Eckerd College is a private college of the liberal arts and sciences. The college currently has 1,850 students on its 188 acres along the water. Around 40% of Eckerd’s students pursue advanced degrees, and it is one of the nation’s leaders in the percentage of graduates that earn doctoral degrees. As of 2012 the school was even listed as one of forty colleges that change lives according to Loren Pope’s well-regarded guide. Doesn’t that all sound pretty ideal? Who wouldn’t like a fairly well-regarded school, with beach access, and a high-likelihood of earning a more advanced degree in the future? Eckerd’s President Donald Eastman III shattered Eckerd’s idyllic image on Monday, when he sent an email out to the student body briefly explaining the college’s new sexual assault education and awareness program and more extensively asking the students to do their part towards ending sexual assaults on campus. Actually, that still doesn’t sound too bad. Education and awareness are necessary steps towards ending rape culture and sexual violence on college campuses, and student involvement is a necessity as the administration can only do so much. So why did I say that Eastman shattered the image of a fairly idyllic sounding college? To understand that, we need to look at how he suggested students assist the administration in their goal of ending sexual assault on campus. President Eastman gave his students two ways he believed they can help end sexual assault on campus, drink less alcohol and refrain from casual sex. Continue reading
Many large universities dismiss rape in order to keep their reputations up. This is exactly what UVA did when it came to reporting their rape cases. A few years back, a girl
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The University of Virginia recently suspended all fraternity activity on their campuses following an article that ran in Rolling Stone profiling the experience of a girl who had been gang raped at a frat party her freshman year. Nothing fraternity-related can happen until January 9. You can read the original Rolling Stone article as well as a news release here.
The most important concept that I learned this year is the theories of our heteronormative culture. According to Webster’s dictionary, heteronormativity is defined as, “The belief that people fall into distinct and complementary genders (man and woman) with natural roles in life. It asserts that heterosexuality is the only orientation or only norm, and states that sexual and marital relations are most (or only) fitting between people of opposite sexes.” From all that I have learned this semester (so much I never knew before), it may seem somewhat lame that I picked heternormativity but I believe that it is imperative to understanding all the other theories we learned. Additionally, it is this heteronormative mindset that leads to the LGBTQI? community having to fight for inherent rights that they should already have, because sexuality should not define ones identity.
During the first half of this class, we read Introducing the New Sexuality Studies, and discussed many terms and theories within it such as BDSM, adolescent girls sexuality, gay and lesbian sexuality, anal sex, lives of immigrants and migrant workers, porn, fag discourse, femininity, domestic violence, medicalization of desire, sexual socialization, gender roles, and much, much more. However, as our knowledge of these concepts and identities exponentially increased, I kept facing the fact that in our heteronormative culture today, any forms of sexual relationships that is not between a man and a woman are considered wrong. This should not be the case because last time I checked it was 2014. Putting things in perspective, we have smart phones that can talk and are merely years away from self-driving cars, yet society cannot handle the fact that some men like men and some women like women.
Though I found all of this to be interesting, the second half of the semester so far is my favorite. We read Katherine Bogle’s Hooking up: Sex, Dating, and Relationships on Campus, and are focusing on applying these concepts to the hook-up culture seen on college campuses. Though we shifted to the hook-up scene, the heteronormative culture that we have here is still applicable. Though students often think that since there are no parents on campus, they can do whatever they want strings free, this is not true. There is a shift to hooking up instead of dating, but through interviews conducted in Bogle’s book show, there is a double standard between males and females that is also part of our heteronormative culture. For a male to have slept with a triple digit number of girls is extreme but okay, but for girls to even hit the low double digits, there is a stigma and they are considered “whores” and “sluts”. How does this seem fair? Our heteronormative culture is accepted widely, but shouldn’t be. This is not the 1800s, men and women should be equal in all facets.
Before this course, I would have accepted the heteronormative culture that our society holds us to without a doubt, but now that I am enlightened to its discrimination, say we should all take a stance and be equal as human beings where sexual stance has no say in ones identity.
“Ho told me the other she sent a nigga to jail. I thought it was legal to beat your hoe.” These are the opening lines to Kevin Gates hit single ‘Sposed to be in Love. He goes on to describe the current state of affairs between him and his significant other. In short, the young lady has decided that she no longer wants anything to do with Mr. Gates. She has even moved his belongings out of her home as a show of her seriousness in her decision to cut all ties with the narrator. In response to the young lady’s refusal to have anything more to do with him ,he declares that they are “supposed to be in love and ain’t no breaking up, and there ain’t no walking out”.
