Masculinity Contributes to the Problem of Sexual Assault on Campus

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Sexual assaults have reached a tipping point; they are the stage of an epidemic and need to be a priority going forward. According to the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), someone is sexually assaulted every 98 seconds (RAINN, n.d.). Sexual assault is a global problem, but Americans in particular have been struggling with that issue, and you need to look no further than what is happening on college campuses to understand why. The issue of sexual assault is only magnified when examining in the bubble of a university setting. The prevalence of sexual assaults on campus is only further aggravated by universities ineptitude at handling them properly creating a plethora of issues and additional complications happening in colleges. Donna Freitas thoroughly investigates the issue at hand in her book Consent on Campus (2018). Chapter five of Consent on Campus focuses on how masculinity contributes to the issue of sexual assaults on campus (Freitas, 2018).

Men and masculinity have an interesting role in the sexual ecosystem of a university. Freitas begins her foray into understanding the relationship of masculinity by discussing the privileges that men have (Freitas, 2018). She argues that men can benefit from this privilege but also be at a disadvantage from it because it has not really allowed for them to have any introspection to think about what it truly means to be a man. And this has become a limiting factor for many men as it forces them to narrow behavioral patterns that follow the norms (Freitas, 2018). Freitas then goes into a personal anecdote about the first heterosexual male to take one of her gender classes, Anthony. Anthony first came into her class by mistake but ended up sticking around and was engaged for the entire semester.

Anthony was an athlete and enjoyed the class so much that he recommended it to his teammates and other athletes to take in the next semester. One of his teammates even wore a feminist shirt around campus. Having those men take her class did change the perspective of how Freitas viewed men in college for the better (Freitas 2018). Freitas then made a paradigm shifting claim about the type of relationship men in college are seeking. Prior content from the earlier chapters talked about how the college campuses across the country facilitate a certain hookup environment that favors casual sexual encounters and restricts long term relationships. This is something that is universal across different colleges, but that does not mean that it is universally supported. The easy hypothesis to make would be if that all men seem to contribute to a culture of easy hookups then that would be what they want. Exploring the hookup culture for Freitas was a something that was shocking to her.

She expected all men to favor the easy, more casual sex that the hookup culture facilitates, but found contrasting results. When the Freitas was conversating with her male students, she found quite the opposite; men wanted to have meaningful love through long term relationships. The reason that this isn’t norm across campuses, is that the influential men alter what all men can say and do, despite whatever they may feel. They act following the norm so that they do not compromise their social status (Freitas 2018). Freitas ends her chapter talking about how certain influential men can influence what are the norms. This has been something problematic and is part of the reason why the issue is at the tipping point it’s at now. But it also perhaps is a way to combat the issue; if we could shift what men believe is the proper way to behave then we can create positive sex outcomes (Freitas 2018). It is an optimistic window of hope in a topic that only appears to get more terrible at each passing second. The hookup culture that is ubiquitous among secondary education and leads to negative sex outcomes like sexual assault, and the problematic hookup culture is reinforced by complications stemming from a poorly developed idea of what it means to be a man.

This hookup culture really is a problematic issue because it does not favor any majority; It puts a lot of women in compromising situations where they may be assaulted, and it forces many men to act masculine to preserve social status and participate in the hookup culture despite desiring a more stable long-term relationship. When most women are put in danger and most men are not favoring the outcomes of the hookup culture, it is clear to understand that the hookup culture that is in place is a broken system. Men should also not have to compromise what they believe in to avoid any social backlash or ostracization from his peers. The system needs to be changed, the culture needs to change, and the norms need to change. Working to change these things is no easy task and there certainly will be adversity as it takes time.

Within this broken system often the influential male athletes and fraternity presidents at these schools use their social clout and facilitate an environment that does not lead to positive sex outcomes. The big man on campus who throws the party might be more concerned with his music playlist then with how all his female guests get home safely. The nature of the encounters on the college party scene often lead to ambiguous consent because of the presence of alcohol or other drugs. There is an issue within the culture at colleges and the influential men often are the ones who carry the torch and continue with the same practices. These issues within the structure can be partially attributed to a problem with the self-concept and understanding what it means to be a man.

If the men in leadership positions understood their influence and had a more developed concept of masculinity that extends beyond the social norms, then one can believe different behavior will be produced that promotes safer sex outcomes. The issue then becomes to shift the perception of what it means to be a man. Then the change in beliefs will influence behavior, and the change in behavior will influence outcomes, and overtime a pattern of positive outcomes will combat the epidemic. Optimists like Freitas may believe that if Men of leadership set an example of empowering men to do the right thing and act on their feelings then the effect may trickle down into everyday people. President Obama’s recent comments about being a man and being masculine, can potentially be a catalyst for the trickle-down lead by example belief (Ktvu, 2019). Obama argued that men should bring each other up instead of trying to beat each other down. He also stressed the importance if your confident in your sexuality then having meaningless sexual encounters is not really of dire necessity. Obama’s words are profound whenever he speaks, and hopefully his message can resonate and impact men across campuses.

The issue of sexual assault is growing at an alarming rate. There needs to be interventions in place to help combat this issue and addressing the issue of a poorly developed masculinity is one potential avenue. Having a greater self-concept and intrapersonal relationship that is independent of the norms is important and is lacking in an alarming number of young men across America. Through an enhanced perspective of what it truly means to be and act as a man, then men can take initiative and begin to shift the terrible trend of the ongoing sexual assaults.

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Masculinity Contributes to the Problem of Sexual Assault on Campus. (2022, Feb 02). Retrieved November 30, 2023 , from

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