As I reflected back on the experience I had in this class and all the new, enlightening information that I learned, it became clear that our last months focus on sexual assault really hit home with me. Its weird however, as I or no one I know has ever been sexually assaulted. What drew me close was the act that I had no knowledge at all on the subject and no idea of some of the things I was oblivious to while being at Vanderbilt. Now that Ive taken this class, I believe everyone should have some type of education when it comes to sex and it makes us all do in society. That being said, the TIMES magazine articles that we read about real people and their stories or opinions was the most specific aspect of our chapter on sexual assault that will stay with me the longest.
To begin with, many of the concepts talked about in the articles by TIME magazine were topics that I could personally relate to on a deeper level than some of the other ways the information was presented. The articles focused solely on college campuses which allowed me to think of the time Ive spent at Vanderbilt. Also, topics such as fraternities, which is a very big deal at a school like Vanderbilt, and athletics, because I play tennis for Vanderbilt were even more of a reason that I was drawn to the information. Articles were written about how schools will do anything in their power to deny the fact that it has a sexual assault problem. If an athlete commits a sexual crime, than the school’s athletic program is to blame because the athletic program has a sexual assault problem, not the school. If a frat member rapes a girl, the fraternity system has a problem and thus sanctions thrown at only that fraternity occurs. Other articles talked about different radical ideas such as shutting down fraternities, double standards, and just personal sexual assault experiences to spread the word about an ongoing problem that many people are unaware of. These articles shed light on people in high positions looking out for themselves and not the betterment of the community at large.
Wrapping things up and reflecting back on the first day of class, I can say with complete honesty that my expectations of the course were completely different than the reality. In this case, I was pleasantly surprised and learned more about our culture that we live in as college students and also human nature when it comes to sexual urges. At the end of the day, experiences are what matter most.
Throughout the run of this course we have touched on a multitude of concepts discussing sexuality and gender across the national and global communities. As we’ve discussed topic after topic, I’ve found that there is one key topic that I find ties all of the concepts together. They are all tied together through the policing of sexual and gender related norms. Across all lines of culture and community, sexuality is policed by a set of norms that often are enforced by moral discourse. This affects all aspects of sexuality, morality dictates what society holds as “normal” when it comes to the gender of one’s chosen partner, how many partners one has, where one chooses to be sexual, what age one chooses to become sexual, and even what sexual practices are considered sexual.
It’s no secret that sexual assault and violence on college campuses has recently become very prevalent in media and the minds of students and faculty across college campuses, as well as in the minds of the government; multiple stories and different accounts of sexual assault and rape have been in the the news, forcing attention to be drawn to this issue and for it to be addressed. Recent studies in sexual assault on college campuses across the United States reveal that one in five women report being assaulted on college campuses, which is terrifying considering in the past, cases of this have never been properly reported or given attention. Students and victims of sexual assault have begun to cry out also, bringing attention to this issue. Some of their accounts can be read in newspapers or seen on the news, as the sexual assault that took place on our very own campus here was. Time magazine even devoted an entire issue due to this problem; in this issue, multiple politicians, activists, scholars, authors, lawyers and victims shared their voice and opinions on sexual assault on college campuses and how it should be taken care of.
Two of the articles in this issue that stood out to me the most include an article called “‘My Rapist Is Still on Campus’” written by Emma Sulkowicz, a victim of rape and junior from Columbia College, and an article written by Jonathan Kalin, a student activist who formed a movement for consent called “Consent Must Be Created, Not Given.” In Sulkowicz’s article, she tells of how she was raped the very first day of her sophomore year, and she is near the end of her college life yet her rapist is still free and on campus and will graduate with her. Not only did her rapist commit an act of sexual assault on her, but also on two other girls. Sulkowicz would wake up everyday afraid to leave her room for the fear of her rapist; in the future when she looks back on her experience at Columbia, it will be defined by this. it will be defined by how she received no help from the university when she asked for it and how she will have to life with this injustice for her entire life. When Sulkowicz did reach out to the school for help, administration and the campus justice system dismissed her case and the accounts of what had happened to her.
Situations similar to Sulkowicz’s happen way too often, and are the reason for all of the recent backlash that Universities are facing today; in fact, 55 universities are under investigation by the federal government for lacking in dealing with sexual assault cases on campus properly. Many universities figure that they can brush these cases under the rug for fear of losing prestige and credibility. This may have worked in the past, however, rape on college campuses has become so prevalent, and on some campuses more so than others, that it can no longer be ignored. In recent years, rape culture has been perpetuated due to the media, sexist mentalities, and a sense of apathy from society. Relationships displayed in movies, TV shows, and music’s lyrics lend to the idea of rape and make power based violence seem acceptable in certain situations. Whether people or conscious of it or not, these images and messages are received by people and can contribute to their mentality and beliefs on sexual assault, swaying them to become more accepting, or even apathetic.
In Kalin’s article, he speaks of his movement to recreate the definition of consent and educating people about sexual violence in hopes of preventing it. He asserts that societal norms and the expectation of what college life should be like have created an environment where sexual assault is way too prevalent always featuring repeatedly shamed survivors of assault and perpetrators who plead the crime as one of “misunderstanding.” Although the government has recently stepped in in trying to help prevention, Kalin believes it will take a lot more than just this to change the culture associated with this; in order for it to change, the definition of consent must be considered and changed. Consent is not a silent practice as it appears in many movies and TV shows. It is something that must be verbalized and discussed to ensure that there are no misunderstandings and the participants are on the same page. If consent is an assumed silent thing, then there will obviously be multiple misunderstanding and can lend to the amount of sexual assault that occur on college campuses. Kalin also asserts that consent should not be made out to be a commodity, therefore people should no longer say that consent was “given” or “got,” but rather that is was created. If consent is created, then it should be backed by full understanding on both parties involved.
The recent strides made by the government and other activist organizations have helped the this cause immensely. College campuses have created outlets and resources to aid student victims and give them an outlet for support. Organizations such as Project Safe, Green Dot, and the Margaret Cuninggim Women’s Center all on Vanderbilt’s campus all strive to do this. Legislation has urged and pushed for bills to be written and rewritten to aid in preventing and solving the issue of sexual assault and violence on college campuses. Today, activists are still urging people to take notice of the issue at hand and hope to cease the perpetuation of rape culture on college campuses across the culture. In order for this to happen, college students need to be well informed and educated on the issue, knowing exactly what constitutes as sexual violence.
How could Vanderbilt do a better job of educating its students on sexual assault? Should informing students on sexual assault and violence be required by all universities? How effective do you really think the programs are on Vanderbilt’s campus at aiding in the prevention of sexual assault on campus?
In her TIME Magazine article “The Sexual Assault Crisis On American Campuses,” Eliza Gray describes how the rape reports leading to the media labeling The University of Montana in Missoula a “rape capital” shouldn’t be considered unique to Montana. Instead, she argues, they should be understood as consistent with a terrifying national reality.
As you look around Vanderbilt‘s campus, there is a very strong hook-up culture, and dating is a rare sight to see. This phenomenon described in “Hooking Up: Sex, Dating, and Relationships on Campus” by Kathleen A. Bogle. To do her study she chose a random sample of college students and interviewed them in order to get their perspectives of what goes on on the college campus and why they may believe it is happening.