A very interesting quotation from an expert in Women’s and Men’s studies, Dr. Warren Farell

When the issue of sexual harrassment surfaced, then, we were told, “men don’t get it,” when in fact, neither sex “gets” it. Men don’t get women’s fears of harassment that stem from the passive role; women don’t get men’s fears of sexual rejection that stem from the initiating role. Each sex is so preoccupied with its own vulnerability that neither sex “gets” the other’s vulnerability.

The difference? Feminism has taught women to sue men for sexual harassment or date rape when men initiate with the wrong person or with the wrong timing; no one has taught men to sue women for sexual trauma for saying “yes,” then “no,” then “yes,” then no.” Feminism left women with three sexual options — their old role, the “male” role, and the “victim” role. Men were left with less than one option — they were still expected to initiate, but now, if they did it badly, they could go to jail. For an adolescent boy who barely knows what sex is, this is a scary half-option.

Farell, Warren, The Myth of Male Power. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster publishing, 1993, page 16.

It’s high time we seriously consider roles, and discuss all issues involving sex, hookups, and not just assault, because frankly, they are all interrelated! This includes the initiating party’s fears and reservations.

I will admit that Dr. Farrell has touched a nerve in me. I am scared to death of hookups, because of the very possibility that he raised. I’ve never done one, because I’ve seen the confusion, hurt, and anger in both sides, because they were young, and didn’t know what they were doing. I’ve seen two of my closest friends tear all my friends apart. It’s never black and white.

I am moved to tears by some of the signs on campus. Can we please be less callous? Can we actually talk about this and not post accusatory slogans?

P.S. Dr. Farrell is an avowed feminist and masculinist. Before interpreting this quote, please read up on him. It should not be read out of context; I just can’t post more of it.


5 thoughts on “A very interesting quotation from an expert in Women’s and Men’s studies, Dr. Warren Farell

  1. Hi anonymous blogger!

    The reason we’re using “Consent is Sexy” as our tagline is because we want to start a conversation about sexuality as well as sexual violence. You’re right that the two are deeply connected. We’re working on developing a culture of enthusiastic consent here to help deal with exactly the concerns you’ve raised around hook-ups. The simple answer is that you can always ask, and anything but enthusiasm means no. That applies to both men and women. This author seems to ignore that sexual violence can be man>woman, but it can also be woman>woman, man>man, or even woman>man.

    I’m personally sorry that the posters upset you, but the purpose of them was to raise awareness and get people engaged in issues of sexuality and sexual violence on campus. The postering format is limited, and short but provocative posters seemed like the best way to do that. That’s why we set up the blog and the Go! thread: so that we can have a more in-depth conversation. I’ll post a full list of the posters around campus so that you can see all of them. We also intend to add more posters focused on positive messages about enthusiastic consent.

    If you’d like to continue this conversation, feel free to email me (cletts@haverford.edu) or SOAR (survivorsupporthc@gmail.com), or comment here.

  2. As one of the people who helped organized the campaign, I totally agree with everything you (and Dr. Farrell) said. **EDIT: I generally agree with your and Dr. Farrell’s sentiments, as to the link between gender stereo types and sexual assault, and the negative consequences for both men and women. However, as other commenters have pointed out, this looks like an oversimplification of both feminism and sexual violence as a whole.** For me, this campaign is not about pointing fingers (except maybe at some of Haverford’s policy failures.) This campaign is about staring a conversation. Sexual violence is not a woman’s issue, it is everyone’s issue, for the very reasons Dr. Farrell mentions. The gender stereotypes involved in sex set everyone up to fail, by making consent more confusing than it needs to be, by ignoring the voices of male survivors, and by making it harder to hear and understand what “no” is, no matter the gender of the speaker. For more about my thoughts on this, see my letter to the editor in the BiCo on Tuesday (or read Yes Means Yes! by Jessica Valenti, a book I swear by that covers the role of gender stereotypes in perpetuating sexual violence). I want to see a cultural shift at Haverford (with the help of policy changes), where active, enthusiastic consent is understood, and is the standard. This is a goal where everybody wins–men, women, straight, gay, queer, trans, you name it. This sentiment is reflected in the slogan of the campaign– “Consent is sexy.” This is a positive message, one that fills me with hope for the future of sexuality at this college.

