The new Violence Against Women Act, which will be signed into law by President Obama today, will include additional requirements about colleges’ prevention of and response to sexual assault. The inclusion of preventative education in the law is one of the more striking and important additions, according to NPR’s Morning Edition. As many remember, the addition of preventative healthy sexuality education is one of the central goals of ASC, and has been improved at Haverford in the recent years. Other tenets of the new law include the requirement that colleges provide additional resources to survivors of sexual violence. So, is Haverford doing enough (check out the revamped Sexual Misconduct resource page for more info)? What else could and should the college do, now that these requirements are clearly outlined in both Title IX and VAWA?
The Wonkblog on the online version of the Washington Post passed along this graphic from the Huffington Post about the legal experiences of rapists in the U.S. “put together by the Enliven Project using data from Department of Justice’s National Crime Victimization Survey and FBI reports.”
50 Haverford students converged to watch the Fire Gypsy do a burlesque striptease, wave flaming batons and dance with a hula hoop on fire. The Field House felt especially cavernous, the lights were shining and we were piled onto metal bleachers in the middle of the track. The Fire Gypsy danced her three songs. No one in the audience seemed to know what to do or how to act, so the space faltered between cricket-silence and objectifying-call-outs and the occasional gasp of surprise (or turn on?)– it was hard to tell. Both devoured by the audience from afar, and interacting with us during her act, the Fire Gypsy got down to her bra and undies in her second song. A male-voiced-person called out “Nice ass!” and a female-voiced-person called out “shame!” while other audience members exchanged looks of disgust. In that moment, I felt like the show became more about us, (Haverford students, audience members, consumers of spectacle) than about her, and I realized all over again how inept we are as a community at having positive conversations and experiences dealing with sex and sexuality, and how much work we have to do.
What could have happened:
50 Haverford students come together, out of the cold and into a cozy, respectable space, but not too frilly or quaint. The emcee welcomes everyone and explains how the performer would like to be treated (“call-outs welcome!” or “She is a professional dancer and would rather the audience be quiet”). The event is a celebration of body and sex positivity, and ideally had multiple body types represented, all to be honored. After the dancing/striptease part of the show, the performers and audience members could mingle and talk about art and sex work. There could have been pamphlets and/or ‘zines about sex positivity and safer sex and consent, as well as condoms for people to take for later (even though they’re available elsewhere on campus).
What was happening for me:
The event didn’t feel like a community, more like a bunch of individuals staring at a young woman eating fire. I felt uncomfortable when people were shouting call-outs that seemed objectifying and rude. I’m not a big fan using call-outs to publicly shame folks, but I also would have been sad to see no one react to the obvious inappropriate (and out-of-line) comments coming from the audience. I was thinking about the queer burlesque show that I attended at the Wooden Shoe in Philadelphia some time last year – that was both more sex positive and more provocative than this one (though in other ways).
I wanted to think Haverford had changed so much that I started to believe in my imaginary Haverworld. It’s pretty easy to do when you spend most of your time off-campus. I’m not trying to shame people or our community- I don’t think that’s productive. I can still imagine a sex positive campus culture where sexuality is celebrated, not objectified and where partners always ask each other before sex. But we have a long way to go until we get there.
Andrew Sawyer was harassed and sexually assaulted at work and he is convinced the DA thew out his suit against the harassers because he is a man. He started a peition to convince the DA to prosecute those responsible for his assault.You can sign it here:
From The New Inquiry; sex worker Charlotte Shane offers an interesting critique of the modern feminist response to rape, and why she believes that her assaults are “not even in the top five” worst things ever to happen to her:
Insisting that no rape is ever “about” sex but is rather about an individual man acting on a patriarchal mandate to sow terror by exercising “power” does a disservice to us all… Though mugging victims may face sadness and anxiety in the period immediately following their assault, we do not expect them to attend therapy for years or to define themselves by the mugging for the rest of their lives. Somehow, we still manage to recognize armed robberies as a serious crime… The truth is that it does not suit our social narrative to recognize that a woman can be raped and… won’t see herself as a “survivor”… (so much more “empowering” than the word ”victim”)…
Admin note: **Trigger warning** for the article linked to this post.
One thing that is often missing from serious discussions of sexual assault on campus is the willingness to see some student perpetrators as criminal predators: repeat sexual offenders who have a method tailored to execute the exact kind of rape that is most likely to be seen as an “unfortunate gray area incident.” Recent studies in criminology, not just victimology, have revealed that this is exactly what happens much of the time. This understanding of rapists as often predatory criminals is an important prerequisite to moving forward in efforts to reduce sexual assault.
Excerpted from the middle:
“It is the modus operandi that keeps the undetected rapist undetected: they correctly identify a methodology that will put them under the protection of the rape culture. They are unlikely to be convicted because the story doesn’t fit the script. In fact, they are unlikely to be arrested because the story doesn’t lead to easy convictions. In fact, they are unlikely to be reported because rape survivors know that the tactics these men use leave them with little real recourse. In fact, these rapists may put the victim in a position where she is so intoxicated or terrified or just isolated and defeated that she never even says “no,” and because the culture overwhelmingly refuses to call these tactics what they are, even the victims themselves may be unable to call it rape for a very long time afterward, if ever.”
Let’s stop differentiating between different types of rape as if they were different flavors at an ice cream shop. Politicians need to get over the pervasive fear that adopting a zero-tolerance attitude towards rape means that people will be able to disingenuously “cry rape” if they’re having a bad day. That’s not going to happen. You know what’s way more dangerous? Allowing legislators like Akin to make declarative statements that are unarguably false. If you don’t know how basic biology works, you shouldn’t be able to hold a government position that gives you real power over the bodies of millions of women.