Sex and violence a college problem

Unless a public massacre happens between the time of this writing and the time of print, the most recent gun violence in the United States was a response to not getting laid.

Michael Williams

Michael Williams

Elliot Rodger, 22 at the time of death, who published a video manifesto of perverse rationales before he eventually blew apart a sorority house and himself, was one of millions of men in the United States who feel entitled to sex.

This delusion is based on a sense of ownership over the other; a notion reinforced by rape culture, pornography, dude movies where sex, not love, are endgames and misogynistic politics where men remain ultimate authorities.

Rodger killed six and injured 13 in his sexually frustrated rampage. He sought “retribution” against the “sluts” who gave “their affection, their sex and their love to other men.”

He was a virgin. No matter how much we (men) would like to think that our genitalia predicates pleasure without purpose, or ejaculation without empathy, this mode of thought often results in different forms of violence. Likely not on Rodger’s level, but on an interpersonal level when sex is expected and hearing “no” (or “maybe”) is misunderstood.

Rodger was virginal, but his violence may not have been prevented by a lay here or there. In fact, it may have worsened his behaviors when he found that sex isn’t always what he predicted, that it can change relationships, that it can define relationships or that it can stop relationships outright.

He may have even lashed out from learning that sex on film is almost always fake, usually manifestations of deep-seated male fantasies where women are perky breasted, supple skinned and easily pleased.

Patrick McGuire at www.vice.com writes that in Rodger’s manifesto, he “calls himself the ‘perfect guy,’ and declares that he will ‘punish all of you [women]’ for not recognizing that he is, in his words, ‘the supreme gentleman.’”

Rodger’s video is disturbing. Filmed the evening before the massacre, he sits in his car and laughs into the sunset about “tomorrow, the day of retribution,” when he slaughtered a sorority house filled with women he “lusted after.”

This event is an alarm to start teaching men to not value women as ravage-ready objects, but as humans with equal capacity for everything that makes a human.

“When Women Refuse,” a Tumblr account started in the Rodger aftermath is a public space for women to share experiences of sex related violence. Among other accounts, women report being threatened or actually harmed in the wake of refusing sex or leaving partners.

One victim, documented by the Huffington Post, was Katy Benoit of the University of Idaho, whose former professor/boyfriend shot her 11 times after she broke off the relationship.

Her ex, Ernesto Bustamante pulled a gun on her three times before she finally left in May 2011.

One in five women in the United States will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime, according to Roni Caryn Rabin at the New York Times. Another Times article reports one in three American Indian women will be sexually assaulted.

Last year, www.vice.com broke a story about First Nations (Canada’s official term for indigenous peoples) women being abducted for sex on Lake Superior between Thunder Bay, Canada and Duluth, Minn., by none other than the ore ships we watch from the shoreline.

Christine Stark from University of Minnesota-Duluth interviewed over 100 First Nations women who were abducted (often with their children) onto the ships. The research indicates there are hundreds, maybe thousands more victims.

Typical discourse about sex trafficking suggests that it happens ‘there,’ not here. Not in our backyard.

Discussions about sexual violence are often contextualized in the backdrops of central Africa, where genital mutilation is a custom in some communities, or in India, where police gang rape female suspects.

Even pornography disconnects the viewer from the victim. We don’t have to process who we’re watching as human, often trafficked or coerced onto the screen. We have an entitlement to press forward, rewind or stop.
We own the video and we demand the violence, even if we don’t see it.

We need to recenter the sexual violence conversation to ourselves, American men.

According to Rape Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), 60 percent of rapes go unreported and 97 percent of rapists do not serve jail time in the United States.

Al Jazeera America reports that one in four college women experience rape or attempted rape, 80 to 90 percent of college rapists are acquaintances with the victim, 90 percent of college rapists are repeat offenders, but only 10 to 25 percent of college rapists are expelled.

Whether palatable or not, sexual violence is a reality in America, as anywhere else.

Buttressed by patriarchy and the perverted expectations of individuals like Rodger or his more innocent counterparts, sexual violence is a product of the notion that women’s bodies are to be taken, used, abused and discarded.

Millennial men must redefine what it means to be “supreme gentlemen” by respecting female autonomy, realizing we don’t own female anatomies and that sexual frustration will not be relieved with any kind of violence.

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3 Comments

  • Karli
    June 11, 2014 | Permalink |

    Thank you so much for this article! This is something that must change in our society.

  • Nina F
    June 11, 2014 | Permalink |

    This is a needed conversation on college campuses. Thank you for including NMU in the ranks of universities brave and progressive enough to confront sexual violence issues.
    The North Wind needs more articles as impressive, well written, brutally honest, and relevant as Michael’s.

  • David
    July 30, 2014 | Permalink |

    “We need to recenter the sexual violence conversation to ourselves, American men.”

    I could not agree with you more. It begins at home, with parents, grandparents, long before they become “men”. Boys need to be taught to treat women with respect and dignity.

    Colleges need to get out of the “investigations” business and just refer all cases of alleged sexual assault to the local, non-campus, police and let the professionals investigate crimes. Sexual assault is a crime, not an eduactional opportunity, since colleges and universities are in the business of education and not criminal investigation, it is not within their jurisdiction.

    While I will fully, 100% agree that those who commit the assaults are the guilty parties and that the focus should be placed stopping them, I also believe that woman have a responsibility to themselves in this issue. As the father of three daughters, I do my best to teach them not to put themselves into potentially dangerous situations where they could be at an increased risk for being sexually assaulted. Drunken bashes, while be a lot of fun, are potentially dangerous situations. Whenever you have booze and drugs flowing freely, sexual assaults are sure to follow.

    I believe that colleges and universities can help to drastically reduce sexual assaults on campus by aggressively going after on campus parties where the drugs and alcohol are being abused.

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