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The Vexed Vagina: Rape Culture Still Alive on Canadian Campuses

Megan Hymanyk
Gateway Writer
Sep 12, 2013

During frosh week, students are excited to be back on campus, catching up with friends and participating in the annual welcome week events. But while these activities are meant to be harmless, one chant overheard at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax has people asking when it’s appropriate to draw the line when it comes to joking about sexual abuse and violence. 

The video that surfaced is of a large group of Saint Mary’s students, who happen to be orientation week leaders, sitting in bleachers while watching an event at the campus football field. The students repeatedly chant the phrase “SMU boys, we like them young … Y is for your sister, O is for oh-so tight, U is for underage, N is for no consent, G is for grab that ass.”

As if the actual words of the chant weren’t disturbing enough, one of the real problems with this situation lies in the casual nature of its repetition. The video clearly displays a decent-sized crowd repeating the chant numerous times and at no point did anyone participating in, or witnessing the chant seem to recognize the reality of the words or make any attempts to stop the chant.

Essentially, this chant that was uttered and repeated mindlessly, promoted sexual abuse and aided rape culture.

When the recording of the chant went viral after appearing on Instagram, SMU responded quickly to the negative backlash that the chant and the university itself was receiving. All orientation week leaders along with all members of the Students’ Union were sent to sensitivity training.

Students’ Union president Jared Perry admitted that he dropped the ball when he failed to recognize that this chant — a frosh week tradition at SMU that’s been heard for years — was inappropriate. He reiterated that the chant “will not continue in the future.”

Meanwhile, the Students’ Union executives are heading to a conference on sexual violence in the next few weeks at Saint Francis Xavier University

Only days after the video of the chant exploded online, The Ubyssey, the student newspaper at the University of British Columbia, revealed that this same chant was overheard on their campus. The lines of the chant are exactly the same, with the exception of the last line in which the G in the acronym was changed to “G is for go to jail.”

The fact that UBC students were also chanting this throughout the orientation week demonstrates the commonality of this attitude about rape culture. Who knows, maybe even more post-secondary institutions within Canada are familiar with chants which celebrate non-consensual sex.

But while the faculty and Students’ Union representatives at both Saint Mary’s and UBC have dealt with the chant and its backlash, the bigger picture we should look at is how this reflects Canadian society and how it reinforces rape culture.

We’re raised in a society where jokes and sideways comments regarding rape, sexual assault and violence are a laughing matter. Any young adult who attended junior high and high school in Canada can surely remember their peers snickering at one of these jokes and may have made one themselves. The big problem is that these jokes are continually reinforced in society, within films and television shows, in all varieties of media, even by grown adults. Even university students, surely bright individuals and future contributing members of society, are failing to recognize the power and the meaning of these seemingly casual words and phrases.

While this incident is only a relatively small event, it demonstrates how rape culture is still alive in Canada, and for that matter, in North America. We, as young adults, need to step up and realize the power of our words and work to diminish any sign of rape culture.

We still have a long way to go when it comes to eradicating the promotion of sexual abuse and violence in our society. Simple actions, such as posting a video like this one, can be enlightening. When we take a step back, recognizing the greater meaning in our actions and our words can allow us to change the culture that we live in.


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