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To Fight Campus Rape, Culture Must Change : NPR

Stashed in: inequality, education, Rape

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Sanday also made points about the plasticity of human behavior as regards sexual violence that were relevant:

"Also useful is the serious reexamination of the U.S. cultural privileging of male sexual aggression on the grounds that because it is 'natural' it cannot be questioned. Anthropological research and fieldwork, including my own, dispute this assumption. There is wide variability in sexual customs ranging from societies in which sexual aggression is rare to those in which it is common."

"In my own work I differentiate such societies as rape-free as opposed to rape-prone. Looking at ninety-five band and tribal societies, I found that forty-seven percent could be classified as rape-free, while only eighteen percent were rape-prone. By rape-free I did not imply that there was no rape, only that there was a very low incidence compared to rape-prone societies in which the aggressive assault of women was a common component of male sexual culture and was not punished. Interestingly, widespread sexual aggression is often related to a social emphasis on male toughness and competition and a low respect for women as citizens. In the rape-free societies I studied rape is punished and both sexes hold exalted positions in public decision-making and both are integrated and equal in the affairs of everyday life."

"Such findings suggest that whatever the biological component might be in sexual expression cultural values and social policies make a difference. In other words, as much as college policies can nurture sexual equality, their absence can have the result of nurturing sexual inequality."

Sanday's last point merits extra emphasis. I know of no research on this question specifically, but over and over again in my informal networks I hear of students who feel that the administration at their colleges don't really want to hear what's going on and don't make it easy to report and follow through on incidents of sexual violence.

And that's the big problem. Attitudes must change to take reports seriously and follow through.

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