Final Post and Reflection

Similar to everyone else it seems, before taking this course I was not sure what to expect. While I expected a class addressing sexual intercourse solely, I was surprised when I arrived the first day and we began delving into the material we did. From learning about sexual assault to Marxism to racial hierarchies to LGBTQI, there has certainly been a wide spectrum of material we’ve learned. Although all very important, I believe my favorite thing we learned about this year and the most influential to me was heteronormativity in American culture.

As we learned, heteronormativity is the belief that people fall into distinct and complementary genders with natural roles in life. Although subconsciously compulsive heterosexuality is something we each are engrained with from a young age, I never fully accepted the social problems behind this. In our modern world between movies and TV shows and songs, this idea of man and woman is the only concept that is ever portrayed. Heterosexuality is depicted as “normal” whereas everything that is not considered “heterosexual” is then displayed as abnormal. We’ve become accustomed to seeing this type of social script displayed in our everyday lives. It was not until I took this course that I began recognizing little things that show compulsive heterosexuality and heteronormativity in our culture. I do believe there is a problem with compulsive heterosexuality today. It alters people’s minds and opinions on what’s “right” or what is “expected” and thus creates this binary which all people feel as if they must follow. This binary is encouraged through traditions like prom king and queen and love stories like The Notebook or Titanic. It is an unfair expectation that all people must follow this “way of life”, yet we still expect people too. There was an interesting post earlier this year on the song, Let It Go from Frozen. In this post, the writer talks about how this song demonstrates someone breaking free from the binary, and not caring about what people say or think about who she is. It was something I’d never really considered when hearing this song, but it is a great step I think to starting a new era in Disney. This song is one recent example of the maybe shifting views on sexuality.

From another angle, heteronormativity not only discriminates against those considering “abnormal”, but it promotes male dominance in everyday life. There is certainly a stereotype about how our world should be run: men in the work place, women in the kitchen… right?  There is a quote by Kristen Barber that I think perfectly highlights problems within our society. She states that “sexuality is a social construct…hetero-sex in general is a mechanism by which men dominate women…in order to understand the subordination of women in the United States, one must analyze the practice of heterosexuality (NSS 45).” I find this quote to be so true—unfortunate, but true. Ultimately, I also believe male dominance is a form of heteronormativity and the “expectation” of relationships. This class has taught me that we must work to end these expectations and binaries.

What’s sex got to do with… Project Safe?

A few weeks ago, two representatives from the Project Safe Center on campus came in to talk to us about their work here on campus. Project Safe is an organization on Vanderbilt’s campus that is working to prevent all types of power-based personal violence. This includes sexual violence, intimate partner violence, stalking, and identity-based targeting. Project Safe hopes to help those affected by power-based personal violence by answering questions, connecting members of the Vanderbilt community with on and off-campus resources, and more. The Project Safe Hotline is available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, to speak with any victims of abuse or assault. I think this is organization is a great resource on Vanderbilt’s campus. I feel that with hook-up culture being such a prominent part of the social scene in colleges today, having a resource like this is very beneficial and extremely necessary. We have studied some pretty wild statistics regarding sexual assault on college campuses. According to research, one in five female students will be assaulted during their four years of college. This is an incredibly high number on any scale.

Project Safe is a great resource because with sexual assaults occurring more frequently than maybe expected, it’s comforting to know there are people out there who are there to provide support and guidance. An amazing part of Project Safe is the fact that there are only two women working for this organization. One woman is on call twenty four hours a day to help any student who needs it. The Project Safe Center is a great start to helping and working to stop assault on campus, however, with assault numbers being so high—I wish the center could be expanded and more publicized. It’s incredible the number of presentations the women of Project Safe have done in just one month… I certainly believe Project Safe is in the works of becoming even more known than it already is.

How do you feel having more advertisement of the Project Safe Center would affect Vanderbilt’s campus when it comes to sexual assault? Do you think it would be beneficial for Project Safe to talk to all freshman students when they first come to school?

