UVM frat suspended for promoting rape culture

14 Dec

“It isn’t uncommon for fraternities to get into trouble for hazing or alcohol policy violations, but a University of Vermont fraternity is in hot water simply for circulating a survey to its members. The brothers just wanted to get to know each other a little better by asking for some basic info from one another, like “name,” “major,” “favorite memories,” and “If I could rape someone, who would it be?” Oh, yikes…

WCAX reports that yesterday UVM put Sigma Phi Epsilon on suspension after it became the latest fraternity to engage in some rape-promoting banter. Though the full questionnaire hasn’t been released, according to student blogs, the last question got out when a new member sent the document to a teaching assistant instead of his homework (note to self: when saving files, make sure to give them clear names like, “NON-INCRIMINATING MATH HW.doc” and “DISTURBING EVIDENCE OF MY LADY-HATING WAYS.doc”). The frat was already on probation for alcohol violations, and after a student sent out a tip, SigEp was told to cease all activities by both UVM and the national fraternity.

The roughly 45 members are allowed to continue living in the house for the time being, but more disciplinary action could be coming. UVM officials are investigating and say they’ve asked campus police to determine if criminal charges need to be filed. According to The Burlington Free Press, the frat will also be getting a visit from a representative of the national organization, which issued this statement:

“The Fraternity has instructed the chapter to cease all operations, pending further investigation. Sigma Phi Epsilon and its leadership programs are built on the concept of respect for both self and others. Any behavior that demeans women is not tolerated by the Fraternity. National Fraternity representatives, volunteers and university officials are investigating this situation and will take appropriate action to uphold the Fraternity’s values.”

Several feminist organizations are pushing to have the fraternity shut down entirely. Sigma Phi Epsilon should know the drill, since UVM’s chapter was shut down from 1993-1997 for hazing, which included making pledges tell racist jokes and describe what they’d do with a stripper whose company they enjoyed the night before. An online petition started by Feminists at UVM, which has already far exceeded its 1,000 signature goal, states:

This egregious expression of rape culture is only the most recent example
of systemic sexism at UVM. The past year alone has witnessed rape, multiple sexual assaults, and anti-abortion chalking in public spaces. While the university administration has laid off long-time Women’s and Gender Studies faculty and supported sexist institutions like Sigma Phi Epsilon, it has refused to take concerted action to combat sexism and rape culture. We demand that instead of diverting resources into vast salaries for its administrators, UVM should launch an aggressive campaign against sexism and rape culture, and it should expand institutions such as Women’s and Gender Studies and the Women’s Center at UVM.

For its report, WCAX either managed to find the three most enlightened and well-spoken students at UVM, or many people on campus really are deeply offended by the survey and through with tolerating misogynistic behavior. Though it seems the question was just a joke (we don’t really want to consider the possibility that the frat was taking orders for sexual assault victims) the fact that someone thought it was cute or funny is indicative of a bigger problem. Sadly, this is minor compared to the frat horror stories we’ve heard. However, disbanding Sigma Phi Epsilon would send a message that the days when reports of a frat promoting sexual assault would end with an administrator chuckling “boys will be boys,” are over.”

Written originally for Jezebel by Margaret Hartmann

Yale cancels Sex Week 2011 due to the porn industry’s involvement.

12 Nov

"Sex Week: The Magazine" is an erotic magazine distributed at Yale

Written for Jezebel.com by Anna North

Yesterday, Yale’s president announced that the university’s “Sex Week,” an exploration of sexual issues featuring panels discussions, guest speakers, and other events, will no longer be allowed to use Yale’s name or facilities. Conservative students have been campaigning against Sex Week for some time, calling it pro-porn and anti-relationship. But the president’s explanation for the ban includes some more serious allegations.

