You’ve heard of Spirit Week on college campuses, but have you heard of “Sex Week”?
Believe it or not, Sex Week is a thing, and it’s not just a wild fraternity ploy on some obscure campus, either. It’s a school-sponsored, growing trend on a number of top American universities, including Harvard, Northwestern, the University of Tennessee, Brown, the University of Chicago, and Emory.
What exactly is “Sex Week,” you ask? It’s exactly what it sounds like: seven days packed with events devoted to everything sensual and erotic. The school event schedules include discussions on a range of topics from BDSM in the bedroom to anal sex, transgender/bisexual relations, learning from those in the pornography industry, “sex work” as opposed to prostitution, how to be better at oral sex, and, of course, there’s a Planned Parenthood “educational” session. Other plans include a drag show, “free condoms, lube and sex toys” giveaways and more. Perfect. This is exactly what our hook-up culture needs — the further glorification of quick, unattached stimulation.
What is interesting, however, is that the universities are clearly trying to make sure they cover all the bases (sexual pun not intended) to avoid outrage by including a few forums on subjects like “Sex and Religion,” “How Can UTK Stop Sexual Assault,” and “Anti-Rape Activism.”
As I work with our Young Women for America Chapter Presidents, a question I ask is, “What is one of the most talked about issues on your campus right now?” A common response is sexual assault and campus rape. I find it ironic that one of the prevalent issues on colleges right now is sexual violence, yet multiple highly acclaimed universities hold a “Sex Week” which normalizes violent, pornography inspired acts.
The White House recently cited the statistic that one in five women will experience an attempted or completed rape during their college career. However, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, the number of women who will be victims of rape or sexual assault while in college is closer to one in 53.
While the heated debate between the left and right over the figure is important, the two sides are missing the point; regardless of whether the number is one in five or one in 500, that is still one too many. Sexual assault is a serious issue that is often dealt with in one of two ways: Some cry for an end to the “rape culture” — blaming and shaming men in the process — while others downplay and dismiss those who are truly hurting. According to political analyst Mona Charen, neither the former nor the latter response is correct. In her article, she states that the blame should instead be shifted toward the sexual revolution:
College campuses, like the rest of American society today, are struggling to contain the wreckage of the sexual revolution. Neither men nor women are happy with the chaotic and utterly unromantic world they’ve inherited. It’s a culture of drunken hook-ups and “booty calls,” where traditional courtship is dead and even dating is rare.
When it comes to campus rape, we’re too often distracted by the leaves on the tree, when we should instead be looking at its roots. Charen is right; the sexual revolution is largely responsible for the hook-up mindset on most college campuses today.
Thanks to the feminist movement from the Sixties forward, women have been taught that unhindered sex somehow equalizes them with their male counterparts. Forget lasting commitment or having to actually put hard work into a relationship. They’ve been told promiscuity is empowerment — a way to “stick it to the man” and protest the oppressive, patriarchal society that is holding them back.
The belief is that unhindered access to birth control is the means to achieving that end. The Sixties’ philosophy of “free love” and “reproductive rights” launched a sexualized snowball effect, wreaking havoc on generations of Americans both physically and mentally. According to the American Psychological Association, societal sexualization occurs when:
A person’s value comes only from his or her sexual appeal or behavior, to the exclusion of other characteristics … a person is sexually objectified — that is, made into a thing for others’ sexual use, rather than seen as a person with the capacity for independent action and decision making; and/or sexuality is inappropriately imposed upon a person.
TV shows, books and movies like Fifty Shades of Grey have helped normalize the pornographic, violent treatment of women as sexual objects rather than something to be treasured and valued. The epidemic of hardcore pornography is also vastly to blame. Pornography has been linked to sex trafficking, ruined marriages and relationships, and distorted and perverted reality. Its images have numbed generations to true, lasting intimacy, hurt our men tremendously, and degraded female bodies to sexual items. In the publication A War No More, Concerned Women for America acknowledges the irony of the situation:
The message coming from the media is mixed at best. What our young women hear is that they should be strong and powerful and independent; however, the images they see tell them that the way to do this is to devalue, debase, and disrespect themselves, instead of pursuing purity and strength of character.
That said, the sexual revolution and pornography are not the only roots at fault.
Another obvious, yet highly overlooked factor is the normalization of binge drinking. Binge drinking and drug use are major contributors to sexual assault, and the correlation between consumption and uninhibited sexual decisions is hard to ignore. A recent study showed that 62 percent of respondents said they had consumed alcohol before the incident occurred. Contradicting what many feminists portray as empowerment, in a recent article, one feminist writer mentioned that many women don’t actually enjoy the hook-up culture — hence the excessive drinking at parties. Since the expectation at most parties is to have sex with random acquaintances, many will drink to numb their feelings and detach themselves from the situation.
As a form of protection, young people have learned to cut emotion out of sex and not to get too attached because, after all, both parties just want to use one another and move on. Yet, the truth is detached sex is arguably impossible; every time one gives their body to another, a piece of their soul gets tangled in. Our culture has distorted sex from its intended, sacred purpose. It’s a great thing in the right context, and sex should not be a “no-no” topic, but now we’ve gone to the opposite extreme where it’s always an unequivocal “yes” topic.
The answer to ending true campus sexual assault is multifaceted, but one thing is for sure: it is NOT to glorify violence, pornography, and unencumbered hook-ups through events like “Sex Week.” Yes, Harvard and others, your hypersexualized event list had a few redeeming classes thrown in, but it’s a little contradictory to have it next to pornographic content, don’t you think?
Take that money you’re spending on “Sex Week” and spend it on healthy education. Instead of throwing funds to sex toys and condom giveaways, address the real factors that are encouraging sexual assault on campuses, like the hook-up culture, pornography and binge drinking. It would be naïve to think that college students won’t continue to make their own choices regarding their sexuality and drinking; they should have that right. However, universities need to address matters like binge drinking and campus rape — before they devastate their community.
Hannah Wegman is Hannah Wegman is the Project Coordinator/Writer at Concerned Women for America (CWA), the nation’s largest public policy women’s organization with 500,000 members across the country.