Content note: Rape threats.
Dean Saxton, a student at the University of Arizona, is hanging out on campus with a “You Deserve Rape” sign. Because you’re dressed like a whore, of course, so you’re asking for it. The University says there’s nothing they can do, because he hasn’t violated the student code of conduct. I would suggest that maybe it’s time to rewrite the student code of conduct?
Saxton is working in the proud tradition of Westboro Baptist Church to feed his insatiable, pathetic need for attention by being as loudly bigoted as possible. And while Saxton’s speech is particularly odious, the University of Arizona is a public school, so I’m not sure they could constitutionally limit what he says, even if they had the will to do so — which it seems they don’t. The ability of the school to step in depends largely on contextual information that I don’t have: In particular, whether Saxton’s speech could be reasonably understood as inciting violence. If Saxton crosses the line from generalized awful statements to personally targeting, threatening or harassing others, then both the university and the police would have recourse. If he lives in student housing, I would imagine that the university could reasonably argue that his actions create a potentially unsafe environment for other students, and remove him from that housing — a guy who thinks that women “ask for it” by dressing in a particular way is not a safe person to have around women.
If the university actually wants to take some steps to deal with Saxton, I’d love to see them make a dedicated effort to sexual assault prevention: Increase funding to women’s organizations, host sexual assault awareness events and workshops targeted at male students, require that all fraternities host trainings about combating sexual assault, etc etc. Dedicate the events to Saxton; let him know that his efforts are being rewarded by promoting the very opposite ideas that he holds.
And for students, report bad behavior on Saxton’s part. If he threatens you, document it and report it immediately. Keep an eye on your friends when he’s around. Don’t allow him into your social gatherings or work groups. I doubt that someone like Saxton will go on to be a gainfully employed fully functioning member of society, but give his employers, professors, church leaders and other contacts a heads up. He is potentially dangerous, and his behavior is a huge red flag. Make sure everyone knows about it.
As for interacting with Saxton himself, to each their own, but I’d recommend ignoring him. He wants attention, badly. After reading some of his ramblings online, I’m not sure how he got into college in the first place; he does not seem particularly bright nor even basically coherent. I suspect his future is not particularly wonderful, unless he gets on the right-wing gravy train. And that will only happen if people pay attention to him (yes, I realize the irony of mentioning this in a blog post dedicated to his actions). So here’s hoping he fades into obscurity.