Student Writer, Editor Fired from Campus Newspaper for Column on Sex, ‘Sick Society’

Early last week, The Daily Collegian at the University of Massachusetts Amherst apologized for publishing a controversial column “that implied some rape victims bear responsibility for being assaulted.”  The newspaper has also fired the student columnist and the editor “with final say over night editorial content.”

The column in general denounces what the female writer sees as a “sick society,” one that is allegedly pressuring young women to engage in sex before they are ready and without concerns about the consequences.  As one portion argues: “Sex has become a service, like any other, but without fiscal exchange or shame.  It is no longer associated with love, marriage or a committed relationship. . . . [Women] strive to keep up with being ‘modern’ and ‘liberated.’  The contemporary American female is advised to collect five or ten lovers, risk sexually transmitted disease . . . or, in the worst scenario, get an abortion. . . . Women, instead of acclaiming ‘sexual liberation’ have received, at the least, a bad reputation.”

The most controversial segment extends this perspective to the point of finding women at fault in instances of non-consensual sexual activity.  In the writer’s words, “If a young woman wears a promiscuous outfit to a party, then proceeds to drink and flirt excessively, she should not blame men for her downfall. She made a decision to dress a certain way, to consume alcohol and should be prepared to deal with the consequences. Far from being a victim of rape, she is a victim of her own choices.”

A day after its publication, Collegian editors released a letter to readers, stating, in part: “It is evident that the column is both offensive and inaccurate, and the Collegian is deeply sorry to members of the community who were negatively affected.  The author’s suggestion that rape victims should be held accountable for what has happened to them is reprehensible and in no way represents the opinions of our staff.”

In an e-mail exchange with The Boston Globe, the student writer said that editing mistakes “allowed for numerous misunderstandings” about the positions stated within the column.  Additionally, “[s]he said she did not mean to suggest that rape victims are to blame for their assaults.”

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