Entitlement leads to sexual assault

In the last few weeks, I have had guys touch my back and my legs despite my obvious disinterest and unavailability. I have heard jokes along the lines of “Consent?! Pfffft!” to express the absurdity of such a vital concept. I have seen guys distraught over being "just friends" with girls because they are desperate for something more.

Sexual entitlement leads to harassment, violence and rape, and it is rampant in the often flirtatious and sexually charged atmospheres of college.

And it needs to end.

Sexual assault on college campuses has been a hot topic the past few years. The 2015 documentary “The Hunting Ground” put a spotlight on the issue, and the White House even took a stand with the It’s On Us organization launched by President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.

There are a number of factors that contribute to this problem. Examples of rape culture are abundant. But rape culture doesn’t always mean the act of rape itself. It refers to the societal ideas that trivialize sexual assault and normalize male dominance over women.

Contributions to sexual assault are often subtle, and they usually involve feelings of entitlement to another person’s body and treatment of women as sexual objects.

The Kappa Alpha fraternity at the University of Richmond recently made headlines for an email that urged members to prep for the “type of night that makes fathers afraid to send their daughters away to school. Let’s get it.” The Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity at Yale University was suspended in 2011 after a video of pledges chanting “No means yes! Yes means anal!” went viral. A Sigma Chi fraternity member at the College of William and Mary came under fire for sending an email in which he urged his fellow men to zero in on women’s vaginas and disregard “the 99% of horrendously illogical bullshit that makes up the modern woman.”

These stories may sound extreme, but the messages behind them are not uncommon.

Joking about consent means that a woman’s boundaries are irrelevant to a man’s desires. Unwarranted touching of another person means valuing your gratification over his or her comfort. Regarding sex as something to “get” from girls reduces women to mere objects and denies their humanity.

An important step in ending sexual entitlement is eliminating the outdated model of men as predators and women as prey. Women are in college to get an education, not provide sexual services to male students.

There is no reason that women can’t be empowered to ask out men and initiate relationships with them rather than sitting around waiting for male attention. Thinking of women as passive receptors to male initiation takes away their agency and contributes to rape culture.

Another crucial factor in ending the sexual entitlement that contributes to violence is creating a culture of respect.

Rachel Olsson is the president of WOW Factor at ASU, an organization dedicated to fighting sexual assault and emphasizing the worth of every person. She said that the root of sexual assault is disrespect, and men have a lot of power to influence those around them to be more respectful.

“It starts with standing up for women, both in their own lives and when the men in their lives are saying something that’s harsh,” Olsson said.

The next step? Emphasizing the importance of consent. Students can still enjoy dating and relationships in healthy, consensual ways that maintain respect between both parties involved.

When respect is there, “it creates a safe environment to consent or not consent,” Olsson said.

Another point Olsson said is important to remember: “If there’s alcohol involved, consent can’t be involved.”

While men are sexually assaulted as well, we cannot deny that this is a gendered issue. One in five women are sexually assaulted in college, while the statistic for men is one in 16. There has to be something contributing to this disproportionality.

Not all men are sexist or treat women disrespectfully. But because it is apparently such a small number of men doing these things, all the “nice guys” out there should be outraged that a few bad apples are making the entire gender look bad.

If you complain about the “friend zone," if you joke about consent, if you try to lower a girl’s inhibitions so she’ll hook up with you, you are being sexually entitled.

Women deserve more than that. 

Reach the columnist at lallnatt@asu.edu or follow @LibbyAllnattASU on Twitter.

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Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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