What’s Sex Got to do With… My Final Blog Post

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Throughout this semester, I have learned a lot more than I actually thought I would. There is a huge relationship between sex and society and the two connect in many more ways than just one. Above everything else we discussed about in class, I think one of the most important things we talked about regarding the relationship between sex and society is hook up culture and how it affects rape culture (especially on college campuses). This topic is incredibly relevant to myself, as I am a college student. It is also very true in the sense that college campuses thrive from the hook up culture. And along with this, the hook up culture that involves drugs and alcohol and partying—contributes to the existence of a rape culture on college campuses.

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Everyone knows that while college is very grueling academically—the weekends can be pretty fun. College campuses are filled with frat parties, house parties, sports tailgates, and bars. To go along with these, there is always an abundance of both alcohol and drugs available and easily accessed. When all of these things come together they create an environment that a hook up culture thrives inside of. After every weekend (or night that students go out) you hear various stories about who hooked up with who and what they did. As young teens begin to grow up and become more sexually active, the hook up culture continues to become even more popular.

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My first week of college reinforced the idea that dating barely exists anymore. Perhaps it does exist outside of college for the graduated generation, but it is irrelevant and absent in college life. There is something about college that largely encourages a hook up scene opposed to a dating culture. If two college students are to start a relationship with one another—it will most likely emerge out of a hook up. Students will usually start “hooking up” before anything else. Then, after they become exclusive, or realize they like each other—they may switch from “hooking up” to being in a relationship. Typically, that is how college (and even high school) relationships form—nobody starts out by dating.

Alcohol is also a huge factor in the hook up culture. A lot of students feel the need to consume alcohol in order to feel more comfortable, outgoing, and not as shy—when going out to parties. Without alcohol in their system, some students fear possible rejection and think it is necessary to drink in order to have fun. Once alcohol gets into the mix of things, sexual assault can become more and more common. While I do think sexual assault and power based personal violence will also happen without alcohol being involved—it can definitely increase the chances. Another thing about alcohol is that when people start consuming it and grow to be intoxicated they can no longer give sexual consent. This can cause a lot of problems. Although I don’t think there is any chance that dating will ever take over the college hook up culture, college students do need to be careful and be aware of what could possibly happen at parties once alcohol and drugs are involved.

 

 

 

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What’s Sex Got to do With….The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show

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Every year, young girls and women from all over the country wait in anticipation all Fall for the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show to come around. This year it took place on Tuesday December 2nd and will air on television on December 9th. The infamous fashion show is filled with ridiculous outfits, crazy runway walks, concert performances, and stick thin models. Each model has a perfect body that is extremely skinny yet curvy, pretty hair, flawless skin—realistic right? This fashion show, while it may be fun to watch, also puts the wrong idea into the minds of young girls and women throughout the country.

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While the fashion show is extremely entertaining—not to mention that it is filled with beautiful women, it is extremely demoralizing to women. Not only is it demoralizing, but it also most definitely objectifies women and sexualizes them. It shows women all over the world, and especially young girls, that body image and appearance is all that is important for females. It does not matter if you are an intellectual—what matters is what you look like. The fashion show reinforces the widely speculated idea that men only care about the way a girl looks, but not about her personality, intelligence, or interests. Young girls already are constantly reminded of this everyday through billboards, magazines, television shows (etc…) and the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show comes around to prove that this point is true. We live in a world that currently sexualizes women ALL the time. There is a stigma in current day society that all a girl is good for are her looks. Women are constantly being sexually objectified in advertisements for clothing, perfume, or even for food. This sexualization of women in the media is a huge reason why young girls commonly develop body image issues, eating disorders, and distorted views of themselves. As a societal community we need to change this ideal and show women everywhere that looks are not all that matter—or the only thing that will get you places in life.

