to the boys of yale

The reason for this letter. Chant.

Dear Men of Yale:

Well. I guess you all find yourselves in a heap of shit this morning don’t you. Another one of those bad decisions you wish you could take back? Who started that chant anyway? Can you even remember?

I doubt any of you actually meant a single word that was coming out of your mouth. Didn’t realize the magnitude of your words. I’d also bet, a lot of you didn’t want to be chanting it. You knew it was wrong, but what are you to do? It is a fraternity and you need to get in and fit in.

Oh. I get it.  I have three boys myself. You should know, they are all good kids. Every one of them. But? Sometimes they do things that make me wonder how I could have possibly raised them with morals or values. Just the other day, one of my boys said, “No means yes mom.”

I hastily responded, “Don’t ever say that again and NO it doesn’t. No means NO. And? What you just said is called RAPE.”

“Lighten up mom. I’m just kidding,” he responded. We had a conversation about humor and certain things not being funny. No. Matter. What. But? I don’t probably need to explain that to you. I am sure this morning you are painfully aware how NOT FUNNY your words were.

So you see. I know you aren’t bad kids, for the most part. Because I know mine are good and sometimes just misguided and need a kick in the ass. I also know they look up to you college boys. And? Look at the damage you just did to my message.

I am sure your mothers all cried themselves to sleep last night, horrified by your actions. “What did I do wrong?” They wondered.

They are probably all sorts of embarrassed by your behavior. Because let’s be clear, your actions are a direct reflection of us, your mothers.

It is, in fact, our job as mothers to teach you to respect women. Because, if not us? Who else? Not that your dad’s don’t remind you of it’s importance, I am sure most of your fathers have told you to respect women over the years. But. We mothers? We should make sure it is ingrained in you.

Which I must say is a bit of an uphill battle these days. With music calling us whores, talking about beating us and taking advantage of us while we sleep. And holy crap, the teenage girls all sexed out in the media and the overwhelming amount of celebrities and sports figures treating women like hell? The message has gotten quite grey.

So. Let me take the time to remind you of some things. I promise, I am almost finished. Stay with me a few more paragraphs. It’s the least you can do. Also? I hope that I have properly conveyed to you, that I am not judging you. I am, however, asking that you take this moment to grow. To gain an understanding of the words you used.

What you were actually saying, when you chanted your little ditty, “No means yes,” is that you support rape. Hell. You were calling for it. Each and every one of you stood there chanting over and over, RAPE IS GOOD, RAPE IS GOOD. Are we all clear on that now?

I ask you now to imagine looking your mother in the face and chanting those words with the same excitement and enthusiasm. How does that feel to you? Yelling it in her face?

Did those of you with sisters think about the message you were sending her? Imagine your sister with her boyfriend and as she is screaming, “NO,” over and over, her boyfriend is chanting your words in his head, “No means yes.” Still think no means yes?

What about your girlfriend? Each and every one of you that stood there chanting. Would you really rape her? Would you continue if she said, “NO?” Still think no means yes?

One day some of you will have daughters. And then? You will truly grasp what your words meant. Your sweet baby girl, out on a date with her boyfriend. When she comes home crying and destroyed because her boyfriend didn’t listen to her when she said, “NO.” You will remember those words you stupidly chanted in college that one fateful day.

You have a chance, all of you, to right the wrong. Apologize. Create a campaign that the boys of Yale know that “No means No.” Write papers on the topic.

You, intelligent men, of Yale. Make something good out of what you did. Not just because you got caught. Because you are genuinely sorry for your actions. Because you respect women. Because you would NEVER want a teenage boy to hear your words and act on them.

But mostly? Because you are men now. And real men? They respect women.


  1. Sass Ified says

    Brilliant post. And you’re exactly right. I’m curious what they’d be yelling in front of their mothers…or down the road, their daughters.


  2. says

    And when you apologize, do NOT say "I apologize to whoever may have been offended by my statements." NO NO NO NO NO.

    Say, clearly & with true remorse "I am sorry for what I said. It was wrong." End of message. No qualifiers or excuses. Just "I’m sorry."

    Dads have a role too – they need to model respect.

    Awesome letter.

  3. says

    How I’d love to be a fly on the wall today…great post…I truly hope they have learned and will do the RIGHT thing, in the wake of having done the WRONG thing.