Slut Shaming vs. Prude Shaming: The Double Standard

Freshman year is a time to let go of your past, meet new people, and start a new life in a new place. Time to let go of high school, right? Well what happens when you finally get to college? What is the expectation of the social scene and interaction with the opposite sex? First off, there is certainly an expectation of “hooking up” in college that is almost unspoken. In a new environment without parental supervision and the ability to do what you want when you want, a lot can happen. Despite a new place and new times, there are certainly still double standards that present themselves.

Unfortunately, in today’s world we feel the need to have to label everything that comes through us. From “straight” to “gay”, or “slut” to “prude”, or “ugly” to “hot”, it seems as if we always need to categorize people. But what satisfaction do we get from this, besides making ourselves feel better or worse… A common theme I see in young people today is the need to “slut-shame” versus the need to call someone a “prude”. Slut and prude are two words that both share a negative context. To females today, no one would ever want to be labeled as a slut. However, on the contrary, no one wants to be labeled as a prude either. It’s a lose/lose situation. Yet, why is it that when women have multiple partners and are considered “slutty”, it is the worst thing in the world? While no one’s number should matter, the sexual standard between men and women is alive and well. Men who sleep around are considered players and studs and are admired by their friends for their “game”. While women, on the other hand, who sleep around are deemed sluts by both men and women and are then looked down upon. Now how is this fair? For some reason, however, in modern day men simply aren’t judged like women are when it comes to sexuality.

It’s interesting how recently, since taking this class, I’m more prone to noticing sexist ridiculousness of slut shaming displayed in movies. Some movies are beginning to address the double standard and expectations between men and women’s sexuality. Women shouldn’t be attacked for their right to say yes to sexual activity, and women shouldn’t be attacked for their right to say no; however, it is something that we will continually be scrutinized for no matter which way we choose. One movie that I specifically noticed calling out this double standard is The Breakfast Club. There is a scene in this movie that pretty much sums up slut shaming and the Madonna/Whore Complex all in one go. The Madonna/Whore Complex is one that either classifies women as virgin-like, similar to the virgin Mary, or whore-like. These are the women considered “sluts”. In The Breakfast Club, after everyone is berating Clare (Molly Ringwald’s character) about her sex status Allison expresses something that is so true in the world today. She says, “Well, if you say you haven’t had sex, you’re a prude. If you say you have you’re a slut. It’s a trap. You want to but you can’t, and when you do you wish you didn’t, right?” In Kathleen Bogle’s, “Hooking Up”, she addresses the double standard of men and women that exists today. Bogle discusses how women face judgment when they are promiscuous, while men have the freedom to be as sexual as they want. It is this type of negative reinforcement that creates the double standard between men and women.

Another interesting quote by Bogle is when she states that, “Rule #1 for women: do not act like men in the sexual arena… For women who are active participants, the hook up system is fraught with pitfalls that can lead to being labeled as a ‘slut’” (103). This double standard creates the idea that women are the prey for men’s predatory sexuality.  A man is supposed to try to sleep with a woman, where as a woman is supposed to resist the man or else be labeled a slut.  It is an idea that should be offensive to both men and women alike. So what kind of measures can we take to end slut shaming and prude shaming? I think we simply have to learn to relax and move at our own pace. No one can give into anyone else’s expectations and no one can enforce anything on other people.  A man or woman who wants to wait for marriage should not be shamed for their decision, and neither should a man or woman who is more open in the way they approach sex.  Sex shouldn’t be something anyone feels pressured into, rather it should be something agreed on by mutually two consenting people. All in all, I think once acceptance of each person’s sexuality and choices is made, slut-shaming and prude-shaming can be ended and avoided, and double standards can cease to exist.

Do you think this double standard between men and women will ever end? Or do you think women will always be categorized as a “slut” for being sexually active? Why do you think this is in the first place?

