As part of Women’s History Month, Becton College and the SGA hosted a Hot Topics event involving a viewing of the documentary, “Spitting Game: The College Hookup Culture,” as well as a panel discussion on the topic of sexual consent on college campuses.
Nearly every seat in Lenfell Hall was filled at the March 24 event, which was led by three professors, Francesca Degiuli, Lona Whitmarsh and Monifa Brinson-Mulraine. The event also involved three student panelists, Anneliese Aberg-Scalzo, Lauren Mekal and Alex Zaki.
Before showing the documentary, moderator Degiuli, assistant professor of sociology, began the event with a short introduction. She explained that the topic of sexual consent is difficult to discuss, especially on college campuses, owing to a “gray line” between what consent is and what it is not.
A short excerpt of the documentary was screened. It highlighted the haunting statistics of sexual assault violations. For instance, 90 percent of rapes on a college campus go unreported. The segment also revealed that an attacker is most likely to be a friend or a classmate. It brought up the subject of victim blaming, suggested reasons why girls are unlikely to come forward after an attack and emphasized that consent can be revoked at any time, no matter what.
After the viewing, the audience was encouraged to speak among themselves for a few minutes. They then discussed their opinions with the panelists and professors.
The panel discussion began by reminding the audience that both men and women can be victims of sexual assault.
Aberg-Scalzo mentioned the issue of alcohol and sex, which was brought up in the documentary by people who mentioned gauging a person’s level of intoxication before choosing whether to have sex with them. Aberg-Scalzo’s opinion was, “if you have alcohol in you, you cannot give consent.”
Zaki said people are afraid to step up and take responsibility for their actions, prompting an audience member to to introduce the idea of shared responsibility.
Whitmarsh, professor of psychology and counseling, said that one possible way to help prevent rape is to have group responsibility, such as having friends look out for one another to make sure someone isn’t being put in a dangerous situation.
Another major issue the documentary addressed was the aftermath of rape and how the victim is often blamed, with criticisms about what they should have done differently. During the conversation, people discussed the matter, with several panelists and students saying the person at fault is the one who perpetrated the assault. It is not the victim’s fault, no matter what they were wearing or how much they drank.
One passionate audience member said it is wrong that when a woman reveals she has been raped, people often worry about the rapist’s future and reputation rather than the victim’s well-being.
Some men in the documentary, when asked to speak about the subject of consent, said that it is hard for a man to control himself, especially if he has gotten to a certain point of arousal. One student in the audience responded to this idea, saying that men are human beings, not animals, who are capable of controlling their actions, even if sexually aroused.
A female student in the audience also said that a woman wanting to go out and have fun does not necessarily mean she wants to have sex with someone that night, since men in the documentary had said women in bars late at night are only there to have sex.
Another point made by a male audience member was that society should teach people not to rape, instead of teaching people how to prevent themselves from being raped. This prompted Brinson-Mulraine, who teaches sociology, to ask the audience if their parents discussed the issue of consent with them. When it seemed as if most audience members hadn’t had that conversation with their parents, Brinson-Mulraine discussed the importance of parental guidance. She said that parents are among the first people to influence a child’s behavior, but because rape and sexual consent are such difficult topics to discuss, many parents never speak about them with their children. Therefore, people are not always properly taught how to treat other members of society when it comes to sex.
Near the end of the discussion, suggestions were made about how to make it easier for people to report sexual assault when it takes place. Zaki suggested more female Public Safety officers so women can feel more comfortable reporting the sensitive subject. Another panelist also suggested that officers be more educated about the subject, no matter their gender, so they can be more helpful to people who report an assault.
Finally, audience members and panelists attempted to come up with ways that colleges could help reduce instances of rape. Several people mentioned that one of the best prevention strategies is education, and that it should be incorporated into the Core or Freshman Seminar curricula.