Kingsmen and LUCHA on That Not-So-Funny Flyer

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A few weeks ago, the Columbia Kingsmen, an all-male acapella group, posted provocative flyers around campus to publicize their concert. One flyer pictured a member of the group with the caption, “Rape Me.”

Last night, LUCHA, a Columbia social activist organization, sent Bwog their public statement in response to the advertisement. Soon after, Lauren Herold, the coordinator of the Anti-Violence Coalition, informed us that multiple groups in the Anti-Violence Coalition (The Rape Crisis/Anti-Violence Support Center, Take Back the Night, V-Day/The Vagina Monologues, Everyone Allied Against Homophobia, GendeRevolution, IRsexC, Lucha, Q, Nightline, the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, and the Panhellenic Council) have also “been addressing the issue over the last few weeks.” Lauren reports that the Coalition recently held a meeting with the Kingsmen, in which they “acknowledged the issues with their flyers and pledged to respond appropriately.” Still, not everyone was offended.

Before posting Lucha’s statement last night, we asked the Kingsmen for a response. You can read both after the jump.

LUCHA’s statement:

This is a statement to address the problematic advertisements the Kingsmen a cappella group recently displayed on campus. Our point of focus is the flyer depicting an effeminate man with the words, “Rape me,” in quotations. Although this particular advertisement is the focus of our statement, it is among many the Kingsmen has produced that are both offensive and problematic. Firstly, it is important to note the composition of the group and its focus. The Kingsmen, as an a cappella group, are recognized as an entertainment group and have remained in that sphere up to this point. As such, the Kingsmen have no apparent purpose for furthering healthy discussions about social issues, such as sexual violence, affecting our community. These posters capitalize on the provocative nature of the subject matter without consideration of the detrimental effects on those who could be, and certainly were, negatively affected by the intended message. The Kingsmen and their posters fail to acknowledge or address the gravity of rape and sexual violence as an epidemic, not only in our campus community, but throughout the world. To continue, the fact that Kingsmen is comprised entirely of men emphasizes the inconsideration of the message given the reality of the disproportionate amount of women to men who are affected by sexual violence. Additionally, besides making a caricature out of gay men, the subject’s “desire” to be raped trivializes the link between sexuality and homophobic hate crimes. Furthermore, by subscribing to the patriarchal gender roles in which femininity is synonymous with submission and passivity, the flyer offensively stereotypes both women and gay men on campus. It is toxic messages like these that propagate the isolation and polarization of minority groups. In light of the recent suicides due to the violent stigmatization of homosexuality throughout our communities, this flyer is especially insensitive, unacceptable, and heinous. As passionate defenders of social justice, we, LUCHA, feel obligated to formally address this dangerous lack of social awareness. These actions are not contained in a vacuum; their effect is felt beyond the Columbia campus community. Disregard, not only for sexual violence and homophobia, but also for other local and broader acts of violence, perpetuates oppression, war, and hate.

The Kingsmen’s response:

To the Columbia community,

Kingsmen would like to apologize for creating the flyer in question and posting it around our campus. The flyer is unduly offensive and inappropriate to be posted in the community. Leaving aside the various undertones one might read from it, at the very least the statement “Rape me” is incendiary and hurtful to many members of our community. Worse, it is incendiary for no good reason. Kingsmen may often use off-color statements in an attempt to lampoon social norms or comment on current events, both on campus and in the media – the flyer in question does neither. Instead, it wrongfully makes light of rape and makes us an offensive group, rather than an entertaining group.

So, how did we come to create and post this on campus buildings and dorm bulletin boards? An utter lack of judgment and an embarrassingly complete sense of tunnel vision. To clarify, the young man pictured on the flyer is one of our own members. Many minutes were spent on Facebook in search of the goofiest picture we could find of one of our members; this was it. The combination of the image with the statement was never intended as anything more than a laugh at the expense of that Kingsman. Unfortunately for all, we did not put any more thought into it than that.

Soon after the appearance of the flyers, we were contacted by the Anti-Violence Coalition (AVC), which LUCHA is a part of. Their members were extremely concerned by the content of this flyer and challenged us by voicing various opinions from members of the community. This email, received nearly three weeks ago, started an ongoing discussion that we have carried out through multiple meetings with the SGA, the AVC, and amongst our own group. Through these discussions, we have come to realize that many students have indeed been affected negatively by some of our less tasteful posters, several of which have carried sexual abuse undertones that we had never before considered. We are trying to open our eyes and become more sensitive to all those perspectives we did not see before, with the intention of improving our contribution to the community as entertainers.

