SHAPE presents your best weapon against sexual assault: knowledge.
By

    Eighty-seven percent of women and 91 percent of men report enjoying sex in their last hook-up “very much” or “somewhat.” For heterosexual women, the median number of sex partners in a total college experience is three, including the 18 percent of women who graduate as virgins. All in all, women are getting their groove on, and they’re having a pretty good time.

    Well, they’re usually having a pretty good time.

    According to Dr. Elizabeth Armstrong, a researcher and professor at University of Michigan who did her main research on sexual assault at Indiana University, the discrepancies between the pleasure of hook-ups and the dangers of sexual assault are real and preventable. Armstrong presented her research findings about college hook-up culture in SHAPE’s (Sexual Health and Assault Peer Education) Partying, Hooking Up and Sexual Assault on Campus presentation on Thursday night.

    Bad events in the overall hook-up culture are “hugely high in salience but fairly rare,” Armstrong said, although recent evidence from the Department of Justice suggests that one in every five college women is sexually assaulted. Basically, hook-up experiences are “way more positive than negative,” Armstrong said.

    She found that men’s dominance is predictable because they’ve given the means (alcohol) and opportunities (male control of partying through frats, gender deference, and trust). Most men don’t take advantage of the opportunity, she said, but “some men view sexual access to women as an entitlement of college.”

    She said that to truly prevent sexual assault, universities need to reduce opportunities and increase the social and legal ramifications associated with assault.

    After Armstrong’s presentation, Executive Director of NU Health Services Dr. Donald Misch and Nicola Beisel, a Sociology professor at NU who teaches classes about sex, gender and reproductive rights and includes Armstrong’s research in her classes, lead a panel about the importance of Armstrong’s findings on the Northwestern community.

    Misch said that Northwestern is pretty much the same as any other school, while Beisel emphasized that there’s no universal language for men and women to talk about unwanted sex.

    In hook-ups, she said, sometimes it’s “too damn much trouble to make them stop … the notion of consent is so fudge-y sometimes.” Beisel explained the issue of implied consent, with the story of a friend who was nearly gang-raped in a house basement at Dartmouth and who was blamed for it: “People asked her, what the hell were you doing in a basement a Dartmouth?”

    Misch explained that men and women have different purposes in hooking up; he says that men are all about sex, while women can use the sex as a dating strategy.

    Even choosing the woman/man to hook-up with is strategic decision, according to Armstrong. She said that for frat guys, raping a woman in a sorority comes with a much higher social cost than an unaffiliated woman, who won’t be able to bad-talk a house with as much negative impact.

    Even so, both guys and girls can be completely clueless. Misch said that guys interpret everything a woman does as sexual. “If you fall out a window, it means you want to have sex,” he said as a only half-joking example. Girls don’t know what message they’re sending, he said, and guys misinterpret the signals anyway.

    Of the 32 people who came to hear the speaker and panel discussion, seven were guys and most were members of SHAPE. While the discussion was pepped with “thoughtful” student questions, according to Armstrong, the problem of preventing sexual assault still lies with the students.

    “We’re not going to know [anything] until people start talking,” said Beisel.

    Comments

    blog comments powered by Disqus
    Please read our Comment Policy.