It's back-to-school season across America and college students are being reminded, once again, that going to a frat party doesn't mean you get to rape people.
While some solid progress has been made in the coverage of sexual assault on college campuses, young men at some of the nation's most elite universities are still confused about how exactly not to rape women.
Bloomberg spoke to a group of male students at Stanford, Harvard and NYU, among others, about their fears of appearing to be sexual predators when they're actually just "nice guys." Ya know, nice guys like Malik Gill of Harvard.
As former social chair of the Sigma Chi fraternity at Harvard University, Malik Gill wants to appear especially welcoming to girls who come to the house for parties.
Yet, Gill, who starts his junior year in a few weeks, says he won't be offering a female classmate a beer.
"I don't want to look like a predator," the 20-year-old economics major said. "It's a little bit of a blurred line."
One, you should be worried about offering her a beer because you're underage and so is she, probably. Two, the frat boy doth protest too much, methinks. Offering a human who voluntarily walks into your party a beer is only predatory if you make it so, or if you think you'll be unable to control yourself around another human who has consumed a beer.
This is just a continuation of the bullshit narrative that sexual assault victims are somehow to blame for being sexually assaulted.
While Gill hints at it, Stanford University student Chris Herries flat out says that if women aren't taking cautionary measures not be raped, what the hell do they expect if they are, in fact, raped?
Some men feel that too much responsibility for preventing sexual assault has been put on their shoulders, said Chris Herries, a senior at Stanford University. While everyone condemns sexual assault, there seems to be an assumption among female students that they shouldn't have to protect themselves by avoiding drunkenness and other risky behaviors, he said.
"Do I deserve to have my bike stolen if I leave it unlocked on the quad?" Herries, 22, said. "We have to encourage people not to take on undue risk."
Here's the thing Chris, if you're the one doing the assaulting, one would venture to guess that you would also be the one solely responsible for preventing it. Kind of like how if I don't want to go to jail for shooting someone to death, I just won't pick up the damn gun. And no, you don't deserve to have your bike stolen because you left it unlocked on the quad, but you do deserve to have it stolen for being an clueless rape apologist.
What's interesting is that Herries seems to have regressed as a decent human being over the course of two years. In 2012 he wrote an opinion piece for the Stanford Daily titled, "Victim-blaming problem." He displays some awareness about the problem with making sexual assault victims culpable for the crimes committed against them by encouraging them to take preventative measures. He even seems to understand that offering "advice" on how to avoid sexual assault necessarily places some of the blame on the victim.
This is done to avoid victim-blaming, which is the very unjust, very destructive practice of asserting that a survivor of sexual assault is at fault. For example, it's often heard that, "she/he shouldn't have been wearing that," or "she/he should've fought back." This attitude is wrong, unhelpful and malicious.
He does, however, end the article with a bit of douchebaggery asking, "do these offices have a responsibility to support perceived safety measures?" But overall, he seemed to have the right idea.
My question is, why the hell do we even continue to publish articles like this? By giving Herries' bullshit opinions space, you're validating them as a legitimate perspective on the issue of sexual assault. Sometimes there is only one side to the truth And in this case, it is that no victim of sexual assault should ever, ever, ever be blamed for their assault. Period. Done. End of the story.
Bloomberg at least provided a sane take on the subject.
Focusing on the need for women to protect themselves from sexual assault puts the onus on victims, and removes it from perpetrators, advocates for assault survivors said. People who have been burglarized aren't blamed for not having enough surveillance gear in their homes, said Tracey Vitchers, chairwoman of New York-based Students Active for Ending Rape.
We should all be aware of general safety measures for moving through and existing in the world, of course. But everyone be can warned about having something slipped into their drink without suggesting that the inevitable outcome for putting your drink down for fifteen seconds if you're a woman is sexual assault, duh.
I know plenty of men who don't constantly worry about being accused of sexual assault because they don't take advantage of women or anyone in a vulnerable state. Here's a general rule, buddy: If you have some doubts or hesitations about the situation you're in, they're probably correct. If you feel like the circumstances are already a bit sketchy, don't go any further. It is not that fucking difficult.
And to all the men who are soooo concerned with being accused of sexual assault, remember this: In any scenario where you might be accused of sexual assault, the common denominator is always you.
Bloomberg has edited their original piece to include a longer quote from Chris Herries to clarify that he believes that, in their words, "A failure to reduce risk doesn't mean that a person who is attacked or harmed is at fault."
Herries takes issue with how he was portrayed in the article and has responded here.
Image via Joe Mercier/Shutterstock.