Earlier this year, Yale asked a special committee to examine and report on “how sexual harassment, violence or misconduct may be more effectively combated at Yale, and what additional steps the University might take to create a culture and community in which all of our students are safe and feel well supported.” The committee was chaired by former Massachusetts Supreme Court Justice Margaret Marshall,famous for her 2003 decision authorizing gay marriage in the state, and it issued its report in September. The report made a number of recommendations, including that the university “improve the mechanisms for addressing claims of sexual misconduct so that every Yale student understands clearly where to make a claim.” It also included this passage:

We heard over and over from students, faculty, and staff that “Sex Week at Yale,” a student-sponsored event, is highly problematic. A student-initiated event begun in 2002, it has described itself as “a campus-wide interdisciplinary sex education program.” Over time, this event clearly has lost the focus of its stated intention. Although “Sex Week at Yale” continues to promote consideration of some serious topics, like international sex trafficking, in recent years it has prominently featured titillating displays, “adult” film stars, and commercial sponsors of such material. We recommend that “Sex Week at Yale” be prohibited from using Yale’s name and any Yale facilities. We recognize the role of events that promote healthy discourse and help students explore issues of intimacy, love, and relationships as they relate to their own lives but feel that the most recent iterations of “Sex Week at Yale” cannot accomplish this. Administrators and student organizers must be thoughtful about working together to create a new program that is consistent with a climate of respect and responsibility (and thus worthy of the University’s support).

In a letter dated yesterday, Yale president Richard Levin announced he would be implementing this recommendation:

The […] Committee repeatedly heard concerns and complaints about a student-led activity known as “Sex Week at Yale.” After comparing the event’s initial purpose with its current iteration, the Committee strongly recommended that the students in charge of this event not be allowed to use the Yale name or Yale’s facilities. At Dean Miller’s suggestion, I have allowed her to give the current student organizers the opportunity to propose a program for next semester that might warrant continuation of this event on campus. We have no intention of suppressing the students’ right to free expression. But we will not allow the University’s facilities or name to be used in the service of corporate sponsors and the private inurement of student organizers.

Earlier this year, the group Undergraduates for a Better Yale College launched a student campaign against Sex Week. Their rationale was not quite the same as the president’s — they complained that at the 2010 event “about one-third of the events were hosted or facilitated by pornographic film actors or people intimately involved with the pornography industry” (including Fleshbot editor Lux Alptraum). They also issued this message to supporters:

Tell Yale that a pornographic culture does not create respect but degrades, does not build up relationships but undermines them, promotes not consent but the ugliest form of pressure, does not stop sexual harassment and the objectification of one another’s bodies but makes us numb, blind, and indifferent to how we actually look at and treat others. Tell Yale that you want a campus marked by respect and love, full of flourishing friendships based on the acknowledgment of each person’s integral value, relationships based on true love between partners — not transient lust — and a sense of familial trust between all students. Tell Yale to say “No” to Sex Week and all it stands for, because Yale can do so much better.

Alptraum, in fact, told me that Sex Week 2010 “was a bit too much of a porn week rather than a sex week.” She added,

I think they should have made the event more well rounded, and that there’s something telling when the main people that college students turn to for a discussion of sex are related to the adult industry. But that said, all the people they recruited were really smart and thoughtful and talked about a lot of things aside from pornography.The line between sex ed and porn is not as distinct as some might think.

It’s possible that the Sex Week organizers will retool their event to be less porn-focused if they choose to submit an alternate proposal to the Dean (they haven’t yet responded to my request for comment about their future plans). And while some sex educators from outside the adult industry might be a welcome addition to the program, the porniness of the proceedings seems like only part of the reason for the ban. While the language about “intimacy, love, and relationships” in the committee’s report may be a nod to the position of Undergraduates for a Better Yale College, that position isn’t much in evidence in the president’s letter. Instead, the letter seems to suggest that student organizers might have been getting kickbacks from corporate sponsors, a serious allegation that has nothing to do with sexual politics. Alptraum saw no evidence of financial malfeasance when she spoke at Sex Week 2010; I’ve contacted both the Sex Week organizers and the Dean’s office about the allegations, and await their response. For now, all that seems clear is that the banning of Sex Week isn’t a statement against the discussion of sexuality, but something far more complex.

Condom Use On The Rise Among Teens! Huzzah!

16 Oct

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Wednesday that condom use by teenagers is on the rise even though overall teen sexual activity remains unchanged.

The CDC said that eight in 10 teen males ages 15-19 surveyed as part of its National Survey of Family Growth reported they had used condoms during their first sexual experience.

That is up 9 percentage points from 2002, the last time the data was collected.

