A personal reflection on sexual assault on our campus

By Charles Giordano

Collegian File Photo
(Collegian File Photo)

*Editor’s note: this article’s headline has been retroactively edited to better reflect the overall thoughts and opinions of its author.

Since history’s earliest recordings, mankind has more often than not chosen to ignore the issue of sexuality rather than discuss and embrace its inherent presence in the individual’s everyday life. This exact course of action has, in addition to other factors, contributed to today’s prevalence of sexual assaults on college campuses nationwide.

Now more than ever, college students are under an enormous amount of pressure to look and feel sexually appealing. Many would argue this affects women more than men, but in my experience, everyone is fairly preoccupied with their physical appearance – and whether they choose to admit it or not is a whole other matter.

The media, and Hollywood in particular, has emphasized that college is a time for sex, and lots of it. For years, American men have been handed the notion that their value is determined by their ability to attract and coerce a female into a sexual relationship. But now the message has escalated to the point where men at the University of Massachusetts and colleges nationwide feel the need to force the issue.

A night out at college has become a horrid display of male students jostling to try and one-up their compatriots, and achieve that all too finite experience that for some reason has grown to be a necessity for happiness. Life on campus has grown all too competitive in this manner. With social media, college students are now not only judged on their academic performance, but are put under pressure to “perform” on nights out with friends, a concept completely removed from the fact that going out is meant to be fun.

Many UMass students have heard the term “ratio” in recent times. While it is not wrong to desire a gender-balanced audience at a social gathering, to peg women as a resource at parties dehumanizes them and invokes a sexual implication in attending what is meant to be a fun event. It would not be fair to blame hosts for these actions, for they are at this point standard, but it has certainly only increased the pressure on men to be “successful” in their relations with the opposite gender. If a man is told he cannot attend a social event without a large group of women, what is he left to do but unnaturally and forcibly seek their companionship?

Now, in addition to having to be aware when walking around outside, women are forced to be ever alert to the dangers present inside of parties and social gatherings. According to the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence, half of all sexual assailants are under the influence of alcohol at the time of the perpetration. Alcohol, a substance meant to loosen tensions and relax nerves, is instead being abused as a means of denouncing inhibitions. The line between sexual assault and sex has become blurred. Not enough emphasis is placed on making sure everyone is safe, while too much is placed on making sure one is able to have sex.

Humans have repressed their sexuality for centuries, be it for religious, moral or other reasons. This has exacerbated the sexual depravity man inherently finds within himself. We have chosen to battle with our desire to speak openly about matters related to sex. As a result, we have produced a generation of men devoid of identity if not affirmed by sexual prowess. While women feel this same pressure, they are more often faced with becoming victims. For every 1,000 females who attend a college or university, there are an estimated 35 incidents of rape per academic year.

I believe the vast majority of us are interested in fostering a safe environment on campus. That being said, we have the responsibility to bring these conversations to the forefront, to speak about these issues so we are not forced to keep seeing statistics that prove the society we live in enables sexual assaults to continue to occur. Most of what I have written is merely opinion – opinions of a straight, white male at that. But if nothing else, I hope this article inspires other men to question their choices and the choices of their peers. Maybe then we can begin to really address the issue of sexual assault at its source.

Charlie Giordano can be reached at [email protected]