Girly Thoughts

April 2, 2008

Practicing what I preach

Filed under: Gender,sexual assault — judgesnineteen @ 10:39 am

In response to Victim Blaming, Part 1, mestiza asked “So what is a way to effectively educate men on what constitutes sexual assault and what consent really means? Should we start on the college campuses maybe?”

College campuses seem like an ideal place for this, and yet the attempts I’ve seen to educate people on consent at my college campus haven’t seemed to be terribly helpful. I think the best was the session we were all required to attend at the beginning of freshman year, because it was funny, and you remembered it because they gave out t-shirts at the end (one of them had a picture of a rooster on the front and said Cock-Block Sketchy Guys on the back, haha), and college kids wear their free t-shirts a lot (in the US, anyway). There was also one that all sorority and fraternity members were required to go to, but apparently the speaker was bad, they were given short notice, and they acted like jerks because they were mad about those things. I doubt that helped at all. Then there are clubs like Take Back the Night, we had an all-male group from another college come and talk about it, they’re called One in Four. That was cool but hardly anyone came and most of those who did were female. I think women should be at these things too, as they point fingers at rape victims as well and doubt their own rights when they’re victims, plus they need to get consent as much as guys do, even if they seem not to have so much of a problem with that – but we really need the men to hear it. If it’s optional, pretty much only men who already get it will come.

I also think this should be a part of sex ed, which I think should be comprehensive, and which I think should start young. I know, that freaks out Mike Huckabee, but Mike Huckabee freaks me out, so we’re even.

One thing I read about that looked really promising was, basically, an attempt at redefining masculinity (just a tad, since that’s a big job) to include the concept of caring about consent. Giving out facts at school talks is important, but it can only go so far. This is a tactic used on college campuses to publicize that your male peers care about consent. It’s almost counter-intuitive, because we normally want to tell people “Look how bad this problem is!” to motivate them to improve it, but since most males are not rapists (although most rapists are male, don’t get confused), it’s not actually contradictory. It’s just advertising to a guy: your friends wouldn’t rape. And that’s usually true – the study linked shows that a lot of guys think that they care more about consent than their friends do (but a lot of their friends probably think the same thing – they just don’t tell each other because it’s not good chest-bumping conversation). And since people tend towards the standards of those around them, telling guys that their male friends care about consent may make them care about consent a little more. So I think we should work on campaigns based on this concept. It just has to be handled by people who know their feminism, because otherwise it could come off privilege-y, like, guys are doing just fine, so don’t worry about the rape problem (or, so blame it on the girls, which I think we’re all pretty darn well aware that I’m against). When in fact, the message should be, you don’t have to violate women to be a man, and if your friends act like they would or joke about it or start to, you should call them out because your opinion makes a difference, one way or the other. It doesn’t even require any talk about what makes a “REAL man”, which I think is one of those insidious ways of getting really close to helping and then completely failing, since it relies on a binary gender construct which is causing the problem in the first place*.

Any ideas on how to put the above concept to work? I was thinking about having a sort of petition for people (just guys, maybe, not because it’s not important for girls but because if it was open to everyone guys would probably assume mostly only girls had signed it) to sign saying I believe in this kind of consent or something, and have it in a public place. Maybe video interviews with guys from around campus would work for the journalisty people out there. Once people are out of school, I guess it’s up to advertising campaigns, which could follow a similar path.

Does anyone else have other suggestions for how to educate people and change the way they see consent?

*coming soon: an attempt at explaining what some anti-feminists so loving call “gender-bending” and what the point of it is



  1. I am one of those “journalisty people” and I think the idea about interviews might be intimidating for guys on a subject like this. At least one-on-one interviews. Unless there was a condition of anonymity or something. I kind of like the idea of a petition-type thing. Or at the very least, an anonymous survey or something that forces guys to really think about consent without the pressure of knowing that your buddies are gonna know what you said. That would be a basis for acknowledging your feelings, and if they are healthy, being able to stand on them. I kind of get the feeling, as you sort of talked about, that if guys are in a group, and they have not previously had a serious discussion about consent, then the respondents would be likely to spew forth typically “masculine” answers about consent, i.e. jokes about it, or power-related answers. That is not necessarily the only possibility, but I know that if you put a bunch of people in an abstinence-only sex ed class, for example, no one is going to be super willing to jump up and say, “Yeah, well, I have sex and I find it very important that other people who have sex know how to protect themselves.”

    Hmm…I will be thinking about that on the way to my Feminist Methodologies class. =)

    I’m glad you’re trying to get people to start looking beyond problems and toward solutions. Good work.

    Comment by Amelia — April 2, 2008 @ 5:58 pm | Reply

  2. That’s a good point. When I was thinking about it I guess I only had those few guys who are really comfortable with themselves in mind – you know how sometimes the really successful people actually don’t follow all the norms? I guess I had a couple of people I know in mind and that was making me unrealistic, unless you’re going to handpick the people you interview, but that’s kinda sneaky. But it’s good to have you thinking about it! And haha, I can tell you’re one of those journalisty people – good for you! Them and lawyers are so important in activism. Me, I just think a lot and make lists, as you may have noticed : ).

    Comment by judgesnineteen — April 2, 2008 @ 7:53 pm | Reply

  3. Hey, I just read your comment on the “Gender-specific eggs?” post (I get e-mail updates when comments come in), and I just wanted to say thanks. A lot of the readers of my blog do have very steadfast ideological disagreements even with the most basic ideas that Kate and I put into our posts, so it is hard getting through to them. I do not understand why such readers continue coming back when they obviously take very little from what we have to say. If it is to satisfy some want to argue, or make us ridiculous, I hope that don’t feel that they are succeeding. I reply to comments, but I don’t feel as if I argue. And looking ridiculous? Well, I can handle that, as long as I don’t have all the facts wrong. 🙂

    So thanks for being an educated reader who doesn’t seem to be at all blind to reason when it presents itself.

    Comment by Amelia — April 2, 2008 @ 9:50 pm | Reply

  4. You’re welcome! I think you handle them very maturely – I’m always thinking to myself how patient you two must be. I hope I’m not too aggressive or anything in my comments, and you can always let me know if you’d prefer I handle them differently. I think it’s great to have real dialogue between people who disagree…I guess it’s just about knowing when that’s possible and when it’s a waste of time.

    Comment by judgesnineteen — April 2, 2008 @ 9:54 pm | Reply

  5. More on ways to fight rape on college campuses. It also mentions that police escort services and self-defense classes (I’m assuming that’s what “rape aggression defense training” means) are not very helpful.

    Comment by judgesnineteen — April 12, 2008 @ 11:09 am | Reply

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