The authors of the report did not explain why condom use has jumped. But they said the rise was consistent with other trends they’ve seen in recent years, including a decline in teen pregnancies.

While condom use among males has spiked, the use of “other methods” of birth control, including withdrawal and sterilization, has fallen among teen boys’ partners, the CDC said.

The CDC also found a significant increase in the percentage of female teens using hormonal methods other than the pill, such as injectables and contraceptive patches, to prevent pregnancy.

Six percent of teen females in the latest survey said they used a non-pill hormonal method at their first sexual experience, up from 2 percent in 2002.

CDC researchers interviewed 2,284 teen girls and 2,378 teen boys — the largest sample of teenagers undertaken as part of their ongoing National Survey of Family Growth.

Teenagers’ overall use of contraceptives has changed little since 2002, the CDC said. One exception was the number of teens who said they were employing a two-pronged approach to pregnancy control, combining the use of a condom with birth control pills or other hormonal contraceptives.

The study found that 16 percent of teen males used a condom in combination with a female partner’s hormonal method, up from 10 percent in 2002.

About 43 percent of never-married female teens it surveyed, and about 42 percent of never-married male teens, reported they were sexually experienced, similar to 2002.

When CDC researchers asked teens who have not had sex why they were abstaining, the primary reason given was that it was “against religion or morals,” not because they were worried about unplanned pregnancies or sexually transmitted diseases.

Overall, sexual activity among U.S. teenagers seems to be holding steady, the CDC said.

Of those teens who said they were sexually active, 78 percent of females and 85 percent of males said they employed some form of contraception during their first sexual experience, virtually unchanged from 2002.


Written by James Kelleher.  Read the original article here.

ASU Men’s Rights Group and the Bullshit They’re Spewing.

29 Sep

Students at Arizona State University have been noticing flyers for an organization called the Men’s Rights Movement Group. And the group’s website claims that “Women have NEVER been systematically oppressed.” We talked to the MRMg’s president to find out what these collegiate men’s rights activists are all about.

The flyers, visible on the MRMg’s website, bear a variety of men’s rights messages. One (at left) lists a variety of “privileges and rights that ONLY WOMEN get in society,” including “right to incarcerate opposite sex by simple accusation” and “right to be brought up by the belief that females are superior.” Others say “Society Has Daddy Issues” and “All Male Students At ASU Are Guilty Until Proven Innocent.” They also advertise a series of meetings, beginning September 1. A fuller statement of MRMg’s purpose, also available on its website, reads in part,

This is to clear the name of my father and my father’s father and my great grandfather and on up the line. Women have NEVER been systematically oppressed by any of my ancestors or their institutions. I take great offense to the defamation of the name of my paternal ancestors at the hands of feminist lies. It is offensive to suggest that men have systemically oppressed women and everyone is offended by it. My ancestors never conspired to hold down and oppress women in any way shape or form, no majority of any human paternal ancestors did so. On the contrary women were tirelessly protected and nourished. Because it was the man who went outside in the morning to do the manual labor only to return at dark. The man held the responsibility of bringing home the bread in a cut throat deadly wilderness. While she stayed indoor with the kids, churned butter and baked biscuits, my forefathers were out there getting attacked by robbers, getting attacked by wild animals, natural disasters, plagues, mental and physical exhaustion you name it. Who was inside sitting next to the fire reading a book? Women. Who was it who risked his life to save the woman and children? Men. Who is it who fends off wild animals of fangs and claws, fends off roving bands of barbarians? Men didn’t have time to oppress women. They were themselves oppressed.

When I contacted MRMg president Zachary Morris via email, he explained his motivation for starting the group thus:

I believe gender warfare is the root of all societal problems, and a keen lens from which to understand all human affairs. While there are many women’s groups and gender focus on women in college courses and on campus there are none for men. So I decided to start one to give this perspective and knowledge-base a voice.