 

 

Project Safe and Power-Based Personal Violence

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Project Safe is a program on Vanderbilt University’s campus that provides help, support, and information for students, in regards to sexual assault. A few weeks ago, two of Projects Safe’s leading staff members: Cara Tuttle Bell and Wanda Swan came into class to further explain to us what they do at Project Safe, how they do it, and why they do it. Cara is the Director of Programs for Project Safe and Wanda is a Prevention Educator and Victim Specialist. The whole point of this program is to further spread information about power based personal violence (which includes sexual harassment, sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking) to the Vanderbilt community and act as a safe space for students (who are experiencing any of these things or know someone experiencing them) to go to. Project Safe also supplies information about what defines consent, healthy relationships, and how to maintain a healthy sexuality—to Vanderbilt students. Project Safe works specifically with people who have been affected by some sort of power based personal violence and helps them through their experience by reaching out to other Vanderbilt resources. These resources include the Psychological and Counseling Center, Student Health, the Equal Employment, Affirmative Action and Disability Services Department, and the Vanderbilt University Police Department. Cara and Wanda work with these victims of power based personal violence and outside recourses to come together and create a safer place for students to feel comfortable in and more protected.

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In their class presentation, Cara and Wanda explained how they have recently written a twenty-three paged paper defining what sexual assault really is. The document is called the 2014-2015 Vanderbilt University Sexual Misconduct and Power-Based Personal Violence Policy. It outlines Vanderbilt University’s “principles of equal opportunity” and it “seeks to establish and maintain a safe and healthy environment for all members of the University community.” It provides information on steps that students should take for prevention, education, and training—all in relation to power based personal violence. The lengthy paper works to provide an elaborate definition of what power based sexual assault is and all of the aspects that go along with it. The document touches upon where to seek immediate assistance and ongoing assistance, all the different types of offenses (within power based personal violence), how to report an incident, how investigations (of sexual assault) work, and additional information for students, faculty members, and staff members.

While this document specifically touches upon multiple different aspects of sexual assault and is very descriptive—realistically… not many people are going to read it (especially students). I see this as a pretty big problem. Young people, specifically students, need an accessible definiteion of power based personal violence in order to fully understand what it is. While working on my final project, it became clear to me that very few students on Vanderbilt’s campus are actually aware of and could explain what power-based personal violence is—and what it involves (after reading survey responses and listening to interviews from students). Most students were either unaware of the rape culture Vanderbilt has, could not definite what rape culture or sexual assault is, they had no idea what any of the bystander programs are or do, and just in general—knew very little about the topic overall. Students have an unclear definition of sexual assault and many just do not even know what it is or what qualifies as sexual assault. Obviously somebody needs to inform Vanderbilt’s student body of the issues our campus is facing and about the issues themselves. Students need to be knowledgeable about sexual assault, power-based personal violence, and the resources available to them (such as Green Dot and other bystander programs). If we can somehow reach the younger generation in an accessible way (unlike a twenty three page long document) there could potentially be a lot of positive outcomes. If students actually understood what power based personal violence is and how to protect themselves and combat the issue, Vanderbilt’s community could grow to be a much safer place. Once students become truly education on the topic of sexual assault, only then can we see improvements in community life and perhaps a decrease in sexual assault on campus. It is very important students gain awareness on the matter in order to be able to keep themselves and their peers protected. Along with this, all victims of any form of power based personal violence should feel safe enough to come out and tell people what happened. No student should ever feel ashamed or embarrassed. Victims should be informed enough about power based personal violence and all of the bystander programs available around campus. That way, if a student is affected by sexual assault they know about the resources they can go to for any type of help they may need. Overall, Vanderbilt University needs to work towards finding a way to easily, but affectively, inform students on Vanderbilt’s campus in order to generate a safer and all around better campus environment. There may not be an easy solution, but it will be worthwhile (and save young people) in the end.

 

Do you think project safe does a good job of living out its mission statement? How do you think it could be more affective in helping Vanderbilt students? Do you think the Vanderbilt Community is aware of and uses Project Safe as a resource for those who have experienced sexual assault? How do you think we can help Vanderbilt students to better understand the definition of sexual assault and what it really entails?

