Old Dominion University has been taking the Sigma Nu fraternity to task after the raunchy signs posted at a local fraternity house during their campus move-in day. As a SCSU alumni it wasn’t that long ago that I remember seeing these similar signs across campus as students stood around lawns covered in beer cans watching & heckling the new students roll in.
Thanks to the work by our community, particularly the Mayor, the St Cloud Police Department, and St Cloud Community Alliance, who walked campus and went door to door during the SCSU move in period, this type of behavior has been pretty much eradicated. Yes, there are still the beer can scattered lawns as SCTimes reporter, Mitch LeClair, showed us on his walk about campus, but it is a much tamer event than years past.
So if that’s the case, why am I writing this? Why bother to talk about what’s going on in Virginia? Well, we may have gotten rid of the raunchy signs, but the sentiment still pervades college campuses nationwide. That includes our campuses right here in town. Studies show that 1 in 4 college women report surviving rape or attempted raped¹.While that is disturbing enough I think it is the statistics of the recent study Denying Rape but Endorsing Forceful Intercourse: Exploring Differences Among Responders that has been the most enlightening.
The team analyzed the responses of 73 male college students, most of whom were juniors and Caucasian, at one North Dakota university. In addition to asking them about forced sexual intercourse and rape, the participants were quizzed on various items to determine whether they held hostile attitudes towards females. When these young men were asked if they would commit rape if they knew they would get away with it a staggering one third of the men surveyed stated they would force a woman to have sex with them, but would not consider it rape. The statistics drop when the term rape is applied to the question. It is a small survey total population, however I would argue that this does not make it any less disturbing. These statistics are confirmed by Margo Maine in her book, Body Wars, where she notes that 30% of college males state they would rape a woman if they would not get caught and that the number jumps to 58%, over half, when the wording was changed to “force women to have sex”. She also notes that 86% of those surveyed stated that “some women just look like they are asking to be raped.”
Wow. Stop and breathe. Take that in, folks.
When we look at the statistics of crime on SCSU we see 18 reported cases of sexual assault occurring between 2011-2013; 12 of the 18 occurring in 2012 alone. That is an average of once a month if you assume that they were spaced over a calendar year vs. a school year. These are just the reported cases. On average only 11% of college women who experience rape file a report with police¹.
Now I know that there are going to be some out there that think, these are just a bunch of dumb frat boys having a little fun & that doesn’t mean they are going to run around raping young women. And yes, you may be right that not all of them will commit a form of sexual assault during their college years, but according to the statistics a good amount will. Cases such as the infamous Vanderbilt case where a group of men were tried for gang raping and urinating on the unconscious girlfriend of one of the players all while taking pictures and videos of the incident should serve as proof enough. The attitudes surrounding women, sex, and college life have taken on an unhealthy atmosphere on campuses. At minimum, this type of behavior shows a complete lack of respect for women, but secondly, this type of response to the issue offers a lack of accountability for our young men. I am blessed to have many great men scattered throughout my life and none of them would be considered great if they condoned or exhibited this type of mindset. Yet, we allow your young men to parade this type of behavior around if not with signs then with crude jokes, catcalls, and gestures that go unchecked as if they are incapable of better behavior than simply “boys will be boys”. Instead, we continue to chide women for walking at night, wear revealing clothes, drinking too much, etc, all the while ignoring the fact that the best way to prevent rape from happening is to stop young men from raping. We even go so far at times as to accuse victims of making false accusations when in fact the FBI reports that only 2% of rape reports are given falsely. This is the same report rate for other felonies though it does not negate the devastating effects for the people accused as well as true victims everywhere. We find ourselves hesitant to acknowledge men as part of the problem and leaves us focusing solely on women. Rape is not a woman’s issue any more than it is a man’s issue.
Let’s be clear. I am not saying that women shouldn’t continue to take precautions. After all, I still get vaccinated to stave off things like measles and tetanus, but that is just not enough. What we need to do is eradicate the disease. We need to start saying “no” to this type of behavior every day and start to hold young men accountable for their actions. College is not an excuse to be a poor human being. Young men are capable of being more than impulse driven animals. In fact, they should be offended that some among their group are acting this way so that young women feel fearful of them.
So where do we even start? A simple google search of “How Men Should Deal with Male Sexist Friends” will inundate you with article after article on how women should respond and what women should do. There really isn’t much out there, sadly. So let me do my best. No better place to start than with all the young men around us ages 10-25. We talk with them about sex, rape, consent and what that all really means. We talk about what it means to be a “real man”.
- Call out their friends when they say tasteless jokes and comments.
- Speak up when they see someone catcalling women. It’s not cool or flattering, end of story.
- Step in when they see a woman in trouble. They speak up or call the cops. They know silence is an accessory.
- Talk about sex as a personal connection not as a conquest.
- Know that the sexiest part of a woman is her brain.
- Come forward if they know a crime has been committed.
- Speak to women in a way that would please their mother/grandmother/sister not matter who’s company they are in.
- Remember “No” means “No” always. If she is too intoxicated to understand what is going on it isn’t consent. Consent is never implied and cannot be assumed – the absence of “no” does not mean “yes.” Consent cannot be given if there is coercion (to pressure intimidate or force), violence or the threat of violence. Consent can be withdrawn at any time.
For all those real men out there regardless of your age you need to get out there an model that behavior. I know our community is full of them. I’ve met you before and meet more of you every day. As a woman I can sit behind my computer and preach it, but until young men everywhere see you living it we will never get there. I know our community is full of good men. Raising more good men needs to fall on your shoulders. We need YOU to show them how. We women are officially asking for your help in this. It won’t always be easy to speak up; you will be subject to some of the same ridicule and dangers we women face everyday. No, it won’t be easy, but it will be worth it for both genders.
We created some cards if you would like to use them. They make great bookmarks or can be used to hand out to other men in the community. CLICK HERE to download. Simply print double sided and cut. Makes 3 bookmarks per standard piece of cardstock.
For information on how to stay safe on campus:
Reporting a Rape:
Call 911 or local law enforcement. You many also visit a local medical center and tell them you would like to report the crime. To find an appropriate local health facility that is prepared to care for survivors, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline 800.656.HOPE (4673).
Practical Steps for Men to Recognize and Combat Sexism
Practical Steps for Men to Recognize and Combat Sexism (Academic Version)
*This article is a guest post, written by a local member of our community.