Final Reflection: A Post on Society & Sex

Upon being asked the question of what the most important and influential concept to understanding the relationship between sex and society covered in this semester, I began to think about all the different concepts talked and read about in class. When thinking about everything, I began to see connections between different terms that came up throughout the semester that were discussed that I had never seen before. The concepts are all fairly different, yet are all still related in some ways because of the manner that society has been formed over the years. Agents of socialization, sex education, social constructions, and heteronormativity have all become interconnected, creating an environment of hostility towards people who do not identify as heterosexual.

The agents of socialization people are exposed to impact their views on everything in life. However, their views on sex are affected more so than some other aspects of life are. The socialization of sex and sex education has a more prevalent impact on how a person forms their ideas and views on sex. The environment a person was raised in, their religion, schooling experience, family, friends, and the media all heavily influence the formation of what sex means and should mean to a person. But, this can be dangerous- with the amount of societal constructions (such as what “good” or “normal” sex is, gender, etc.)  that exist today, it is easy for the manner in which a person was socialized to negatively affect their views on sex or gender. For example, many religions do not condone homosexuality, so if someone is raised in that environment, it is likely they would judge and discriminate anyone who is homosexual.

SInce gender is a social construction, it easy to stereotype and discriminate against those who do not fit into the gender binaries that exist today (boy and girl). So, those who appear as  lesbian, gay, queer, bisexual, or transgender are easily stereotypes and judged. The heteronormative ideals that are held by the majority of the people in this country also lead to stigmas and discrimination. When people who have other sexual orientations other than heterosexual, they are often mistreated by society and can even be susceptible to violence, sexual violence in particular (as seen in the video of the transgender man who used the bathroom of a New York McDonald and was beat for it by the manager, yet was charged for a misdemeanor when in actuality he was the victim ).

Over the years, this problem has perpetuated. It has become easier for discrimination and violence to occur without any repercussion on the perpetrator. The connections between these terms and these societal constructions and manifestations all lend to why society is as it is today and why people discriminate, act violently toward, and outcast nonheterosexual people. Having a good understanding of all these terms allows for a person too see the interconnectedness and understand why these horrible things occur. It allows for people to be aware of  the problem and not lend to it or be an enabler.

The (Grande) Finale

At this point, it’s no big secret. We’ve covered enough material for us all to know how sex and society are very much related and feed off of each other in the world we live in. We’ve learned how gender norms and identities limit and sometimes alienate certain groups or factions in society. It only takes one person in a group to do something wrong for society to turn its back on the entire group.

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What’s Sex Got To Do With…My Final Thought?

Before taking this class; Sex and Society, I never really thought about sexual assault, how common it was, or understanding it from an academic stand point. I now know so much information that really has shifted my thinking in the best way possible. I feel like I have the knowledge to pass on to others and would be able to help anyone with questions in understanding various topics we have discussed such as; the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, queer, intersex, asexual community, BDSM, sexual assault, the hookup culture, and how society influences sexuality. However, in my opinion, the most influential and most important topics that we discussed are LGBTQIA communities and the hookup culture. The reason why I believe these were the most influential is because of how prevalent they are in the college scene and within society.

Learning about LGBTQIA was incredibly influential because I wasn’t very familiar with what really goes on in the community and what everything exactly meant. I had no clue what asexual meant before this class, I didn’t fully understand the process of a transgendered person, I didn’t understand the difference between queer and gay or lesbian, and finally, I didn’t fully grasp the impact that legislation plays in a person’s life that falls into one of the LGBTQIA categories. I also think one of the most helpful and impacting parts of this topic was when the LGBTQIA group came to our class to share their stories and answer any questions that we had. It was great to hear first hand accounts about what their experiences were like when they came out and what motivated them to be in this organization. After listening to them speak, I quickly learned how important it is for these organizations to be on college campuses all around the country because it is the best resource for someone that needs guidance in trying to figure out who they truly are. Also, learning about this topic has made me more sensitive about what I talk about and how I phrase my words because I realize how easily I could offend someone if I’m not careful.