 

 

 

Merrill Durham’s Doula Presentation

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A few weeks ago, a local Nashville Doula (named Merrill Durham) came into our class to explain what she does for her profession and why. A doula is a woman who helps pregnant women throughout the magical journey of pregnancy. Doulas provide both essential moral and necessary physical support to expecting mothers and guide them through the grueling nine-month process of being with child. The word doula actually comes from the Greek meaning “a woman who serves.” Doulas understand birth as an irreplaceable experience that women will remember for the entirety of their lives. Doulas offer a close companionship and comfort to pregnant women and help lead them through their processes with reassurance and encouragement.

Merrill Durham was first introduced to natural birth only a short 4 years ago in 2010. Immediately after experiencing her first home birth, she began to understand how natural, normal, and pure birth is and should be. She began to attend multiple in home natural births over the next few years. She studied up and read every book and watched every movie on natural births and doulas and fell in love with the profession. It was clear in class as she was presenting how passionate she is about her work and about in home births. Merrill, herself, then became pregnant in the year of 2013 with her own child and her passion for natural births continued to grow. She birthed her daughter in her own home and experiencing the birth first hand only made her realize how special and natural birth really is. Merrill Durham was in labor for four days. While this seems crazy (opposed to a hospital birth in which labor typically is much shorter), Merrill loved the experience and it brought it her closer to her daughter in a unique way.

Studies have shown that there is an increasing amount of benefits to having a doula available at births and throughout pregnancy. When doulas attend a birth, there tends to be 25 percent shorter labors, a 50 perfect reduction in Caesarean births, a 40 percent reduction in pitocin use, 30 percent fewer requests by women for pain relief, and 60 percent fewer epidural requests by women. A lot of women also choose to do home births instead of hospital births because there are multiple benefits. While hospital births are now most popular and well known (due to their convenience), home births historically have been very normal. A lot of women choose to have a natural in home birth because they are in the comfort of their own home and are mentally much more open to giving birth. Also, it is more beneficial for the child because the mother is in a much more relaxed environment. Furthermore, the absence of medication is better for the mother as well as the children in the long run—and doulas often encourage a completely natural birth with no pain medication.

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For some reason, there are various myths about pregnancy that have been spread over the years that scare expecting mothers. While pregnancy should be thought of as a wonderful, happy, and joyous experience—it is stereotypically categorized as extremely painful, tiring, and altogether terrifying. This is where doulas come in. Most doulas grow to be very close to their pregnant patients because they spend a lot of intimate time and help the expecting mothers get rid of all of their pregnancy fears. A lot of women think that pregnancy will ruin their body and stretch out their vaginas, which is very untrue. Women also think that pregnancy is going to be the most painful thing they will ever experience—and that will make it a horrible experience.

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After Merill Durham’s presentation in our class, I thought a lot about in home births versus hospital births. Although most people do not traditionally use a doula, I think I definitely will when I decide to have children. The way Merrill explained her experience—it made it seem like she grows extremely close with her patients and they are exceptionally comfortable around her. I think it is very important to have that tight nit relationship with the people and doctors involved in your own pregnancy. Women who have negative experiences during their pregnancies most likely are unfamiliar and distant from their doctors and nurses. I feel that if I had a doula who I was close with while going through my own pregnancy, it would be much more pleasant and comfortable. Doulas usually attend births for women who desire to have natural births without medicine or painkillers. I am not sure if I could have a baby with no medication—although Merrill explained natural births as being very beautiful. Whether or not I have a natural birth or choose to use pain medication, I will definitely hire a doula. I want my pregnancies to be as sacred and memorable as possible and enjoy the process instead of being uncomfortable and scared.