Throughout the song, Mr. Gates alternates between telling listeners that he will not allow his significant other the luxury of leaving him alone and describing the behaviors that led her to want to leave him. These behaviors include violence as well as lying and general mistreatment of her. This song reinforces the ideals of heterosexuality and power that plays out in our society everyday.
In her article Sex and Power, Kristen Barber argues that hetero-sex is a mechanism by which men dominate women. She goes on to say that in order to understand the subordination of women in the United States, one must analyze the practice of heterosexuality. Heterosexuality enforces gender norms where men dominate women and women are supposed to adhere unquestioningly to this dynamic of male empowerment and female dis-empowerment. In ‘Sposed to be in Love, we can see this dynamic at play. This song depicts a man exercising his dominance over his female partner. She no longer loves him and has decided to leave, but as the dominant party in the situation he feels as though it is his right to set the parameters of their relationship. Including, but not limited to, whether or not she can leave him. Rap music and songs like this specifically make way for such misogyny to thrive.
This begs the question:What will have to be done before our society can see a balance in gender roles??
It is important that students are aware of the safety precautions and risks associated with having sex, so they can make healthy choices during their time at Vanderbilt and in the future. For this Campus-Community Connections Project, we decided to investigate the Sex Educators Club at Vanderbilt University. Continue reading
Rape Culture. This term has come to be recognized by society and is constantly under some type of debate. To some, “rape culture” has been exaggerated, arguing that sexual behaviors and or actions are just societal norms. Others are on the forefront, protesting the ways in which the authorities have dealt with and how they respond to incidences involving sexual behavior. They argue that the people are not protected; our personal rights and freedoms are infringed upon when we experience unwanted sexual actions and the authorities aren’t taking a stronger stance against this behavior. “Rape culture” has to do with the justification of sexual incidences in which people experience unwanted sexual advances or feel uncomfortable in an environment due to sexual behavior. Why, as a society, are we not confronting issues of rape and sexual assault? Why do justifications for these acts exist? To understand why, we have to look at what social constructions surround rape and other forms of sexual assault, and how our language is a factor in shaping this type of culture. In her article, “Sexual Politics in Intimate Relationships-Sexual coercion and Harassment,” Lisa K. Waldner essentially defines sexual harassment, sexual coercion, and the gray areas that comprise such actions that contribute to “rape culture.”
Part of the reason why the issue of rape in society is so ambiguous is because the lines between welcomed/unwelcomed behavior, what is seduction vs. what is coercion, and what is consent have been blurred by social constructs and perceptions of what displays of sexuality are acceptable. To have a clear understanding of what these ideas mean would allow us to abolish the ambiguity and help us determine hard lines between what is and isn’t acceptable. Recognizing the differences in behavior, Lisa Waldner takes a look at what sexual harassment and sexual coercion actually are. She begins by taking a look at various types of sexual harassment, including “quid pro quo” and “hostile environment” scenarios (Waldner 50). In the first type of circumstances, “quid pro quo,” there involves somewhat of a hierarchy of power in which the authoritative position initiates a sexual encounter through sort of a one-sided deal (Waldner 50). Where does this occur? In the professional realm, there is often the opportunity for this type of harassment because individuals may hold some sort of superiority by position. For example, professors may tell a student that they won’t get the grade if they don’t *insert some sexual act here*. The professor is exercising their power over the student’s grade in order to manipulate the student into a sexual act. In another scenario sexual harassment is seen on a more power-balanced level, where one person is making the other person uncomfortable in an environment, but neither is necessarily in a position of power (Waldner 50). As Waldner explains, this harassment may involve humiliation, taunts, or continuous unwanted sexual advances. Is it right for someone to be made uncomfortable in a situation where they are rightfully allowed? On paper, most people would say absolutely not. But they are rarely able to defend this in real situations, mainly because other social factors are also a part of it. To one person it’s a joke, to another it’s extremely uncomfortable and even threatening. Either way, the individual should be able to decide for themselves and be heard when they say that the behavior is unwelcomed.
