How deep is too deep?

This was the exact question I was wondering as I sat in the Lehigh student section, reading this Lehigh University fan’s t-shirt. The picture details a Lehigh Eagle with his pants around his ankles, engaging in forced copulation with Lafayette University’s school mascot the leopard. Unfortunately, it was not the only one that I saw.

Coming from a university whose Jean Clery rape case of 1986 became the catalyst for the Clery Act, it was a shocker to see rape as a logo on some of the Lehigh student’s t-shirts at the rival Lehigh vs. Lafayette game this past Saturday.

I couldn’t stand it. I spoke with the game’s security, the university police and eventually Lafayette’s security coordinator standing in the bleachers to see if there was some sort of protocol to ask the students to remove their t-shirts.

I was told that the most anyone could do was keep a look out for student’s with the shirt and then ask them to remove the shirt, but only if they had something underneath it. No one asked me if I could locate the students with the t-shirts. I went back to my seat frustrated, feeling that sexual violence and discrimination was not taken seriously.

On my way back to the bleachers, I ran into another student wearing the shirt. I asked him where he got the shirt. He said that a bunch of students got the shirt last year by a student run organization that had an affiliation to Lehigh’s football team.

So I asked him directly, “Do you realize what your shirt implies? Do you realize that it supports rape?”

His response, “It’s just a t-shirt. It doesn’t mean anything. You have an eagle painted on your face, does that make you a warrior? Do you want to go kill somebody? And who’s to say it’s a female?”

Maybe in jest, maybe in competition, maybe in “it’s just a t-shirt” style attitude is this type of vulgarity and sexual threat a social norm to simply be shouted in efforts to round student camaraderie. But why? What society do we live in where t-shirts that depict an eagle forcing copulation into a leopard bring students together?

As I woman I was offended. It is estimated that 1 in four women will be raped during their college years. But as an undergraduate student, I was even more offended because I thought that sexual discrimination is something that neither university would tolerate.

I am a filmmaker, a feminist and a sister songwriter. I love Nutella and getting into arguments with republicans who pretend to understand the term poverty line. I believe in the power of our own voices and I know that we can make a difference if we try.

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  • Smiley

    Pretty vulgar t-shirt. Rather puerile. Offensive, maybe.

    But does it support rape? The leopard seems to be smiling, so it could be argued, I suppose, that consent was given (in a hypothetical way).

    But the wearer has a well known defence: he is young. Which is generally considered a mitigation. (He’s still a jerk though.)

    And the First Amendment probably doesn’t apply here (school property, and so on).

  • Stephanie

    Offensive, maybe??

    I’m pretty shirt this is down right offensive. I sat in rows where students were shouting “f*** Lafayette” in effort to put the other team down. To think that it depicts a situation that could be considered consensual would be heinous.

    The front of the t-shirt had a phrase similar to something of “Getting In…Laughayette”. Laughayette instead of Lafayette…as if the mere act of forced copulation was a joke.

    NO one has a an excuse for that type of mindset, regardless of the age. Is he a child because he is an educated college student? I don’t think so.

    The fact that it says, “How deep is too deep?” says it all. It’s showing that painful, forced copulation is a joke.

    • Smiley


      So, what was offensive? The shouting or the t-shirt? The front or the back?

      Your original post mentioned only the back of the t-shirt; nothigna bout the crowd, nothing about the front. And, quite frankly, with a smiling leopard, it is a stretch to equate that with forced copulation.

      As for his youth, I agree with you. I’m only saying that if this ever reached court – surely, it would never get so far, would it? – his lawyer will in all likelyhood mention his age.

      And who was offended? If the game’s security, the university police and Lafayette’s security coordinator reacted so lethargically, I have to conclude that few people were offended, if any.

      ‘Maybe’ therefore seems a very fair qualifier.

      • Angel H.

        How many people have to be offended by something for people to label it as offensive? I’m offended by that shirt. Is that enough people for you?

        The leopard seems to be smiling, so it could be argued, I suppose, that consent was given (in a hypothetical way).

        Fuck you. By the way I’m young, so if I offended you, tough shit.