A couple weeks ago a very gross and pretty disturbing email from a Phi Kappa Tau brother at Georgia Tech became public. Matthew Peterson, the social chair, sent out an email giving step by step instructions on how to hook up with a girl at a party. The email included helpful bits of advice such as
“Here is how to dance: Grab them on the hips with your 2 hands and then let them grind against your dick. After that slowly alternate between just putting your hand across their stomach, but make sure don’t to go to high (keep it under the boob) or too low(dont try to finger her… yet). After a song, start putting your cheek on the side of her cheek. ALWAYS USE YOUR HANDS OR ARMS TO GUIDE THEIR DANCING in order to maximize your pleasure.”
“If the party is going good (a.k.a. there are a lot of open girls) try to escalate cause it’s awesome. Here is how to escalate: Try to twist her hips around to face you and dance front to front. FROM THERE THE OPTIONS ARE UNLIMITED!”
You can read the letter in it’s entirety here. But trust me- you won’t be any better for it.
But the story took and unexpected turn. Several days after the letter went public, Matthew Peterson published a letter of apology. And it was pretty good. And I believed him. Which is saying a lot, since we’ve all gotten used to canned, crisis driven, media pandering apologies.
Here are a few snippets of his apology. ( You can read it in full here.)
“Misogynistic behavior is everywhere online and unfortunately, my attempt to ridicule it in an immature and outrageous satire backfired terribly and in a manner I mistakenly underestimated. In fact the “locker room” banter that characterizes this email was wrong in and of itself whether or not contained in a written communication. I am both embarrassed and ashamed at this dialogue and realize now that any sexual statement that is demeaning to women is never a joke.”
He goes on to say “I understand the magnitude and seriousness of this issue and the pain I have caused this community. I certainly have been forever changed by this incident. I have resigned as my fraternity’s social chairman and have proactively identified and implemented actions in consultation with the Office of Student Integrity.I know I cannot fix all the damage I have done, but I will strive to become a better man as I work through this episode in my life.”
Here is why I actually took his apology seriously.
– It was a proportional response. The length of the apology, his acknowledgement of the consequences of his actions, his acknowledgments of what he had learned, and his acknowledgement of dynamics that he had not taken into consideration reflected a genuine teachability and humility.
-He took responsibility for his actions and its consequences. He says he is sorry. Not-I had good intentions, so sorry if you are offended.
– He acknowledged that what he did was misogynistic and a misguided attempt at humor.
– He accepted consequences for his actions, stepping down from his position as social chair and taking ongoing steps to learn.
– In my estimation he appears genuinely remorseful and like he is learning and changing from the experience. ( I could be wrong, but I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt here. )
I wanted to write about him because I like it when people defy expectations. I wasn’t expecting a frat bro who wrote a very douchey rapey email to come back with such a genuine and thoughtful apology. Also, I’ve been thinking a lot about apologies lately as I’ve watched the Asian American Evangelical community try to engage with Pastor Rick Warren about a comment he posted on his Facebook page. If you’re unaware of this fiasco I suggest you read up. But my thought has been- if only Warren had given a satifying apology from the start things would not have blown up in this way. There is currently an open letter from Asian American Evangelicals circulating on the internet. You can read it here.
Warren posted a very brief apology in the comments section of a blog. But I think that Warren’s apology was dismissed because it wasn’t proportional. His apology wasn’t proportionate to the level offense that had taken place. He didn’t seem changed, truly sorry, or like he had learned from the experience. In fact, he seemed dismissive. He didn’t take responsibility.
It’s interesting that a frat bro made a better apology than a Christian leader. Especially when acknowledging that we’re jacked up people who sin and make mistakes is supposed to be a fundamental tenant of Christianity. I feel for Warren- I think he has no idea what is happening and how a single facebook post could have spiraled into such a huge public debate. I think it’s in the apology. Maybe this frat bro can teach us all something about how to set things right.