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Sexual Assault on Campus: Insights from Research on College Student Social Life. Prof. Elizabeth A. Armstrong Graduate Students: Laura Hamilton, Evelyn Perry, Brian Sweeney, and Amanda Tanner Undergraduate Students: Katie Bradley, Teresa Cummings, and Aimee Lipkis.
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Prof. Elizabeth A. Armstrong
Graduate Students: Laura Hamilton, Evelyn Perry,
Brian Sweeney, and Amanda Tanner
Undergraduate Students: Katie Bradley,
Teresa Cummings, and Aimee Lipkis
Policy response: Educate to change individual attitudes
Policy response: Educate to change group attitudes
Policy response: Education directed to Greek system, regulate Greek system
Qualitative investigation of undergraduate student social life.
Concerns with status, belonging, popularity, and interest in playful, public sexual fun motivate student participation in dangerous party scenes.
“You see these images of college that you’re supposed to go out and have fun and drink, drink lots, party and meet guys. [You are] supposed to hook up with guys, and both men and women try to live up to that. I think a lot of it is girls want to be accepted into their group and guys want to be accepted into their groups.”
Describing a Playboy party that was “so fun,” one floor resident explained that, “it was basically an excuse … for everyone to just dress in the sluttiest little thing that they can pull off without looking like complete trash. But it was just so fun. You had an excuse to just let loose.”
Gender & Sexual Expectations
“But like I only like will kiss. I just like kissing. I won’t do anything else.”
“This guy that I was talking to for like ten/ fifteen minutes… says, could you, um, come to the bathroom with me and jerk me off? And I’m like, what! I’m like, okay, like I’ve known you for like fifteen minutes but no.”
The social organization of student life intensifies peer cultures and structures social options.
Students of similar age, race, sexual orientation, class, and appearance are clustered.
Men and women mostly live on separate floors.
Some residence halls have locked floors.
Informal contact between female and male students occurs mainly in the eroticized and alcohol-fueled party scene
Lack of Public Space
Little communal space and dorm structure make spontaneous interactions unlikely
Successful at reducing visible partying, but students experience dorms as not “fun” and leave to party
“All those girls would stand out there at the circle drive and just like, no joke, get into these big black Suburbans driven by frat guys, shoving themselves in there, wearing like seriously no clothes, piled on top of each other. This could be like some kidnapper taking you all away to the woods and chopping you up and leaving you there.”
Some Party Themes:
Brothers serve themselves first, then women they are with, then other women, and then unaffiliated men.
The promise of more or better alcohol is often used to lure women into private spaces.
One floor resident reported, “Guys pressuring girls to drink who don’t want to drink. Or not even who don’t want to drink, but who just don’t feel comfortable drinking with them. Sometimes boys are creepy and you don’t want to sit and pound shots with them….”
Respondent A: I didn’t know what happened. I was scared and wanted to get the hell out of there. I didn’t know who it was, so how am I supposed to go to the hospital and say someone might’ve raped me? It could have been any one of the hundred guys that lived in the house. And I didn’t even know if it happened for sure.
Respondent B: It’s just so hard because you don’t know how to deal with it because you don’t want to turn in a frat because all hundred of those brothers…
Respondent A: I think I was also at the point thinking like, you know, I just got to school, I don’t want to start off on a bad note with anyone, and now it happened so long ago, I don’t know who it was, it’s just one of those things that I kinda have to live with.
Some don’t. They withdraw.
“You don’t go to a bar the way you used to before knowing all of this, at least I don’t. … It kills your social life.”
Peer culture & social organization work together to limit options for:
Students are invested in this world.
They take the bad with the good.
Sexual risk is normalized.
Women are assumed to be skilled at strategies to reduce risk.
They are blamed when their strategies fail.
Punitive policies may backfire:
Point 2. Party rape is enabled by features of student peer cultures. Desire for FUN and concerns with status, belonging, popularity drive women’s participation in dangerous party scenes.
Point 1. Party Rape is enabled by the SOCIAL ORGANIZATION of student life.
Point 3. Social Organization & Peer Culture Work Together.
Social Organization Intensifies Peer Culture.
Peer Culture Reinforces Social Organization