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In neither case was any regard shown for the repercussions the young women would face in the wake of such a personal violation.When confronted later about the incident, each young man would dismiss the violation and turmoil in the wake of the assault as a consequence of the woman’s “prudish”views about sex, rather than as a result of his knowingly having crossed a person’s most intimate boundaries.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.One of us had the horrible experience—twice—of being witness to a friend’s assault in the very next room and being powerless to do anything, not because of physical inability, but because by all external appearances what was happening looked just like any other weekend night.Second, a sexual ethic that centers on the pursuit of pleasure and personal gratification and reduces the significance of a sexual act to that of a scrabble game—mere recreation—teaches that persons are means to an end.We are taught to use each other’s bodies for our mutual satisfaction and to assume that sexual activity does not carry any unintended consequences.But once we get used to heedlessly using one another’s bodies, it is dangerously easy to see using another’s body for our own gratification as unproblematic, even if the other person isn’t doing the same to us.
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.
The domination of the hook-up as the preeminent romantic script has repercussions for all young adults—even those who don’t pursue hook-ups themselves.
Over and over, we are told that physical encounters can be casual and fun, because they only have the meaning that we ascribe to them.