The next topic that Waldner covers is sexual coercion, where the lines of what is accepted and what isn’t are even blurrier. Whereas sexual harassment may not have been influenced by any “sexual interest,” sexual coercion does involve a certain level of “sexual interest” (Waldner 51). So how does society perceive sexual coercion? For most, there is a discrepancy between what is seduction and what is coercion. Persuading someone into sexual acts, ranging from kissing to intercourse, can be considered seduction. Perhaps someone sets the mood with candles or takes someone on a romantic date, society sees these techniques as very common ways to seduce someone. However, the line is crossed and the actions become coercive when the seducer takes a stronger approach to acquiring a sexual outcome (Waldner 52). Forms of physical pressure and verbal pressure all contribute to levels of sexual coercion. Rape is the most extreme level of coercion, involving the most extreme physical pressure and resulting in the most extreme result-intercourse. But the areas in between are where a lot of this unwanted sexual behaviors tend to occur, and that’s where society sees the ambiguity in coercion.
So why do we define such things as sexual harassment and sexual coercion? Moreover, why do we need to define these things? Simply put, there needs to be some sort of basis that society can refer to in order to understand how to classify certain sexual actions. We need these definitions because there have been so many debates over what constitutes harassment, who should be to blame, etc. Unfortunately, we are still seeing too many cases of rape, assault, and harassment in society today. In an article written by Zerlina Maxwell from Time Magazine at the beginning of 2014, this issue of rape culture was confronted as well. She addresses how authorities were dealing with rape and other such incidences as well as why people were trying to defend this behavior. Here she compiles a list, that couldn’t have been more clear:
- Rape culture is when women who come forward are questioned about what they were wearing.
- Rape culture is when survivors who come forward are asked, “Were you drinking?”
- Rape culture is when people say, “she was asking for it.”
- Rape culture is when we teach women how to not get raped, instead of teaching men not to rape.
- Rape culture is when the lyrics of Robin Thicke’s ‘Blurred Lines’ mirror the words of actual rapists and is still the number one song in the country.
- Rape culture is when the mainstream media mourns the end of the convicted Steubenville rapists’ football careers and does not mention the young girl who was victimized.
- Rape culture is when cyberbullies take pictures of sexual assaults and harass their victims online after the fact, which in the cases of Audrie Pott and Rehtaeh Parsons ragically ended in their suicides.
- Rape culture is when, in 31 states, rapists can legally sue for child custody if the rape results in pregnancy.
- Rape culture is when college campus advisers tasked with supporting the student body, shame survivors who report their rapes. (Annie Clark, a campus activist, says an administrator at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill told her when she reported her rape, “Well…Rape is like football, if you look back on the game, and you’re the quarterback, Annie… is there anything you would have done differently?”)
- Rape culture is when colleges are more concerned with getting sued by assailants than in supporting survivors. (Or at Occidental College, where students and administrators who advocated for survivors were terrorized for speaking out against the school’s insufficient reporting procedures.)
This is what rape culture is. And we are seeing too much of it. From OneInFourUSA.org, there are endless statistics that display the amounts of rape and abuse that men and women are faced with. The one that stands out the most says “1 in 4 college women report surviving rape or attempted rape.” This statistic does not include other types of sexual harassment.
And due to incidences of reported rape and sexual harassment, our very own Vanderbilt University has been put under question for the way in which university officials have dealt with sexual assault.
Looking at such facts and instances makes one aware that not only are these elements of rape culture extremely prevalent in the society we face, but in our actual home. We live at this university and may be no farther than one room away from the sexual violence that at some point, statistically speaking, we very well may face. As individuals we must challenge the rape culture that has woven itself into the basket of society that holds our freedoms and rights. As individuals we must not neglect the reality of rape culture until the day we become a victim of it. We must forget that although we may not know it first hand, it is a part of our culture, and thus we are inherently a part of it.
From 1964-2013, Sports Illustrated depicted countless scantily clad women on its cover. Yet, it continues to be a piece of work that is quietly accepted in the media. Every issue of Sports Illustrated does not generate controversy. Media outlets do not become inflamed with discussion concerning what message so much exposed skin sends to young girls.
Earlier this week, we viewed the “I AM UNBEATABLE” collection at the gallery. The mission of I AM UNBEATABLE is to raise awareness and prevent domestic abuse against children and women. The pictures were very powerful. One of the most moving pictures was a picture of both a mother and a daughter lying in their caskets. They were the victims of a fatal case of domestic violence perpetrated by the mother’s boyfriend. Continue reading