The Power Exchange

Women’s bodies are exchanged in a way during transnational exchange that is very similar to that of international affairs. During this, women are frequently subjected to lives of discrimination, abuse, stereotype, objectification and many more. While trying to find identities in new countries, migrant workers tend to be more inclined to being objectified as women; in a world where surviving is the most important thing, how far will women allow themselves to be sexualized and objectified to stay alive?

A prime example we saw of women’s bodies being a source of exchange was in the Rape in the Fields video we watched in class. This documentary portrayed young undocumented workers coming to the United States in search for a job, yet finding themselves mistreated and abused in more ways than one. These female workers come to find a job, desperate for money they are willing to do whatever it takes to support their families. However, in the process, they are forced into nonconsensual sexual exchanges with their bosses. There is an informal power exchange occurring because these women do not feel as if they can stand up for themselves due to the positions they’re in. They have no real choice or autonomy over their bodies. In exchange for a job, female undocumented workers feel as if they need to surrender to the abuse and violation. It wasn’t until within the last ten to fifteen years where one woman decided to stand up for herself, her body, her dignity, and for women all over who don’t have a voice. She went to court to file charges against her boss. This was one of the first times the court systems responded to this sort of cry for help.

One may argue that anonymity gives women a chance to reclaim their sexual lives, but in the case of undocumented workers, anonymity makes them more vulnerable to abuse and violation. In Gonzalez Lopez’s article, the concept of capital femenino is discussed. And what is capital femenino you may ask? This notion views virginity as a commodity. Lopez introduces this term to explain how women and men assign higher or lower value to woman’s premarital virginity depending on the socioeconomic context in which they grow to maturity. Similar to the body of women, virginity of a woman is seen as an article of trade that helps women acquire a higher or lower value. As a result of this, women’s choices begin to be something that is overlooked and undermined. No longer do women have a say in how people perceive them and their decisions. Sex is what defines someone as a “woman”. During this, people’s expectations are not met and even worsened by sexual oppression. Although different from the power based violence we see in the Rape in the Fields video previously talked about, this concept of capital femenino and the notion that women’s bodies are up for exchange can also be seen as a power exchange. The power is now in outsiders to put forth their opinions and expectations on young females. They have the power to judge, accept or deny the bodies of a young woman. When women feel they have to be a certain way or obtain certain things to please those around them, power based objectification is taking place.

In Lee’s article of Filipina women in Lebanon, we once again see an exchange of power in this culture because other people are in control over Filipina women’s sexuality. There is a dispute where the ideas of “binit” versus “sharmuta” is juxtaposed. “Binit” is the “virgin” perception, whereas “sharmuta” is the whore perception. This creates an integral double standard which is intensified for the Filipina migrant workers. In this culture Filipina workers are highly sexualized, yet, their objectification is seen by them not being allowed to leave their home except on Sundays. On Sundays, however, they are finally allowed to leave their homes…but during this time they take the opportunity to over sexualize themselves. In a society of being told what to do, power is seen through exchange of control. These women are being controlled, told what they can and cannot do, and thus feel the need to over sexualize themselves.

We live in a world today where men’s absolute fixation on women’s bodies undermines their ability to see women as anything other than objects for their consumption. Talents, interests, achievements of the female is overlooked and we’re allowing men to get away with it. On a global scale we see how often women’s sexuality is seen as a source of capital. Sexuality is bought, sold and exchanged although sometimes not consensually. We see how body and race plays a part in sexuality and work through the lives of undocumented farm workers, Filipino workers in Lebanon and women all around the world. In transnational exchange of women’s bodies, we see how they are traded in a way similar to international trade and we see how women are objectified, abused, violated and discriminated towards as a result.

“The Girl who cried Rape”

“She’s gonna be the girl who cried ‘rape,’ and we’ll never be allowed into any frat party again.”