    That being said, yes there are a wide variety of posters up right now. A lot of them are positive… “Consent is sexy.” “If I won’t say “yes” I won’t say “YES! YES! OH GOD YES!” “Consent. Just do it.” and even silly ones like “One fish, two fish, red fish, keep your penis to yourself.” There are other positive ones that we haven’t printed yet, but in light of your comments, we will be printing and posting them too (so thank you for responding!) However, you are right, there are some that are blunt, negative, and even accusatory. Some reflect anger, but shouldn’t they? These posters were drafted in SOAR meetings, and reflect, at least on my part, some of the things I have always wanted to say to the person who assaulted me, to the administration, to my parents, to some of my peers, and even to the world in general. These are real issues for us. It is pretty hard to sugarcoat something like rape. Rape does happen here, and I want people to talk about it. My goal when I started dreaming all this up was to start a conversation– hence the anonymous blog so people can say how they actually feel without fear of “outing,” being called a sexist, whatever. The controversial nature of some of the posters has obviously been effective, because people are talking. So thank you very very much for joining our conversation.

    Consent is sexy.


    Amy Stillwell

  3. I think I understand why you’re drawing from Warren Farrell– he’s saying that rape is not as simple a scenario as victim/perpetrator. However, rape and sexual harassment are still a hell of a lot more complicated than the way he thinks about it (first of all, it’s not always a man/woman binary).
    But most importantly, he minimizes the power differential in rape, and so shifts blame towards the survivor. The teenage boy in his example may be confused when he is hooking up, but it is also in his power to NOT rape his date. (By the way, you are allowed to say no to sex, even after you’ve started. You are ALWAYS allowed to say no.)

    “Feminism has taught women to sue men for sexual harassment or date rape.”
    No. We should be beyond this. Sexism has taught people to perform sexual harassment and date rape, and to feel shamed and silenced when it is done to us.

    Ditto to: Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and World Without Rape
    Also: What You Really Really Want: The Smart Girl’s Shame-Free Guide to Sex & Safety (Jaclyn Friedman’s new book)
    A male feminist I really really like: Michael Kimmel.

  4. Incidentally, Catherine MacKinnon is an avowed feminist. She also argues that consensual sex looks a lot like rape. Feminism (or masculinism) doesn’t mean that someone holds a position that is in keeping with the goals of this campaign.

  5. I am the OP.
    I understand your rationale for putting up the posters, and it makes alot of sense to me. I agree with you on mostly everything. But they make me cry with guilt. They make me weep in shame. My keyboards sopping wet right now. And I’ve never hooked up with anyone. All I really want is companionship and consent, but that means I have to initiate. And I can’t. I just can’t anymore. It’s not possible for me. How could you ask someone out after being rejected 15 times, even though you could have sworn they were into you? How about the one time someone said yes, not to sex, just to dating, to companionship and love, they said no the day later? How can you feel for someone when all you’ve ever known about the opposite sex has involved pain and humiliation? I used the quote by Dr. Farrell because he describes “sexual trauma.” I’ve never heard that phrase before, but it made so much sense to me. Because I had never thought the idea that a man could be traumatized by being given hope, hope for love, hope for companionship, and having it dashed to the ground. But it made so much sense to me. And I saw your campaign and I thought, why should I be silent? Doesn’t the nauseous knot in my stomach count for anything? Why do my tears and bloodshot eyes have to be covered up?

    What I really liked was the part where he said that neither sex “gets it” in a male/female stereotypical role (which is the largest on campus). And because so much was devoted to the women’s side, I felt I had to say something for the men, like me, who are only left with a dream of love and a shattered self-image.

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