September 7, 2016

LETTER TO THE EDITOR | Addressing Male Sexual Victimization at Tapestry

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Re: “First-Year Students Raise Concerns About Orientation Events at Student Assembly Meeting,” News, Sept. 2

To the Editor:

I was taken aback to read that Cornell’s mandatory orientation sessions “Tapestry” and “Speak About It” exclude coverage of male sexual victimization from their presentations. Still more extraordinary was the justification offered by a moderator when questioned about the absence: “[sexual violence] predominantly affects females, so we address the female issue.”

Such adherence to a long-discredited “one size fits all” approach, on the part of an individual specifically charged with educating the Cornell student body about the dynamics of sexual assault, is disquieting. Only last semester, in her keynote address for Sexual Assault Awareness Month, author and activist Kate Harding — herself a victim of campus rape — reminded the audience at Flora Rose House of the importance of not overlooking men and boys who have suffered sexual violence. “When you put people into one of these ‘unrapeable’ categories,” she said, “that just creates more barriers to [victims] being able to access resources and find help, let alone find justice.”

This message has clearly been lost on those in charge of Cornell’s first-year orientation, and the consequences are both obvious and alarming. According to the federal government’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, 17 percent of campus rapes and sexual assaults nationwide occur to male victims. There is reason to believe that at Cornell, the problem is more serious yet. The 2015 Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct found that one in 10 male Cornell seniors — more than a fifth of the total victim population — had been subjected to a non-consensual sexual act during their four years in college. No less significantly, the same survey revealed that fewer than one in five male students considered themselves “very” or “extremely” knowledgeable about how sexual violence or misconduct is defined at the University.

Despite welcome progress in recent years, sexual violence against women and girls remains at pathologically high levels. It is necessary and appropriate that the majority of our efforts be directed toward combatting it. But the notion that sexual violence against men and boys — or against other victim groups like LGB, trans and gender-nonconforming people — may effectively be addressed by ignoring its existence is too obviously unsound to require detailed refutation. That Cornell’s sexual assault educators seemingly believe otherwise ought to be a matter of concern to the University administration, and to the campus community as a whole.

Prof. R.M. Douglas, history, Colgate University

  • Proud alumnus

    “Disquieting” isn’t the word.

  • Alumnus

    10% of guys have “been subjected to a non-consensual sexual act during their four years in college”? I wonder what they’re including in their definition.
    They’re rendering the term “non-consensual sexual act” meaningless.

    • Student

      If someone feels they have been involved in a non-consensual sexual act does the definition matter. I think any definition that can be reasonably applied to that label is a problem that deserves addressing.

      • Alumnus

        I appreciate your considered and thoughtful response.
        I just think that if, say, a guy is kissed and he wasn’t interested, that should be categorized differently than male rape. I’m concerned that everything is being lumped into one category, and that would render the statistics meaningless as well as misleading.

        If “non-consensual sexual act” includes such things as kissing, or someone being drunk and doing something they wouldn’t have if they’d been sober, then that may be very different than if you’re thinking it means male rape.

        I know you said “any definition that can be reasonably applied.” But the things I’ve mentioned are, according to Cornell, included in “non-consensual acts.”

  • Student

    “Speak About It” and “Tapestry” though both hosted by Cornell are done by two separate groups, as stated in the article. Moreover, the article was talking about “Tapestry” and not “Speak About It”. And I think it important that this distinction is made because “Tapestry” was problematic with both its limited scope and wrong for the defense said scope. However, Cornell does include male victimization and sexual assault within the LBGTQQA+ community through its showing of “Speak About It”.

    “Speak About It” includes scenes that talk about sexual assault within the LGTBQA+ arena. I have been to two separate “Speak About It” performances; my first as a freshman and my most recent as an RA. Both included the same scene, where a male actor spoke from a written card describing a male who was coerced into sex. Moreover, the scene was explicit in stating about how he [the male who wrote the card] didn’t want to have sex with the other male, then during the assault wished the other male would “pass out” so he could escape and the ordeal would be over. After one or two more reading of stories the entire cast calls out the word rape, indicating that each person was sexually assaulted. Moreover the more recent “Speak About It” included a scene where a female who was forced to have sex, by her then female lover.

    More work needs to be done denoting sexual assaults as crimes that do not require penetrative action and moreover can happen in any type of relationship.

    • Doug

      I haven’t seen “Speak About It,” so maybe I’m misunderstanding. But if he was “coerced” and not forced, why did he have to simply “wish” that he “could escape and the ordeal would be over”? Why did he not DO something about it?
      In other words, why was he powerless to act on his own behalf? If he was forced, that’s one thing, but if not…?

      • Same student

        First, here is more information about that scene. The story clearly talks about the survivor, was unable to escape as the perpetrator was larger and stronger. The survivor was pinned underneath the perpetrator during the act. The subsequential line following the lines containing the comparison of the two and the fact of the survivor being pinned, was the line about the survivor wishing the perpetrator would pass out .

        Moreover, sexual assault is “any sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of all participants , whether by force, by coericion, or where a participant is mentally incapacitated or physically helpless, including as a result of alcohol or drugs”.

  • CornellIsGoinfCrazy

    Cornell has become so extremely far left that it now harbors rampant discrimination against all identity groups not deemed worthy of protection — a discrimination applied broadly against all members of groups that haven’t won the historical victim Olympics and that are considered oppressive due to their sheer “privileged” existences. The school proudly sponsors segregation, censored speech, and bigotry. Cornell values only aesthetic diversity of appearance.

    I am optimistic for the future though — soon the radicals that dominate Arts, ILR, HumEc, and CALS will consume themselves. It’s already occurring…This event from Denice Cassaro (God love her) emailed to all students, for example, will be so entertaining and a prime example of the trainwreck these identity obsessed Marxists are headed for: Freedom Interrupted: Race, Gender, Nation and Policing: A Cornell Campus Community Conversation
    Wednesday, September 14 at 3:00pm
    Klarman Hall, Rhodes-Rawlings Auditorium
    Join faculty from Africana Studies & Research Center, American Indian and Indigenous Studies, American Studies, Asian American, Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies , Latina/o Studies, and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies Program, and Yang-Tan Institute on Employment and Disability