Does a size-six girl in skinny jeans deserve to be raped? Can a blogger “joke” about sexual assault? Barstool Sports is a mix of sports news, pop culture and minimally dressed women. Most commentary is provided by David ‘el Presidente’ Portnoy who founded the site. Reaching over 1.4 million unique visitors each month, it is an understatement to say that Barstool is incredibly popular. The site is especially trendy in Boston, Philadelphia, New York and many college campuses.
Recently, the website launched the Barstool Black Out Tour, a collection of sponsored parties geared towards college students. Some of the events sell out quickly, but not everyone has been so eager to get their tickets.
Students at Northeastern University in Boston formed Knock Out Barstool to protest the side of Barstool that isn’t so keenly advertised. K.O. Barstool advocates that Barstool has perpetuated a cycle of misogyny and rape culture.
The almost daily segments of ‘Guess that Ass and ‘Wake ups’ are relatively mild comparative to some of the other posts, including “Rate the newest teacher sex scandal” where el Pres grades teachers accused of sexually abusing students based on their attractiveness.
It was the post where Portnoy claimed “even though I never condone rape if you’re a size 6 and you’re wearing skinny jeans you kind of deserve to be raped right? I mean skinny jeans don’t look good on size 0 and 2 chicks, nevermind size 6′s.”
This set K.O. Barstool into action.
The group successfully pressured Northeastern University to publically disassociate with Barstool Sports and the Blackout event. They then gathered supporters and organized a protest against Barstool the night of Northeastern Blackout.
Now the group looks towards the future. Anna Siembor, one of the founding members of and a junior at Northeastern, says K.O. Barstool plans to help other campuses with organize protests against Blackout events and will continue to teach about rape culture and its implications.
“We’re also going to work on establishing a women’s center and sexual assault peer support group here at Northeastern” says Siembor, “[j]ust because the Blackout Party is over for NU doesn’t mean we’re going to cease.”
The group has faced opposition from Barstool’s loyal supporters, or‘stoolies,’ who dismiss K.O. Barstool as ‘fat, ugly, feminists who can’t take a joke’ (some of the most mild of adjectives from the comments section on Barstool Sports).
On January 30, Portnoy himself responded saying, “They are so far off the deep end that it makes you dismiss the entire lot of them as ugly, hairy, lunatics. It’s kind of like with Muslim terrorists. They bring down the entire group.”
But the movement has found supporters in many places, like the popular women’s blog Jezebel. K.O. Barstool is also organizing with students at Tufts, Simmons, Boston University and Boston College, in addition to Occupy Boston.
So what is rape culture? Rape culture is defined as “a complex of beliefs that encourages male sexual aggression and supports violence against women.”
Barstool Sports maintains is does not condone rape at its Blackout Parties, and follows up with, “However if a chick passes out that’s a grey area.” They defend these statements by saying they are obviously jokes.
What is not a joke is that every twenty-one hours there is another rape on an American college campus or the 1 of out of 33 men who is raped. Joking about rape creates an atmosphere that says that rape is okay. The FBI only recently changed the definition of rape to include men and to say that physical force is not always used.
Portnoy’s track record with sensitivity toward victims of sexual assault speaks for itself. He is known to have shown up at an event where survivors told their stories, insisting that he be given a microphone. Although ‘el Pres’ claims that his readers knows that he is joking and that he does not condone rape, but many respond with praise for the misogynistic words that Portnoy writes.
As students party with Barstool Sports, K.O. Barstool hopes people might come to understand the seriousness of rape and the personal trauma of its victims.