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Category: Education, Violence against Women

Taking Back the Night from Delta Kappa Epsilon

October 15, 2010

Every spring since starting college, I’ve joined my friends, classmates and peers in the streets of New York, marching and chanting for Take Back the Night. TBTN works to end sexual violence and shatter the silence that surrounds it; it’s always a night of empathy and empowerment, with kitschy, can’t-get-them-out-of-your-head chants like “Whatever we wear, wherever we go, yes means yes and no means no!” Started in 1975, it’s still going strong (a fellow WMC intern, Lauren Herold, chaired it at Columbia University last year) because, unfortunately, it’s still needed.Despite TBTN’s long history,  the Yale chapter of Delta Kappa Epsilon isn’t acquainted with it – or at least, that’s what their pledges indicated as they walked through Old Campus on Wednesday night. Ringing out across the first-year dorms, DKE’s chant, in fact, was the opposite of TBTN’s: “No means yes, and yes means anal!”


The explicit language applauds sexual violence with a convenient blame-the-victim mentality; after all, no means yes. The chant also robs women of sexual agency; even consensual sexual relationships are going to lead to sexual aggression. Then, as if it wasn’t explicit enough, DKE came out with another choice chant: “My name is Jack, I am a necrophiliac, I f*** dead women.”  Violence, murder, and the reduction of women to literally lifeless sexual objects – DKE has got it going on.

The president of the fraternity has issued an apology, calling the pledge event “a serious lapse in judgment… in very poor taste.” But as Tracy Clark-Flory points out, it doesn’t really qualify as a slip-up: “It doesn't innocently happen that you're guiding male pledges by young women's dorms in the dark of night chanting about anal rape.” I don’t know what it is with college men and “mistakes,” but I’m getting sick of them.

Every year, the TBTN march at Columbia ends with an anonymous speak-out; students, staff, faculty, and community members crowd the gym late into the night. There is hot chocolate at the entryways, and blankets line the gym as people come together to honor and support the women and men who share stories of violence, pain, and – sometimes – healing.

DKE may think that their chants are funny, or cool, or at the very least, not harmful. I’d encourage them to attend TBTN this spring. They’ll learn how wrong they are – and maybe next year, their pledges will have better things to yell.

UPDATE: DKE has been told to stop all pledge activities, and there is still the possibility of disciplinary action against those involved. Check out Jezebel's article on the story's continuation at