Hidden in Magill: A Problematic Culture

A note from the Editor: This article contains strong sexually explicit and violent imagery, as well as triggering language. If you would like to respond to this piece, please email mrippel@haverford.edu. We will open a space to discuss this further in the coming days. Location and time will be posted soon. 

“Fuck his homo ass!”

What?

“Oh Fuck Yes! Plugged up ANAL sex! Dude on Dude!”

What the hell is this?!

“Man, this slut was better when we were here.”

Let’s be frank: this is part of Haverford.  This is a culture we allow.

These writings can be found in the second tier men’s bathroom of Magill Library.  Between descriptive sentences of a comedic nature and movie titles describing people’s experiences in the stalls lies that little acknowledged truth of Haverford. The discriminatory writings are offensive, inappropriate, and an outright abdication of the tenets of the Honor Code.  Further, they are a continuous, uninterrupted violation of the Code.  These messages are devoid of trust, concern, respect, understanding, and every other core value enshrined in the Code.  They work ostensibly to create and perpetuate an environment of exclusion and denigration.  

Make no mistake: these writings are acts of violence against marginalized people.

It is imperative to ask why we are reacting to certain forms of hatred we see societally and not to the blatant attacks that are an affront to the Code and to members of our community with marginalized identities.  How can we allow this to stand?  How can we allow this to continue?  This is not a valid form of expression.  They, in no way, shape, or form adhere to the standards of our community.  This is plain and simply vandalism at its most basic level.  

One cannot justify this method of expression under any interpretation of the guidelines that so fundamentally operate our college. Why?  Because a precept of free speech is a doctrine of accountability and responsibility for what one says or writes.  These scrawlings on the wall adhere to no such guidelines.  I repeat, they do not constitute free speech.  We can talk about free speech all day, but even before trying to engage in any large, nationwide discourse of what that constitutes, we must first confront the inconvenient truth of conscious and collective opportunism to denigrate certain parts of our community anonymously.

“Nothing Hotter than a Hard cock in a WARM mouth of a male sophomore cum dripping!”

There is a substantive difference in our reactions to things like political graffiti and messages of violence than to the intolerable, anonymous expressions against marginalized communities within our school buildings.  We must take responsibility for these actions, on a community level, and engage with the communities against whom this linguistic violence is enacted.

Even beyond the interpretive aspect of this issue, the fact of the matter is that this is a question of equal access.  By maintaining a feeling of ambivalence towards this, we are allowing for the discrimination of trans, gay, bisexual, queer, and other students, faculty, and staff.  Yes, we have a gender-neutral bathroom across from the bathroom is question.  But assume that gender-neutral bathroom is occupied.  One who identifies on the gender or sexuality spectrum (anywhere from transgender, to bisexual, to gender non-binary, to asexual) who feels attacked by these messages would have to go to another tier in order to use a restroom.  Even further, what if all other bathrooms are occupied except for that bathroom?  The pain caused would certainly be undue.

“Any guys like double penetration? That’s (2 hard cocks) in his ASS!! Can you handle it??”

The people writing these things might represent a marginal set of Haverford students, but that is beside the point.  We cannot brush this aside, we cannot make excuses for this, and we most certainly cannot remain complicit in this perpetuation.  The fact remains that several people in our community feel that it is OK to inscribe vulgar hate messages in a very public place.  They write this because they feel entitled to and cannot be endangered by the messages they write.  They write this, and it drives fear of the Other.  The public space in which this is found is, by the way, extremely gendered.  So this is not just an affront to the gay or bisexual community, of which I am a part, but it is also an attack against the transgender community in the way the language enforces a cis-normative tradition that excludes the identities of transgender folks.

The school has turned a blind eye to this, with few, scant attempts at painting over, but refuses to address it as a whole.  Even the people writing on the walls saw through the feeble attempt of repainting:  

I know you’re good people.  I know you mean well.  But you just didn’t think it through.  You really think a fresh coat of paint is going to stop us writing on the walls?  There is only one path to your peace of mind.  You stopping the pointless act of painting a new coat  #nostringsonme.

It falls to the students, to us, to facilitate conversation and act upon those results if our administrative companions will not do so.

It is also important to recognize that this is not simply a bathroom problem.  If I walk 100 feet to the individual desks on the second tier, I find scrawled on the sides and barriers the same writings and drawings, albeit in different iterations.

“Any sweaty gym jock guys ass that can sit on my homo face? I’m horny to lick a hot dudes hole!”

The message remains the same, however much the authorship or locality changes.

