Editorial: It takes two

By
Monday, February 9, 2015

Since last spring, discussions about sexual assault have grown at an unprecedented pace at Brown and other universities, receiving national attention as advocates strive to effectively confront the ugly and often disregarded truth plaguing American higher educational institutions. What must be addressed in the identification, discussion and prevention of sexual assault, however, is simply how we talk about sexuality.

At Brown, student groups such as FemSex, MSex and the Queer Alliance at the LGBTQ Center play an important role in advocating new and better ways to attend to the spectrum of needs of all students, regardless of identity. FemSex, for instance, is Brown’s Female Sexuality Workshop that meets for 12 weeks during the semester as a non-academic seminar.

According its website, the discussion-based not-for-credit course seeks “to destigmatize marginalized genders and sexualities by providing comprehensive sex education and facilitating honest dialogue.” Through discussions over the course of the semester, students — the seminar is not limited to solely female students — gain awareness as well as greater communication, advocacy and decision-making skills in order to create happy and healthy relationships with their minds, bodies and sexual selves.

While MSex has a similar agenda, there are few on-campus spaces for students to address male sexuality.

Last August, Brown appointed the University’s first men’s health coordinator, Marc Peters, who has taken strides to confront issues of male sexuality. Peters is currently working with fraternities and helping to coordinate the Sexual Assault Peer Education program, holding discussions and trainings on campus to instruct men on how they can take active roles in preventing sexual assault. Peters recently told The Herald that the way men are sexualized “plays into the type of violence that exists in college communities.”

Despite the fact that dialogue on gender has expanded in the past few decades in the United States, masculinity inevitably remains a highly socialized and normative concept. What it “means” to be a man, or what a man should “be like,” is often built on a rigid definition, influencing men from a very young age. This is just as much of an issue as the topics of oppression or consent, which are not unique to but are clear issues within the discussion of sexuality.

The dearth of open and honest conversation on male sexuality is a critical aspect of a much larger concern. Sexuality and sexual assault are issues for all students regardless of gender identity — administrators must work to provide these spaces on campus for all students to discuss these issues. Only with education and training will everyone be able to communicate more effectively and prevent sexual violence.

Often it seems cultural and societal beliefs are ingrained in students before they arrive on College Hill. But the University plays a unique role in society in shaping students’ values. A strong community and open dialogue may, over four years, alter some of these definitions and perceptions. Facilitating this process is a huge step forward on the part of the administration in seeing the larger picture with issues of sexuality. Further advancements in this direction will help to create a permanent dialogue among students of all identities and make Brown a safer place for everyone.

Editorials are written by The Herald’s editorial page board: its editors, Alexander Kaplan ’15 and James Rattner ’15, and its members, Natasha Bluth ’15, Manuel Contreras ’16 and Baxter DiFabrizio ’15. Send comments to editorials@browndailyherald.com.

  • Confused

    Can we talk about the fact that the QA openly admitted to hosting an event that facilitated sexual assault on campus for multiple years and yet received no punishment? http://bluestockingsmag.com/2014/09/22/sex-power-god-is-canceled-a-statement-from-the-queer-alliance-coordinating-committee/

  • Foistim Adio

    Listen, ask questions, look for evidence, expel, arrest, prosecute, jail, put in Brown University transcripts permanently, make expulsions public, inform other colleges, grad schools, and prospective employers. Now, what’s with the communist gobbledygook throughout the article above? The author’s mind as he or she wrote it was similar to that of a three-year-old having been encouraged to write, about anything. Except any writing by a three-year-old is adorable. The article above is just plain revolting. Brown at its best.