The other day I was on Facebook, casually scrolling like I usually do and I happened to stumble upon an article that was recently shared on my timeline. This article highlighted a girl who was raped in 2012 at the University of Virginia. After being lured up the stairs of the fraternity house she was in by her date, Jackie was raped by seven different men for three hours. She found herself in a dark fraternity house room at 3 am after being traumatized for hours… alone. When she’d realized where she was and what had happened, she rushed out of the house and called her friends to come rescue her. After trying to explain what had happened, one of the guys who came to pick her up stated, “She’s gonna be the girl who cried ‘rape,’ and we’ll never be allowed into any frat party again.”

After such a horrific incident, this seems like the most misogynistic and demeaning comment someone could make. Where is the sympathy and the compassion? It seems these days so many people, men and women, lean towards blaming the victim and making excuses rather than standing up for what is right. This is probably one of the most common reactions because of the false yet common myths about rape. Sexual assault victims may feel humiliated, ashamed, or embarrassed about what they were forced or coerced to do. They may often feel responsible for decisions that they made before the assault that they (or others) may later think led to the assault. Even talking about the sexual assault can be difficult because we risk being disbelieved or rejected. The truth is that rape is never the fault of the victim. One thing our society needs to do as a whole is work towards ending victim blaming.

Thankfully, many people in the world today are working to stop this misconception of victim blaming. From celebrities to scholars to politicians, the blame game is in the works of being ended. One celebrity who is working strongly to try and end this is Law and Order star, Mariska Hargitay. In an article in Time magazine that we discussed in class, Hargitay states, “Society continues to misplace blame and shame on survivors—both women and men—on college campuses and everywhere else. That has to end. We must confront the myths and excuses that help perpetuate sexual assault. We must speak about these issues, boldly, thoughtfully and often, because criminals thrive when we are silent, when we are reluctant to engage, when we insist that these issues are too murky to sort out.” Rape should never be an issue that is taken lightly on any accounts. We can’t deny the facts: one in five women on college campuses will be sexually assaulted during their four years, and one in sixteen men will be sexually assaulted. In class we learned that conservative estimates suggest that twenty five percent of women experience sexual assault in their lifetimes and about eighteen percent of those assaults involve rape. Also, eighty to ninety percent of sexual assaults are perpetuated by an acquaintance. In the instance of this case at the University of Virginia, these mere statistics served to be true.

So why do people tend to blame the victim rather than accepting their word and the truth? For women maybe it’s because shrugging off a rape or pointing fingers at the victim may be something done as a form of wishful thinking. It could be done to reassure ourselves that, despite the obvious facts, we could never be so vulnerable to this violence. For men, skepticism is a form of self-protection too. For much of their lives, they’ve looked forward to college as a place to become a man, with no rules and have fun… and of course carrying the expectation that when you consume alcohol, sex may be a given with no-strings attached. However, despite everything, there should be no excuse for victim blaming especially when 60% of rapes have been found to not even be reported. Along with this, 97% of sexual assault offenders will never spend a day of their lives in jail. According to Rolling Stones article, there was a study released in 2002 which explored the truth behind rapists and sexual assault offenders: “Lisak’s 2002 groundbreaking study of more than 1,800 college men found that roughly nine out of 10 rapes are committed by serial offenders, who are responsible for an astonishing average of six rapes each. None of the offenders in Lisak’s study had ever been reported. Lisak’s findings upended general presumptions about campus sexual assault: It implied that most incidents are not bumbling, he-said-she-said miscommunications, but rather deliberate crimes by serial sex offenders.”

The facts are there, so why hasn’t there been more to stop it? In a world where rape statistics are so high and it is something that cannot be avoided, why is there not more to be done to prevent rape and get awareness out there? What more can be done to end victim blaming, and promote compassion among all people when it comes to an issue as significant as sexual assault?

What’s sex got to do with… The Notebook?