At first, we were a little puzzled why LUCHA decided to publish this admonishment so long after the fact, especially given the positive and constructive discussions we have engaged in with both members of the administration and the overarching AVC over these past three weeks. However, we are aware that this comes within a context of heightened awareness of sexual issues due to events of the past month – an epidemic of suicides related to sexual identity and abuse, and the fairly monstrous public display of a “No means yes” mentality by a Yale fraternity. To be ignorant of context is a sad thing indeed, and given recent events it is understandable that LUCHA would desire to clear up this issue in a forum available to the whole community.

Kingsmen constantly strive to increase our understanding of our community in order to entertain most effectively. As such, we must face the consequences of our actions that unintentionally hurt our peers. We stand accountable for what we have willingly posted in public. Know that we are ashamed to have made such a lapse in judgment to put such a callous message next to our name, and we are sorry to have caused any pain to members of our community.

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  1. Anonymous  

    has no one heard the Nirvana song?

    • Anonymous  

      Apparently. I immediately thought of that when I saw the poster. Don't know if that's what was intended or not.

      • Lucha needs to put their guns down  

        Kurt Cobain conceived "Rape Me" as a life-affirming anti-rape song. He told Spin, "It's like she's saying, 'Rape me, go ahead, rape me, beat me. You'll never kill me. I'll survive this and I'm gonna fucking rape you one of these days and you won't even know it.'"[7]

        • ...?  

          "life-affirming anti-rape song"
          "'...I’m gonna fucking rape you one of these days and you won’t even know it.’”"

          ... isn't that completely and utterly contradictory?

          • Anony  

            If somebody said "Rob me" or "Kill me" not as an order but as a way of affirming that such actions won't affect them, and then were perpetrated these two ways, we would still constitute that as a crime, we wouldn't be arguing that they gave consent.

            But then we don't give rape the same benefit of the doubt. We look for consent there, whereas we don't in the other cases.

            Thus you saying that Nirvana is affirming the concept of consent in their song is completely invalid.

            Plus, the Kingsmen poster was also about context - EVERY single one of their posters is known to be funny, or humorous, or mocking, and meant to be scandalous and, generally, laughable. Thus the fact they'd already done this raises the point that they were most likely trying to make THIS a humorous object.

            And also, the argument that there's a Nirvana reference in the poster is very fallacious.

  2. that  

    is a retarded ad....

  3. haha  

    nice job jabbing the spec, bwog

  4. ...  

    it's not a very funny or interesting ad, but i do have to ask... what if the young man pictured is actually homosexual, submissive and into s&m?

  5. Anonymous  

    I have to say, after reading both responses, I think Kingsmen really stepped up and took responsibility for any offense they might have caused. Bravo good sirs. See that you make funny but tasteful(er) flyers in the future.

    Now for LUCHA... they make some good points about how the "rape me" flyer might have been perceived, but they also make the assumption that the man depicted is "effeminate" or "gay," an assumption I certainly didn't come to on my own. Also, why did they release a statement while groups like Take Back the Night, Rape Crisis, etc were silent? Thirdly, I find it hard to take seriously the words of any group that denies another the right to free speech. The Minutemen are a terrible group of human beings, but denying them the right to free speech is not okay, and I cannot take LUCHA seriously until they show contrition for that poorly thought out act.

    • Mouse  

      I agree; I thought that the Kingsmen's apology was actually sincere, which usually doesn't happen in these types of cases (i.e. "oh, so sorry you found this offensive!").

      I wonder if any public statement would have been made if LUCHA hadn't sent out the public admonishment. I'm not very familiar with inter-group dealings; even after the Kingsmen had met with AVC, would they have published some letter of contrition/explanation of the meetings? If not (that is, Kingsmen would privately understand what they did wrong and not do such things again but there was no order to publicly make a statement), I can understand why LUCHA would make a statement to tell the public, hey, this flyer was crap, fyi.

  6. Typist  

    I bet the young man on the flyer only wanted to be taped and made a horrible, horrible mistake.

  7. ryan  

    Isn't lucha that stupid group that started a riot at some speakers event a few years ago?

