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Sexual assault should not be associated with NOD

10/28/15 5:29am

This year, the release and discussion of the Survey of Unwanted Sexual Experiences results have bled into talks that precede the yearly Night of Decadence party. As a coincidence, in the week leading up to NOD, residential colleges are simultaneously discussing sexual assault and consent in both SUSE and NOD talks.

By incorporating discussion of sexual assault into the NOD talk, colleges are making a false equivocation between the sexually liberating function of NOD and sexual danger. Discussing the two together, rather than being educational and preventional, instead creates false expectations and associations.

Until data shows that sexual assault occurs more frequently at NOD, it should be treated the same as any other public party. By tying sexual assault to a party that, when at its best, celebrates sexuality and body positivity, colleges are not only forming problematic associations, but are also detracting from the reality that sexual assault occurs on other public party dance floors regardless of one’s manner of dress as well as outside the context of public parties entirely. This further reinforces the damaging stereotype that lack of clothing and lust is a reason for sexual assault.



This does not mean that we should ditch education about sexuality and consent altogether. Instead, these discussions should be ongoing and independent of conversations that are embedded in specific contexts and experiences. Discussions on sexual assault should not be paired with pre-existing popular events or free televisions to be well-attended — this topic deserves undivided attention.

These discussions have also revealed another troubling tendency at Rice: the division into gender-binaried groups whenever sex is discussed. Supporters claim that these separations allow for men and women to speak without fear of judgment or repercussion, but this argument not only assumes a gender binary, but also a heterosexual framework for all sexual activity. It often projects males as being threatened by talks on sexual assault, when we haven’t had enough integrated conversations on sexual assault as a student body to even know whether men are feeling attacked.

There may be times and places for these gender divisions, but sexual assault education and discussion are not among them. It is important that Rice students of all genders and sexual identities receive the same information while also engaging in cross-gender and cross-sexuality discussions of these topics. In this sense, enforcing gender divisions both marginalizes individuals who do not conform to gender binaries and occludes potentially transformative understandings.

Rice: We can have better discussions about sexuality and consent. The first step, as we approach NOD, is to be mindful of the potentially harmful associations, exclusions, and assumptions the structures of our conversations enforce.

Unsigned editorials represent the majority opinion of the Thresher editorial staff. All other opinion pieces represent solely the opinion of the piece’s author.



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