If you haven’t read the Rolling Stone article entitled “A Rape on Campus: A Brutal Assault and Struggle for Justice at UVA,” do so. The story outlines the horrifying gang rape of a freshman, Jackie, at the University of Virginia in 2012 and the response of the University following her rape. It’s a heartbreaking, yet necessary read, and points out some major flaws in how universities in the United States handle rape and sexual assault.
[This article first appeared at SociologyLens]
Presenting at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in June 2013, Microsoft unveiled Killer Instinct to the press, a reboot of a popular franchise from the 1990s and a high-profile release for their upcoming console. To demonstrate the game, Microsoft brought out two employees–one male, one female–to play it onstage. In an incident that would quickly become infamous, the one-sided contest devolved into trash talking, culminating in a joke likening the woman’s defeat to rape. Microsoft quickly clarified that the on-stage banter was not scripted; the male employee, a producer on the game being demonstrated, had simply decided to joke about raping another employee during an official event, in front of hundreds in attendance and millions online.
Today I want to go back to a ‘debate’ on Fox News from early 2013, in which feminist writer Zerlina Maxwell raised the issue of how to involve men in the prevention of sexual violence by arguing that rape can be prevented if men learn not to rape. This idea, however, was shot down (no pun intended) immediately by Fox News host Sean Hannity as an unrealistic liberal pipe dream. Rather, Hannity and Gayle Trotter of the ‘Independent Women’s Forum’ – a conservative think tank – argued that the right to carry concealed weapons is what can protect women from being raped. Although clearly being an attempt to intervene in the gun control debate by these conservative thinkers, their arguments reveal some of the underlying assumptions about sexualized violence and masculinities in mainstream discourse – assumptions that are in strong conflict with findings from research.
High-profile cases of rape and sexual assault perpetrated by athletes in the US have become far too common. In a recent column for The Nation, Dave Zirin illustrated the ever more obvious connection between “jock culture” and the perpetration of sexual violence. Jock culture and rape culture, Zirin argues, are intrinsically linked. Young women are seen as “the spoils of being a jock” according to Zirin. In many ways Zirin could not be more right. Clearly young male athletes are learning terrible lessons regarding what their status means about their relationships to women but is “jock culture” the right way to frame this issue? Continue reading