I acknowledge that I can find it within myself to forgive the people who wrote these things.  I acknowledge that this cannot come from anywhere else other than hate, fear, and denial.  These messages do not, and they will not, define the people they attack.  It is precisely in moments like this that I appeal to love.  To me, this is the greatest power and the greatest provocateur of change. 

That being said, I do not condemn those who cannot forgive this sort of action.  While I practice a certain form of non-violence and attempt to follow a methodology of love, I hear and recognize the valid forms of expression that react to this in a different way.

If the current debates about free speech and inclusivity on campus were not enough to sway you that our atmosphere is not welcoming or understanding enough of the struggles of those with marginalized identities, this very well should.  Such vociferous and open language on people of marginalized identities cannot stand if we think ourselves anywhere near even a modest interpretation of the Code.  We do not deserve to be called Haverfordians if this is something we can persistently, consciously and unconsciously, allow to perpetuate.  If we are going to partake in a national campaign against hate and oppression, then we must first radically change our approach to violence of all forms within our own community.  

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8 Responses

  1. Stevie says:

    speaking as a trans person, it’s not the words inside a gendered bathroom that get me down. it’s the damn sign on the outside. pls leave us out.

    • Anon says:

      Leave “us” out… so you speak for all trans people on campus?

      • Stevie says:

        Obviously I don’t speak for all trans people on campus.

        that being said, I think it would be fair to say that most trans people on this campus (the majority of whom I’m friends with) would rather not be used as a tool to the end of some cis guy who isn’t in tune with/invested in the issues trans people face ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  2. Chris says:

    idk if you can blanket call these hate speech. as a trans person who operates in the gay male dating community, i’ve found the 2nd tier bathroom comments to actually be empowering voices of queer sexuality in a very heteronormative space… i hate to ask people to explain something that seems obvious to them, but i’m really missing the connection on how these comments are hate speech. they seem more like generic sexually explicit content — which has its problems that deserved to be discussed, but I don’t think that makes it hate speech.

    • Anon says:

      What if it was “Any girls like double penetration? That’s 2 HARD COCKS in her pussy! Can you handle it?” or “any sorority girls pussy on my hetero face? I’m horny to lick a hot girl’s hole!”? Just cause it’s gay doesn’t make it okay…

      • Chris says:

        that’s exactly my point… they’re sexually explicit comments, and if they need to be criticized they should be for that and on that level. just because it’s gay doesn’t make it homophobic hate speech.

  3. suckmylimpnoodle69 says:

    Is this satire? “As a man who ~does gay stuff~” these comments are homoeroticism if i’ve ever seen it. Maybe you haven’t been here long enough to recognize that, but as a Goat, you really should know a thing or two about it.
    Also, David King, you should consider taking a line from Cornel West before you style yourself as a constitutional scholar and so hastily demarcate what is and isn’t free speech. https://jmp.princeton.edu/statement

  4. Jacob says:

    Being gay, I’ve always made a point of stopping by the Magill bathroom, to see what titillating lines Fords have come up with.

    I see that graffiti isn’t legal, but bathroom scribblings generally rank low as an ethical concern. The writings are sexually charged, but I don’t believe being explicitly sexual should imply unethical—after all, queerness is inherently intertwined with non-normative sexuality, and covering up anything too sexual has little to offer those with sexuality-centered identities. That is why I don’t think the generic situation—sexually explicit writings on a bathroom wall—is especially bad in and of itself. Still, what the particular messages say is more important (and I’ll assume the author chose the worst he could find.)

    However, like Chris, I don’t think the writings are hate speech.

    It’s not quite a trans-inclusive space. But, while the author identifies the graffiti, not the bathroom gendering policy, as the source of the problem, none of the quotes say anything about trans or non-binary people at all.

    For better or for worse, the College has designated those stalls as for male-identifying students. And here are a bunch of men, in a space for men, writing about men having sex with men. Even if the scribblers are straight, cis men, they’re writing about themselves as participants. Really, it’s an interaction with, not an attack against, male-male sexuality. It’s telling that any given line is also plausibly written by a gay guy; they don’t say anything bad about gay men or gay sex.

    Even if you don’t believe non-marginalized people can decide what is or is not hate speech, certainly it should at least be objectively clear to members of that group? How can so many people be subject to “acts of violence” against them, yet be unsure if it’s actually violence? While any individual can be hurt by words, and the Code impels Haverford to be concerned about the welfare of each individual, this article was trying to address the issue at a different level: whole groups attacked, with clear intent to harm. Terms like “hate messages” and “acts of violence,” with their legal meanings and clear links to the worst of society, should be used when the animus is apparent and the violence is objectively threatening.

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