 

Would you prefer to have a home birth or a hospital birth? Do you want to have a doula present at your birth? Why do you think there’s a certain stigma on doulas and in home births? What stigma do you see associated with them? Why do you think women aspire to be doulas instead of nurses? Aside from the physical benefits, what are the mental benefits (provided by the doula) for a woman giving birth?

Racial Hierarchies in Relation to Immigrant Women

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Many women that are associated into a Diaspora culture are, more often than not, discriminated against, and seemingly forgotten about. Informal power unfairly shapes the sexualities and employment statuses of immigrant women. These women constantly find themselves in situations that they have no control over. Basic human rights, social justice, and fundamental equality are all nonexistent in the lives of undocumented female farm workers. People of considerably higher power take advantage of these undocumented workers, give them zero respect, and take away their dignity. With a strong sense of fear of deportation and no longer being able to provide for the families, female immigrant workers remain silent and accept sexual abuse. Racial hierarchies confine immigrant women to a status of diminished personhood where their rights, culture, and sexual agency are all reduced to nothing.

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Undocumented laborers that come to America have very limited options for work. Jobs in the field are really the only available choice that illegal immigrants have. In the NPR documentary, “Rape in the Fields,” the hidden truth about what really happens to female farm workers, in the fields, is portrayed. This film exposed me to a horrible secret that most people throughout the United States still are oblivious to. Undocumented laborers, but very specifically—women, are raped and abused by their superiors. It is very easy for their powerful male superiors to get away with these horrendous acts, in the land hidden within the fields. These illegal immigrant women feel that they cannot speak up or else their supervisors will rat them out and they will have to leave America. This sad, yet real fear of deportation is the only reason male supervisors are getting away with this sexual violence. Many of these women have families and children to support—so they accept this violence and remain silent. No person should ever feel like this. Female undocumented laborers are truly being torn down to nothing. They have no voice, no say in anything, no protection, and absolutely no rights.

Although racial hierarchy plays a major role in the discrimination against immigrants—male hierarchy plays a bigger role. Female immigrants are easily taken advantage of and forgotten about. I do think there is a strong sense of racial hierarchies, but women are being dominated by men—regardless of what race their superior is. These men feel that they own the women and can make them do whatever they desire. Because the undocumented women are in the United States illegally, the men know that these women will basically do anything to stay. This is just disgusting and unacceptable. The males in charge use their mechanisms of power to reduce women to plain nothingness. Along with the awful nature of this situation, nothing has been followed up by our society to put it to an end. This abuse and rape is most definitely still occurring in the fields and women are still being silenced and stripped of their personhood, along with their rights.

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The undocumented female field workers who speak in “Rape in the Fields” risked a vast amount by speaking out publically. Their lives consist of days spent fearing deportation. Along with this fear of losing jobs and being forced to leave America, these undocumented workers also carry heavy loads of shame with them. No woman should ever be ashamed of being a victim of sexual assault and violence. Which is why California has created a new bill as an attempt to prevent and put an end to sexual violence towards female workers in the fields. The Bill is called “Bill to Protect Female Workers From Sex Abuse.” This Bill was originally brought up after the documentary “Rape in the Fields.” The law has made sexual harassment training mandatory for labor contractors and supervisors—and all other employees. Interestingly enough, before this Bill came into law—agricultural supervisors with 50 or more workers had to go through sexual harassment training every other year. Now all supervisors and employees, regardless of the number of workers employed, have to go through training. Along with these minor improvements to our justice system (California’s at least) the state can take away the license of a supervisor who has harassed an employee. This Bill gives me hope (and I am sure it gives female field laborers hope as well) that our country, and maybe even global society, is opening their eyes to the reality of sexual assault. While sexual assault and violence in the field has not been put to an end quite yet, the California Bill is helping us to get there.

