6.28.16 | Conor Friedersdorf
Due to pressure applied by student activists and the Department of Justice, colleges all over the United States are trying to reduce the incidence of sexual assault on campus, or at least trying to avoid bad publicity or the loss of federal funds. Asked what subject might benefit from more rigorous debate, Leah Fessler, a recent college graduate who writes about romance, sexual culture, and gender dynamics, wondered if looking at unwanted sex from a different angle might help.
Is campus rape sometimes an extension of hookup culture — the far, disturbing end of an increasingly fluid "sexual culture spectrum"? I think the effort to reduce rape, sexual assault, and unwanted sex could benefit from debating that question. When environmental influences on rape and sexual assault are discussed, the focus is often on alcohol, binge drinking and Greek life facilitating excessive intoxication. But what about the less understood role played by social pressures that push students to have and promote emotionless, casual, “meaningless” sex?
This debate does not imply that all instances of campus sexual assault are potentially affected by sexual culture on campus; crimes like that of Brock Turner, to me, evidence sociopathic behavior and crystal clear lack of consent, not confusion partly caused by environmental factors. Nor should this debate be a gateway to blaming rape victims, claiming that alcohol turns people into rapists, or suggesting that hookup culture ought to be replaced by collegiate abstinence. The ultimate goal should be helping people have the sex they want in an intentional, communicative way.