  8. Anonymous

    I dream someday of a world without those homophobic instruments of patriarchal oppression, the all male a capella group!

  9. note to yale  

    To recap: The Kingsmen made these posters with the intent to mock themselves, not to advocate sexual violence. Nonetheless, it appeared insensitive and offensive to many people, particularly in the context of the recent suicides. They were immediately contacted by the Anti-Violence Coalition and started a conversation with them. Later, LUCHA issued a strongly worded statement attacking the flyers and the judgement of the Kingsmen, but not the Kingsmen themselves. The wording of LUCHA's statement may have been a tad hyperbolic, but the message is clear and it's understandable why they would use such extreme language given the nature of their mission. The Kingsmen then offered a searching and sincere public apology, and the campus media presented both statements, showing how the controversy has been resolved.

    Note how there are no Spec editorials attacking LUCHA for being radical and insensitive, and no generalizations that all-male a capella groups like the Kingsmen must be homophobic and misogynist. Instead, there's a constructive and healthy conversation and a real understanding between all parties involved. That's how you're supposed to do it, Yale!

  10. ...  

    considering that an all-male a capella group at a wealthy ivy league university situated in one of the most metrosexual cities in the world during in the year 2010 is pretty much the gayest thing i can possibly think of (yes virginia, in the literal sense), i find it hilariously absurd that anybody could consider such a group homophobic or misogynist.

    it's a band of singing... merry... men.

  11. BLAXEL!

    IS the best music group on campus and does not condone sexual aggression.

  12. hmmmm  

    i see a flyer scandal that isn't the fault of the marching band.....I shall have to inform them to step up their game.

  13. Hmm  

    Kind of uncalled for on the Spec bashing. They didn't say anything about this flyer in their article.

  14. Anonymous  

    dont understand lucha. it's just a joke, get a sense of a humor?

  15. lol  

    do activist organizations protest anything serious anymore?

  16. Anonymous

    60% of Americans give too much of a fuck.

  17. Anonymous  

    too soon, dude.

  18. Lucha?  

    I'm not trying to say that only groups with a 'directly related' focus should be able to voice their concern over what was probably a pretty stupid poster to begin with, but... Lucha? When did they make the jump from promoting social, political and economic progress in Latin America and the Latino community to putting their foot in their mouth over sex and gender issues?

    • do your research...

      lucha is not only social activist group focused on Latino issues. i've been to a couple of their events that have nothing to do with Latinos. why does everyone make this assumption?

      • Research  

        People make that assumption because Lucha, in their own words, have (or had, at least, back when they were founded right around the hunger strike) it as their mission to "promote social, political and economic progress in Latin America and the Latino community."
        Maybe their mission has changed since then, but the people who remember Lucha as a specifically Latino-interest organization do so for reasons more than just pulling a fake idea out of their asses.

      • because they're all angry latinos  

        thats why

      • ...

        Even if their mission is to promote/ advocate on behalf of issues impacting Latinos, I think it's cool for them to be an ally to other struggles.

  19. Anonymous  

    haha this is awesome

  20. thanks

    I just wanted to say thanks to lucha and anyone in the avc that stepped up and said something about this. reading these comments makes me feel really uncomfortable on this campus. as a victim of sexual violence, i don't think it was funny at all. and this is only one of many offensive posters this group has put up. rape is not something to be joked about. and its kind of disturbing to me that people are taking this so light-heartedly. I hope the apology was sincere, and i hope they keep in mind in the future people who might be affected by these posters.

    • Anonymous

      lol, who are these asshats thumbing someone down who's simply saying that they've been a VICTIM of sexual abuse and found a rape joke poster uncomfortable? Thumb down all the other posts that disagree with you if you want and call them "hypersensitive", but this gal/dude has a reason to be uncomfortable with such jokes. Give him/her a break, for srs.

      (yeah, I just said for srs... me < grammar)

  21. Anonymous  

    Lucha, what a useless organization. "Born in struggle"...right. As if most of these kids have dealt with any kind of struggle. Their students at Columbia for crying out loud, not characters from El Norte. They should take their militancy and go elsewhere.

    Kingsmen, keep it up guys!

    • Anonymous  

      Actually Lucha members tend to come from working-class communities and communities marked by violence. Not everyone at Columbia is equally privileged and spoiled. Some of us have jobs.