The group’s mission, he says, is “to offer an alternative to feminist party line dogma, open up people’s minds to knowledge-base outside the normal conventions of society in lieu of gender and feminist ideological doctrine, allow that it may better serve men, boys, and their own self-image; promote a more male-friendly environment, institution, and world by correcting destructive and false self-serving feminist propaganda and speaking against societal and institutional forms of misandry.” Specifically, MRMg advocates for the establishment of a Male Studies Dept. at ASU, and against new standards for prosecution of campus sexual assault cases, which the group feels unfairly favor the accuser. Morris said his group doesn’t consider any specific campus women’s groups its enemies — “however, since much of feminism is built on top of falsities and half truths in order to manipulate, women, men and society, and promoting the adoption of an aristocratic vengeful victim mindset against males, natural man, or masculinity, testosterone (you name it), the Men’s Rights Movement Group at times will be targeting the feminist political power base and rhetoric in effort for reformation for the benefit of all.”

I talked to Prof. Georganne Scheiner, head of ASU’s Women & Gender Studies Department, who disagrees with the notion that women’s rights on campus come at the expense of men’s. She notes that her department serves men as well as women:

[O]ur introductory courses are hugely popular with over 1000 students a year (both in live and on-line classes) and attract a diverse following from members of the Greek community, to LBGTQ students, to feminists, to members of the ASU football team (in fact, we are very popular with a range of student athletes). We attract a wide proportion of male students as well and our surveys are now about 40% male. We have at least 10 male majors and approximately 20% of our minors are male.

Scheiner is aware of the MRMg, but says,

Their understanding of what we do in WGS […] seems limited. For example, they argue that in WGS we teach that because we live in patriarchy, women are automatically oppressed and men are not. Of course we don’t believe that and our critique is much more nuanced in that we tend to talk about a hierarchy of oppression and that men can be oppressed by patriarchy as well. They complain about the lack of focus on men in our classes, but they fail to see that we changed the name of our program (as have most Women’s Studies) programs to Women and Gender Studies because we are committed to looking at gender, not just women, as a category of analysis.

And she adds,

We don’t believe that equality is a zero sum game — that it’s us against them — that in order for women to succeed, men have to fail; that in order for women to have political power, men have to lose theirs. As Mary Wollstonecraft said, “I do not wish women to have power over men, but over themselves.”

Her argument is a far cry from the “aristocratic vengeful victim mindset” Morris describes. However, his rhetoric is in line with that of many men’s rights activists online and elsewhere. Though he told me “we are not officially attached to any off-campus men’s rights groups, our master is simply the good, the true, and the beautiful,” MRMg’s website includes a quote from noted MRA Paul Elam and links to AntiMisandry.com and Reddit’s Men’s Rights subgroup. The Men’s Rights Movement Group could be evidence that MRA ideology is trickling down to the college level. On the other hand, it’s not trickling very fast — Morris says his group has “only 3 brave members not including myself.”

Posted originally on Jezebel.com.

You Can Get Laid Without Being A Jerk

28 Sep

A letter to my brother, and all his college friends:

College is awesome, right? No parents, no curfew, no rules, and there are girlseverywhere. It is an alcohol-fueled, school-spirit-enhanced buffet of ladies, and it’s hard not to want to sample everything on the menu. So you should!

Seriously, I’m not going to rain on what could potentially be a literal parade, so just be safe and have fun.

You’re waiting for the “but,” because I’m your nagging big sister and that’s what I do. Here it is: Be safe, have fun, but don’t be a manipulative, coercive asshole about it. There’s story after story about on-campus sexual assaults, astoundingly high rates of date-rape, and even more terrifying estimates of unreported incidents. I’m not worried you’ll be that guy, but there are still dozens of tempting and legal ways to be a douche when you’re trying to get some action. Forgoing these “techniques” requires recalibrating your hook-up goals to emphasize consent, respect, and yes, pleasure, instead of “scoring.”


There are strategies to get laid that are violent and criminal, and there are methodologies that are just mean-spirited and misogynistic. You can find the drunkest girl in the bar and hand her another shot. You can physically back a girl into a corner at a party until the only way out is through you. You can cut a girl down to size with backhanded “compliments,” belittle her until she thinks the only way to feel good again is to win your attention. You can taunt her with insults about prudishness, until she thinks she needs to prove something. You can taunt her with insults about sluttiness, until she thinks she might as well confirm what you already think of her. You already know that these dick moves are beneath you.