The other topic I felt was most beneficial and influential was discussing the role of hooking up, whether it is on campus or after college. Within this topic, I felt it was necessary to discuss the battle against sexual violence and how much of a role it plays on campuses. I had no idea that one out of five women would be sexually assaulted. That statistic shocked me and still shocks me to this day. Discussing how frequent sexual assault is was important for me so that I can be more aware of the people around me. I have also used this to be safer on campus and to watch out for my friends around me if we go out. We discussed the role alcohol plays in hooking up and how dangerous it can be. Learning about this is beneficial for every college student to learn, especially before they enter their freshman year. Overall, this class has been incredibly important and helpful in learning about sex and society. I have learned so much about the topics that really matter and really impact our society.

When Will Universities Finally Understand?

As rape cases are becoming more and more public on university campuses, more is being done with this terrible problem of sexual assault. One out of every five females will be sexually assaulted on campus and one out of sixteen males will be sexually assaulted on campus. Why are these numbers so high on campuses and how can we stop this problem? It seems like the more people know about this, the more people will do something about it. On November 19, 2014, an article was released by Rolling Stone magazine about a rape that happened on the University of Virginia’s campus to a freshman girl. She is just now sharing her horrific story, but sadly it’s a story that is too similar to other rape victims.

From Rugby Road to Vinegar Hill, we’re gonna get drunk tonight
The faculty’s afraid of us, they know we’re in the right
So fill up your cups, your loving cups, as full as full can be
As long as love and liquor last, we’ll drink to the U of V
—”Rugby Road,” traditional University of Virginia fight song

This fight song sets the stage for the female student that was raped on Virginia’s campus because of the effect that alcohol had on her perpetrators and the influence it has around campus. After reading about what happened to “Jackie” (the name was changed in the article to Jackie for her anonymity), many things line up perfectly with what we have discussed in class and with what has happened in other cases of rape victims. In the article, one of the quotes that I could most relate to was: “Jackie’s orientation leader had warned her that UVA students’ schedules were so packed that “no one has time to date – people just hook up.” We find this same type of culture on the Vanderbilt campus. I wonder if it has to do with the level of academics at both universities- the students are so dedicated to succeeding in the classroom and with extra-cirriculars that they do not feel the desire to date or have the time. Do you think this is a valid reason for hooking up? Do you see this trend on campus or with other campuses?

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. This was true for Jackie. She went out to dinner with a Junior in one of the best fraternities on UVA’s campus and afterward went to the fraternity house for a party. They went upstairs to “talk” and when she got in the room there were other guys in there waiting for her. A sad and scary quote she gave in the article was about what one of the guys said about her: “Grab its motherfucking leg,” she heard a voice say. And that’s when Jackie knew she was going to be raped.” This quote can be a reality for many people, more common than what we realize. Jackie was raped by multiple college fraternity guys in a small amount of time and could not protect herself. Forty four percent of United States sexual assaults are perceived to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and this was no exception in Jackie’s case. She explained how for three hours she could smell marijuana and hearing them drinking alcohol while seven different men took turns raping her. They abused her sexually and violently and Jackie escaped around three am once she was finally alone and she woke up. 

Once Jackie escaped the horrific scene and found her friends, the friends did not want to take her to the hospital because it would ruin their reputations on campus and Jackie’s. In the article, it explains how Jackie recalls what was said from her friends about what to do; “Jackie listened as Cindy prevailed over the group: “She’s gonna be the girl who cried ‘rape,’ and we’ll never be allowed into any frat party again.” I believe that this issue is why many people do not report when they have been a victim of sexual assault. It is a topic that can hurt so many people, that victims are afraid to share what had happened to them. The fear of reliving the story and the fear of their perpetrators out weighs their ability to go to an authoritative figure who can help. While I was reading this, I was wondering if the University of Virginia had an organization like Project Safe on campus. After the representatives from Project Safe came to our classroom, I realized that this organization is necessary on every campus because it truly is a safe place for people to get help and learn what their next step is after being a victim of sexual assault. One in five women are sexually assaulted on campus but only twelve percent actually report the crime to the police. The importance of an organization like Project Safe would have helped Jackie figure out what exactly she needed to do. 

What are the next steps to prevent something terrible from happening on campus like it did to Jackie? How do you think we could better educate people about the seriousness of sexual assault on campus? This needs to end but I believe it begins with us.