Writing a total of 365 letters to your loved one: one for every day of a year, waiting to have sex with someone until you are in love with them, claiming the person you are dating as your “boyfriend” or considering yourselves “going steady”… all of this seems like such a foreign concept to us, doesn’t it? Such romantic gestures, yet we don’t really see them take place anymore. In the age of hooking up and college flings, do we even really know the meaning of dating?
In today’s society we are so consumed with who’s hooking up, we almost forget how dating even originated. As I was watching The Notebook and admiring a relationship between two fictional characters, I realized how much times have changed between then and now. What happened to the old fashioned calling on the telephone or act of “going steady”? In Kathleen Bogles’, “Hooking Up”, she touches upon the different eras of relationships. From the “Calling Era” to the “Dating Era” to the era of “Going Steady”, Bogle captures the evolution of relationships from this to the “Hook-Up Culture” we know today. Having sex because you are in love seems to be and old past-time and casual sex and one night stands seem to be more prevalent than ever.
In “Hooking Up”, Bogle highlights three sexual scripts that have occurred throughout history. The first is the “calling era”. For the first decade of the twentieth century “respectable” young men would “call” on respectable young women at their home. The object of the call was to spend time with the woman of interest as well as her family, especially her mother. Her mom had all the power to say who is allowed to come into their home and “court” the girl. The second script after calling culture was dating culture. Dating culture lasted throughout the 1920s-1960s. Surprisingly, dating culture in this time was used in the lower class, or it was considered rebellion of the upper class. Dating culture was beginning to become more prevalent when it became more common for young people to leave their houses and go on “dates”. As for hook-up culture, it began around the 1960s and it was especially prevalent on college campuses. Ever since then, dating has become harder to find and relationships like The Notebook almost seem fairy-tale like and unrealistic.
Will the era of “hooking up” ever end and will chivalry become a thing again? Or is modern day hook-up culture here to stay?

What’s sex got to do with… Boyfriends?

Dating in college… it almost seems like a long lost past time. Other than the occasional long distance relationship or high school sweetheart, what are the odds of seeing a relationship in college? Hook-up culture is such a prevalent thing now-a-days in college students, dating seems like a lost art. However, I will say for the few out there who came into college with boyfriends, I definitely feel as if hook-up culture is seen from an entirely different lens.
In Kathleen A. Bogle’s book, Hooking Up, she discusses how in the 1960’s the concept of dating shifted to what we know as hookup culture. This was specifically seen on college campuses. She explains how college parties present opportunities for sexual encounters, and alcohol as another huge contributor to college hook ups. This is due to alcohol weakening a person’s inhibition and increasing their chances of engaging in sexual acts. Now there’s nothing inherently wrong with casual encounters and sex, after all, it is a natural part of life for people. However, I find the attitudes toward college to be polar opposite between someone with a boyfriend in college and someone without. It’s interesting how we, as college students, don’t even realize how much of an effect “hook-up culture” has on us… from what we wear when we go out, to where we go, to how much we drink… everything is based off of the hope and assumption that we MIGHT meet someone when we go out. I mean who doesn’t dress to impress the opposite sex? Life with a boyfriend in college makes you realize the extremities of hook up culture. With a boyfriend, there’s no pressure to always look your best or partake in the hooking up: no walk of shames, or regretful nights, or awkward “next day encounters.”
I think there’s definitely an unspoken pressure among college students these days to partake in hookup culture. Having a boyfriend can alleviate the assumption that you will hook up with someone. And of course there’s the classic line: “I’m sorry, I have a boyfriend” which can save you from almost any situation. I think without even realizing it, we overlook how big of an impact the “hookup culture” in college truly has. Although casual sex has been something that has gone on for years, I think in recent years this idea of hooking up has been the driving force behind many decisions made by young people in college regarding going out and how to act.
So the real question is: is it better to go into college with a boyfriend? Or is it simply a myth that girls act a different way in college when they have boyfriends versus when they don’t? How does having a boyfriend lessen social pressures when going out…