Dean Saxton, a junior, is notorious for giving inflammatory sermons in the middle of campus. This time, he argued that women are responsible for their rapes because of the way they dress and act. Saxton’s stunt may have been planned in response to the “Take Back the Night” protest against sexual violence scheduled Tuesday night.
Saxton cut right to the chase, bluntly stating that girls who dress like “a whore” have it coming:
Saxton, a junior studying classics and religious studies, said his sermon was meant to convey that “if you dress like a whore, act like a whore, you’re probably going to get raped.”
“I think that girls that dress and act like it,” Saxton said, “they should realize that they do have partial responsibility, because I believe that they’re pretty much asking for it.”
According to the Daily Wildcat, the Dean of Students received “stacks of written complaints, emails and multiple phone calls regarding Saxton’s sermon about women.” Many students directly confronted Saxton, even trying to pull down his sign. Saxton embraced the attention on his Twitter account, posting a screenshot of an article about the Take Back the Night with the comment, “The whores are out.” In other sermons, Saxton has cursed people who are gay, have pre-marital sex, masturbate or have lustful thoughts. His Twitter account is rife with anti-Muslim sentiment, as well; last month he tweeted, “There will come a time when the sword will be put to the heathen.”
However hateful his speech may be, university attorneys told angry students that Saxton is exercising his right to free speech, and has yet to violate the student code of conduct.
While Saxton’s language is more incendiary than the norm, victim-blaming is very much a mainstream habit. The string of recently publicized rapes of high school and college students have exposed how communities shame victims rather than condemn the perpetrators. Dartmouth College is currently dealing with a similar backlash to anti-sexual violence protesters, who received rape and death threats amid a slew of misogynistic and ignorant comments posted online.
University of Arizona, while hardly condoning Saxton’s extremist display, has struggled with its own rape culture. Last year, fraternity brothers were indicted for sexual abuse, sexual assault and kidnapping of another UA student, but the charges were later dismissed. Many other students have reported abuse — 29 reports of sexual abuse and 53 reports of rape in one year — to the on-campus sexual assault crisis center.