This series of vague and variable sexual expectations clashes dangerously with the carte blanche given to young American adults. After all, boys will be boys and girls will go wild. The selfish individualism expected among adolescents and young adults tells us not to take “no”for an answer. Respect for ideas of sexual integrity—the concept that sex might by its nature mean something more than a game—has gone out the window. With it went respect for the very concept of boundaries.
The problem of sexual assault is not new. In the modern college setting, however, the deconstruction of sexual norms, coupled with an “anything goes” mentality, has created a perfect storm for the proliferation of assault.
Tomorrow, we will propose some solutions that aim at the heart of the problem—a culture that reduces sexual activities to the level of recreation—but in order to arrive at a solution, we first need to understand the reality of the problem we face.
The Nightmarish Reality of Sexual Assault
It’s hard to get a grasp on what sort of world can produce such an abusive culture unless you or someone you care for has gone through it. That as many as one in four—or, at the very least, one in ten—young women have experienced sexual assault sounds so nightmarish. Sadly, rampant sexual assault on campus is a reality that thousands will return to this coming September and that many freshmen will encounter for the first time.
Broadly speaking, when we think of rape, one of two narratives comes to mind: the unsuspecting victim surprised in a dark alley, or the two drunk people who both get carried away at a college frat party, with one person waking up and regretting his or her actions.
Neither of these is a very helpful construction for a serious conversation about sexual assault. The first scenario represents a very small portion of sexual assaults on college campuses and is by no means unique to campus life. The latter—which is not actually an example of assault—gives cover to those who would explain away all assault as simply a matter of blurred lines and choices regretted in the light of day.
The truth is that sexual assault on campus is nuanced and complex. Usually, survivors know their assailants, and often alcohol is involved. But that doesn’t mean that assaults are merely regretted hook-ups. They are not. In fact, many victims purposely avoid casual sex. Sexual assault victims include a vast array of people: men and women who may be straight-laced or sexually adventurous, religious or secular, teetotalers or partiers.
Hook-Up Culture Leads to Rape Culture
This doesn’t mean that the hook-up culture is guiltless when it comes to campus sexual assault. Rather, if not for the hook-up culture, “rape culture” could never have acquired its current foothold at our universities.