Addressing questions of consent and rape

A panel discussion on rape failed to confront its underlying culture.

Last Wednesday, students, administrators and community members gathered to discuss how our campus culture can be changed to prevent sexual assault at a panel discussion sponsored by University Pro-Choice Coalition, WomenâÄôs Student Activist Collective, La Raza and the American Indian Student Cultural Center. While the gathering was productive, I was left with questions regarding how we discuss sexual assault on campus.
There seemed to be an emphasis, especially by the police lieutenant on the panel, on discussing the way alcohol plays a role in college sexual assaults.
Plenty of people drink without assaulting others and identifying alcohol as the primary issue neglects the deeper issue of rape culture. Such a culture on campus is encouraged by a lack of discussion of healthy sexuality, the way aggression and dominance are normalized in constructions of masculinity and the silence surrounding the subject of sexual assault.
Developing healthy attitudes toward alcohol and drugs is a vital part of the discussion. Another discussion should be had in the context of educating people about consent, specifically, and how consent can never be granted when oneâÄôs capacities are impaired by drugs or alcohol.
It was disappointing that the greek life representative canceled their attendance to this panel, as it is in the best interest for all if the fraternities and sororities can join in a discussion of how greek life can be a positive presence on campus. Campus culture can be one that promotes healthy sexuality based on consent and respect, but we all must commit to being a part of the process.