    I’ve already begun to correct my son when he says no means yes…no NEVER means yes. And I will not tolerate him disrespecting ANYONE…ESPECIALLY girls/women.

    But yes, having one of each, it is a 2 way street, and I am modeling the same for my daughter.

  4. Guest says

    In preschool I had a little boy follow me around and pinch my rear end I felt more annoyed than violated but my mom was furious and ingrained the phrase "No means NO" into my head from age 3. She let me know that if I didn’t like something I had every right to stand up for myself and let anyone and everyone know I wouldn’t be a victim. I frequently used this on my dad in tickle fights and he respected my requests in order to show me what it meant and should feel like to have the power of "No" (It didn’t work when I didn’t want to eat salad however).
    Through high school guys would inappropriately grab at me and my friends and I would call them out… loudly. When they’d respond back with crude names my friends (guys included) would put them in their place and say I had a right to be upset and they were being bitter and needed to move on.
    I finally recognized the work this simple phrase had prepared me for when a guy I was dating in college decided his will and strength were superior to mine. I was fortunate enough to get out of the situation with little bruising mentally or physically because I knew how to stand up for myself. What I did gain was immense gratitude to my mom for teaching me early that its OK and at times necessary to stand up for yourself regardless of how upset you’ll think someone will be at your response.

    Its never too early to teach your kids fundamental lessons about self respect and respecting each other.
    Thank you for this post and challenging these young men to grow from their experience.

  5. says

    I wish those men of Yale read your post. It’s sad to think that ‘instructed’ people like them have the ability to yell something like this. Hopefully those are just words coming out of their mouths and they don’t really mean it.

  6. says

    I had not heard about this, but way to kick some serious butt, my friend. I think you should send this letter to both the editors of the Yale newspaper and the local papers surrounding Yale.I mean it — and you know what a nag I can be. This is a great piece of writing. Send it to your local paper, as well.

  7. patois42 says

    My fear is that anyone apologizing is doing so to cover his ass when he runs for office in 15, 20 years. Where’s the heartfelt apologies? Can they face up to their mothers about this?

  8. Musings de Mommy says

    Stephanie–this is a tremendous post. An articulate, thoughtful and powerful response to these young men. Bravo. You should send a link to the President of Yale. Seriously.

  9. Momma Drama says

    I had not heard about this either. I saw your tweet and came on over to see what the crap was going on. That’s appalling. I hope their mom’s read this post! I hope every woman reads this post…

  10. says

    I wish I could give your parents a high five right now. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I am incredibly grateful that you were taught the true meaning of the word, no, and how to fight for it.

  11. says

    All that remains to be seen. I just hope their parents don’t encourage them to shut their mouths instead of making them do the right thing and publicly apologize. I know it isn’t easy, and it is humiliating, but I would have my kids apologizing. In a press conference, on Facebook, in a letter to the paper. Anyplace I could find an outlet, I would have them doing it.

  12. SO says

    Thank you for writting this – it has been on my mind all day as I feel very strongly about this. I have talked to both my sons regularly about respecting women etc but thought what you wrote was so good that i finally decided to sit down with both my boys -13 and 10 and explained to them about what the Yale boys did and then read them your letter. Thank you for helping to teach my sons this very important lesson. They both asked questions and we had a very good discussion about this. Mostly though they both wanted to know how such intelligent men could do something so wrong. Like you I have two amazing sons but today they learnt not only that NO means NO but that good people can be led to do stupid things.

  13. says

    I am so very happy to know that I made a moments difference in your boys life. Really. I am. It is why I write daily on this blog about teens and boy issues. It is important to me. I hope that every mother of a son reading this was motivated to discuss it with their boys.

    I especially like the last few words, "good people can be led to do stupid things." How very true that is. Good kids from good parents make mistakes. It is important that we talk about that with them. Momentary decisions can shape the rest of their lives.

  14. says

    Well written Stef!! Speaking from a Dad’s point, "Not that your dad’s don’t remind you of it’s importance, I am sure most of your fathers have told you to respect women over the years." – to be told is one thing, to act out, show, express with words and emotions, walk the talk if you will….is a whole other entity…of which Liam hear’s and see’s from me on a daily basis….no he will not be going to Yale (Cambridge, England perhaps….) :o) Cheers!

Leave a Reply