There are milder forms of deception and coercion, though, tactics that are dangerous because of their efficacy and subtlety. These are the ones to which I want to draw your attention. You can lie about your feelings for her. You can promise things you can’t deliver. You can agree to commitments you know you’ll break. You can hear hesitation or uncertainty in her voice, and ignore it. You can play with her emotions, knowing full well that if you were honest about your lack of intentions, you’d lose your shot at a hook-up. You can know that if she were sober, she wouldn’t be doing this, and you can go for it anyway. A court might not convict you, but I hope you know that these are dick moves, too.

The pronouns in this essay thus far would suggest that I think only men can be coercive when it comes to sex, and we all know that’s patently untrue. We know male rape is a real issue, and that the stigma against victims can be excruciating. We know that women can lie and scheme their way into sex just as well as men. We know that insults to masculinity, epithets like “pussy,” or accusations of homosexuality can compel guys to do things they don’t want to do, just to prove a point. The toolbox may look different, but we know that girls can wield emotional manipulation and social coercion with expert dexterity.

All these strategies work more often than we’d like. I hope someday we can better teach teenagers (and adults) to call bullshit when they see it and to let the insults roll of their backs instead of eat at their self-esteem. But in the meantime, the fact that those manipulative moves might work doesn’t mean you should use them. These are tools for weak people, people for whom sex is a contest and winning matters. Sex can, and should, be fun. It can be playful, it can be casual, but it isn’t a game. Whether enacted by men or women, these bullshit strategies are not sexy, they are not cool, and-quaint as it may be-they are not very nice. There’s nothing wrong with a little push-pull, a little back-and-forth banter with a prospective partner, but assigning a winner and a loser to a sexual encounter sets us all back a couple decades.


You should never feel like you’ve been convinced to have sex, and you should never feel like you’re doing the convincing. You want partners-one-night-stands or long-term relationships-who want to have sex with you as much as you want to have sex with them. The culturally established “no means no” is too low a bar. Only yes means yes. And I’m not talking about an “I guess we could…” or an “I don’t really care….” or an “Only if you really want to….” or a “Might as well…” I’m talking about an enthusiastic, excited, sustained “Yes!” Are those “yesses” less frequent than the non-committal, hesitant “not-nos?” Yeah, they are, but it’s worth it to know that the people you’re fooling around with really want to fool around with you, too.

Alcohol clouds everyone’s decision-making abilities, but it doesn’t make us deaf. Even at frat row, bar crawls, or crowded house parties, you need to listen for that “Yes!” And you need to be saying it too! If you’re a “Yes!” and your partner is a “Yes!”, then I revert to my original advice: be safe, have fun. Consent is not a traditionally sexy concept, but I absolutely guarantee you that two enthusiastic, excited, sustained “yesses” is what it’s all about.


Your big sister,



Posted originally on The Good Men Project by Emily Heist Moss

Poll Shows Teen Unprotected Sex On The Rise

27 Sep


A new poll finds that teens in a number of countries are having unsafe sex in increasing numbers — and their reasons for forgoing protection are pretty depressing.

Reuters reports that the poll, conducted in honor of World Contraception Day, found that the number of teens having unprotected sex in the US increased 39% over the last three years. In Britain, that figure was 19%, and in France, a full 111%. The most common reason for not using contraception was not having any available — teens mentioned running out of contraceptives, fearing that parents would find them, or being too embarrassed to ask doctors about obtaining them. Other reasons included a partner who preferred not to use it (the second most common reason in Asia and the US), preferring not to use it themselves, getting drunk and forgetting, and feeling that contraception is not “cool.” Both preferring not to use protection and seeing it as uncool were most often reported by men, which underscores the need to teach men as well as women the importance of safe sex. It doesn’t do any good to teach girls to insist on condoms if their partners are going to refuse. And gynecologists can’t be the only source of contraceptive information — someone needs to give this information to boys and men as well. Says the report,

These results indicate a continued need for comprehensive sex education teaching young people about the risks associated with sexual intercourse without using contraception, particularly with a new partner and how to assert their sexual health rights in a way that feels comfortable within their cultural environment.

Access to contraception and instructions for proper use are undeniably important, but teens also need strategies for fitting contraception into their relationships and their lives. And across the world, they’re not getting them.

Written originally for Jezebel.com. Read here.

distracted during the GREs

22 Sep

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