  22. Anonymous  

    Lucha, what a useless organization. "Born in struggle"...right. As if most of these kids have dealt with any kind of struggle. They're students at Columbia for crying out loud, not characters from El Norte. They should take their militancy and go elsewhere.

    Kingsmen, keep it up guys!

    • Anonymous

      How do you know that no one at Columbia or in Lucha has ever had to struggle? I think we all struggle, and some students at this school have legitimately overcome a lot of obstacles to get here. There are struggles of being poor, of being a racial or ethnic minority, of being the first family member to go to college, of being an undocumented immigrant, of identifying with a less common sexual or gender identity, of being the subject of sexual or physical violence, of being depressed or suicidal. We at Columbia are fortunate to be here and on the whole reflect a privileged sector of society but that doesn't mean we don't struggle.

    • call a wambulance  

      because the scared white boy suddenly got called out. you think you can talk about people's struggle, that just shows how ignorant you are.

  23. Have you seen them?  

    the kingsmen are a bunch of pretty chill dudes, nice guys in general. creating these controversies is what they thrive off of. wait three semesters, i guarantee the whole thing starts up again with another poster...

    anyways someone needs to challenge the PC, tightly-woundness of Columbia

  24. I love the kingsmen!  

    Im sure they were sorry about the signs, people need to leave them alone.

  25. why

    are people attacking individuals instead of having a dialogue about the issue? who gives a shit about your attitude towards lucha or kingsmen. this is about rape being something funny to people on this campus. no one thinks this is a problem? scary world. seriously.

    • indeed

      comments on this are way more offensive and scary than the Kingsmen posters. Say what you will about either the Kingsmen but they are still just a small group of guys who did something stupid and acknowledge their mistake. The rest of the campus (or at least the Bwog readership) jumping on this as "just a joke" and attacking people coming forward with their stories is way more frightening.

  26. DUde

    I think I will take him on that offer. It's hard to find poontang around campus.

  27. umm  

    youre all still unemployed, quit bitchin and go get a job

  28. anon  

    TBTN co-signed the letter drafted by the AVC as did the Rape Crisis/Anti-Violence Support Center. They were not silent.

    • Anonymous

      LUCHA also co-signed the letter drafted by the AVC. They just decided to write their own response in addition. It's less a matter of other anti-violence groups being silent and more a matter of LUCHA being overly vocal about the issue.

  29. really lucha?

    "The Kingsmen, as an a cappella group, are recognized as an entertainment group and have remained in that sphere up to this point. As such, the Kingsmen have no apparent purpose for furthering healthy discussions about social issues, such as sexual violence, affecting our community."

    How can you possibly make this statement? They are an arts group and fellow Columbia students. Artists throughout history have made commentary on social issues, what makes our fellow Columbians any different? In fact, they are. You can be assured that they know a thing or two about the world and also might know a little about marketing themselves to a public. These things are around us, and although you may infer on the intention of such graphics, you are probably not right. I would bet a lot that these guys didn't mean this poster in anything but an innocent way. If you ask me, the fact that you find it so offensive and make it even more so is why we have so much racism and hatred and segregation in this world.

  30. CC'XIV

    Hmmm... I wonder what Conversio Virium has to say about this.

  31. ahem

    as Tobias Funke would put it:


  32. We$t Coa$t Hippie

    Balderdash I say, I say! See here! LUCHA's position is rather shallow and pedantic. Kent, back when I used to sleep with Yale professors for cocaine, nobody Johnny with two spats and a cap would have ever dreamed of becoming quite so, well...dare I say "rowdy" over a such a silly little joke as this. Though I'm quite sure that if I ever came across that dashing young stallion in the photograph, I might just take him up on his offer. Tchah, I say, tchah! And bring me another maitai!

    I also feel compelled to mention that the Kingsmen scallawag with the positively bombastic fustian makes my nipples more sensitive than the Pacific Rim economy.

  33. CC 13  

    Organizations like Lucha need to remember that they exist for actual, good purposes, and stop expending their energy dealing with fake problems like enforcing a right not to be offended that doesn't actually exist.

  34. ...  

    Couldn't they have just said "Grape me" instead?

  35. Ea$t Coa$t H!pp!3

    Oy Boy's

    Lets face the juice here. The man juice. Nothing is wrong with good looking boys on posters. Clearly the Kingsmen are SATIRZING (thats definitely a word).

    I wish i had a good looking boy on a poster.

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