We live in a society that is advanced enough to be able to comprehend how offensive, horrifying, and disgusting these men are to immigrant women. It was appalling to me too see the NPR documentary. Undocumented women are still receiving the same abuse and neglect. While steps are being taken towards helping the female field workers, undocumented laborers will still always have a fear of speaking up—even if it will get their abuser fired. Female farm workers should feel safe while working and protected from sexual abuse. The undocumented female laborers are being stripped of their basic human rights and are receiving no social justice. Women are constantly being sexually violated, abused, and exploited. As a society, we have to work to put this to an end and give all these women their rights and dignity back.

 

Do you think sexual assault and violence in the field can be stopped? What do you think should be done to help end it? What can be done to help these female immigrant workers?

What’s Sex Got to do With…CASA

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This year Congress released the 2014 Campus Accountability and Safety Act. The purpose of the Bill is to educate the people of our country (and hopefully the rest of the world at one point) about sexual assault and to fight back and stop sexual violence. This is a serious issue we are currently facing and it is not going away. Not only is it not going away, but it is in fact becoming an even bigger problem as time goes on. The Bill is very informative and it is a good start, and a conscious effort by America, towards tackling the major concern of sexual assault on college campuses (and everywhere for that matter).

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The CASA Bill begins with the preamble. In it—it explains how, as a collective body of people, we need to come together to combat sexual assault. People need to become much more aware of what is going on around them and then proceed to take action to end the disturbing violence. The language throughout Section 4: University Support for Survivors of Sexual Violence is very strange and differs from previous sections. The section only managed to mention federally funded schools—so school that are not funded by the government don’t have to follow the same rules. The section also used a lot of words such as survivors instead of victims and harassment instead of sexual assault. The transition of word use in Section 4 seemingly confused the rest of the Bill.

#YesAllWomen Live Rally in Seattle supports victims of violence

Overall, the Bill was very interesting to read. If I could change anything about it—I would make a few revisions. I thought the Bill provided quite ambiguous definitions. It could potentially be much clearer and more effective if there were in-depth and specific definitions. The CASA Bill also uses various different words for the same concepts. This was slightly confusing and unhelpful. If the Bill used consistent discourse it would help readers to better understand the concepts. Lastly, while non-federally funded schools are allowed to do whatever they please—I think they should have to follow the same rules in the CASA Bill that federally funded schools do. This would contribute to the decrease in sexual assault…if anything. Although I would change these few minor details, the Bill is very progressive and our country is headed in the right direction.

What’s Sex Got to do With…Being a Bystander?

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Over the years, more and more college campuses have become consumed by sexual assault. There are various cases that have come out and are currently coming out. Although this obvious problem exists (and is horrifying) college superiors don’t seem to be making much of an effort to rid their campuses of sexual violence. Along with this, college campuses have evolved into small little worlds overflowing with drugs, alcohol, and sex. College students have access to all of these things, which contribute to the commonality of sexual assaults on campuses. Recently, the University of Virginia uncovered terrifying news.

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A freshman girl was gang raped at a fraternity party at UVA in 2012. The story finally emerged from her silence. A group of boys violently assaulted her in an upstairs room of a frat house. After she told her friends what happened, they convinced her to stay silent and not tell anyone. This is almost encouraging sexual assault. How could her friends remain bystanders? Friends like hers and people like that are part of the reason why sexual assault is not going away. The bystander affect is simply unacceptable and contributing to sexual assault on college campuses. Rape culture is becoming out of hand and society needs to come together to put it to an end.

Alcohol also plays a central role in the hook-up culture surrounding college students. Without alcohol, many students feel like they cannot gain self-confidence to show interest in other people or deal with potential rejection. By consuming alcohol—these worries momentarily disappear. Most college events are centered around alcohol as it is constantly acting as a “social lubricant.” The significant role that alcohol plays in the hook-up culture is slowly becoming a necessity. Along with this—I think alcohol is a leading factor in sexual assault. The young girl who was only a freshman at UVA was brutally attacked and then convinced to keep it a secret. As a society, we have to come together to end the bystander affect and help victims to speak up and receive justice. If we can make that happen it may help lessen sexual violence.

 
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