By: Keyonna Jones>Senior>Broadcast Journalism> University of Maryland
Cartoons are used for multiple reasons: they bring laughter to dull situations, poke satirical fun and sometimes even educate. However, there are still many individuals struggling to understand the intentions of The Exponent, Purdue University’s campus newspaper, in regards to their recently published comic strip. For months, the publication has run a “Sex Position of the Week” series but students and parents did not find the latest cartoon the least bit funny.
Last month the university’s newspaper published a cartoon that some believed promoted non-consensual sex. The cartoon, labeled as “The Prestige” position, showed a couple involved in intercourse with the male behind the female, and according to the instructional description, “the couple must be facing a window.” In the next clip of the cartoon, the initial male sneaks away and without the woman knowing, is replaced by another male, as the original partner waves from outside. The caption explains “[i]f properly executed the receiving partner will be astonished as if a magic trick has just occurred. Tah-dah!"
Jaehmon Wright, junior Sports Management major at Pfeiffer University believes despite it’s intent for laughs, The Exponent’s cartoon "depicts a lack of respect for women. ‘The Prestige’ is in fact teaching a deceitful way to take advantage of a woman in a time of intimacy,” he said. Shavon Simmons, a first year graduate student at DePaul University sees an even bigger problem. “[It] ignores those who have been raped and are suffering because of their attacks,” she explains, “and sadly, this perilous depiction of crude art is an imitation of life.”
According to Purdue’s mission statement, integrity is the most critical characteristic of their being. “We act honestly,” it reads, “and adhere to the highest standards of moral and ethical values and principles through our personal and professional behavior.” Due to the university newspaper’s recent decisions, some students are questioning their standards. “What were they thinking?” asked Morgan Miller, a freshman Biology major at Temple University. “The cartoon was obviously inappropriate and offensive and there was a great deal of misconduct and a lack of awareness … completely inexcusable.”
While the illustration may be in bad taste, is there a positive perspective? Robin Jensen, an assistant professor in Purdue’s Department of Communication has mixed feelings. “The normalization of rape and abuse is problematic on a number of levels, and I think this cartoon furthers the cause of normalization,” she explains, “[but] as offensive as this cartoon and others like it may be, it can also function as a catalyst for talk about sexual health issues such as sexual abuse, rape, and honesty within sexual relationships.”
After receiving a flood of emails and phone calls that deemed the cartoon unacceptable, the newspaper’s editor Zoe Hayes, a senior in the College of Liberal Arts, later issued an apology for printing the graphic. “I deeply regret that I didn’t see what was depicted,” she stated “and I apologize to the campus, to any survivors of sexual assault and, well, to any decent person who saw the graphic Friday and was offended.”
Image Courtesy of http://www.purdueexponent.org/