization Rape Victim Advocates. They're a play off a t-shirt supporting the school basketball team that caused controversy last year; those shirts read "Fear the D."
"Do you remember those 'Fear the D' shirts? Forget those. Be apart (sic) of a student movement making a statement to the rest of the country," Consent the D's Facebook page reads.
But the shirt slogan and its founders are getting some heat from students who feel that, at best, the students who are promoting it are being flippant with the slogan, and, at worst, don't know what they're talking about when it comes to sexual assault. First off, the movement was started by senior Randy Vollrath, who told the school paper The Depaulia "that a movement like this is 'long overdue.'"
"The issue has rose to prominence in recent years, both nationally and at our own university. A few weeks ago there was a sexual assault a block off campus," Vollrath said. "There's been a lot of talk about the issue of sexual assault lately, but nowhere near as much action. The DePaulia boldly called for action on sexual assault a few weeks ago. This is the student response."
Not true, argue other students. "I am appalled that these men are profiting from the activist work women have been doing around sexual assault on campus for years," wrote one student on the group's Facebook page, perhaps referencing a protest that occurred last spring organized by the group DPUnite.
"There's a difference between telling women to consent and asking them to," wrote another. "'Consent the D' is not asking men to ask for sex and respect the women's choice, it sounds like you're just telling women to consent in a pretty aggressive way: consent the dick... Also not a very tasteful way to bring awareness to an issue that has traumatized so many women."
The criticism extends to concern about who Consent the D has partnered with, like the fraternities Alpha Epsilon Pi and Phi Kappa Psi. On a photo of Vollrath wearing one his shirt's with the DePaul basketball team on Consent the D's Facebook page, one commenter wrote "did they expel the rapist who was on the basketball team?" (It appears that the protest in the spring was organized due to concerns that a member of the basketball team raped a fellow student and the University tried to a keep it under wraps.)
In an somewhat confused radio interview, Vollrath said that Consent the D would be organizing events in the future and emphasized that he didn't think rape was a specifically women's-only issue. "We all have friends who've been affected by this. It's terrible, it's tragic, you get frustrated and confused and you don't know what you can do about it," he said of why he wanted to sell the shirts.
To many, involving men in rape awareness is a necessary and important step to raise awareness and decrease the number of sexual assaults. In some cases, it has positive results: on Wednesday, the Washington Post published a piece about Ian Tolino, a "consent bro" who works with the group Campus Advocates Respond and Educate to Stop Violence at the University of Maryland to go around to fraternities and teach their members about consent. But to others, the watching men get involved in the issue of sexual assault without connecting to the work of the mostly women that have come before them just comes off as tone deaf.
Images via Consent the D and DePaul University