More so than ever, we are seeing an increase in sexual violence against women. This is not to say that sexual violence does not happen to men; however, the numbers of violence against women is becoming increasingly alarming.
In a recent study by Harvard University, 36 percent of women aged 18-29 years old have had a personal experience with sexual assault. Researchers polled more than 2,000 women and found that either directly or through a family member or close friend, more than one third of these women had experience with sexual assault. Of this group, 11 percent of women were identified as victims of sexual assault. The poll’s chair, Ellen Robo, stated that if you extrapolate that data to the entire country’s population, then that segment represents, “roughly four million women who have been victimized by sexual assault.” In my opinion, that is four million too many.
The study also debunked a major myth of sexual assaults being quite prominent on college campuses. The poll concluded that in 91 percent of the surveyed cases, women were attacked off their college campuses and of the 9 percent who were attacked on campus, 29 percent of those attacks went unreported to police, administrators and friends.
It is a known fact that sexual violence is a highly growing and critical issue on college campuses. Newly released data shows that sexual violence complaints on college campuses to the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights have gone from just 9 (2009) to 102 (2014). While the numbers on college campus assaults are on the rise, it is essential to note that not all attacks on women ages 18-29 happen at college. Many women are assaulted in bars, restaurants, and even walking down the street in broad daylight. As a young 20-something living in a major metropolitan city, the alarming number of 91 percent of attacks taking place off a college campus and being more likely in my day-to-day life is quite concerning for me. I walk to work, to the grocery store, to the coffee shop and I often walk home from the metro at dusk and at odd hours. While I could take every precaution and taxi to every location I need to go, there are still attackers in taxis.
It is 2015 and women still have to be incredibly careful with each and every step we take–from the moment we leave our homes, to the moment we return at the end of the day. At what point will the numbers of rape and harassment cases slowly start to diminish? Perhaps this is not a question that will be answered in a matter of years or even decades, but it is best to look at a major root cause to this issue: Pornography.
Pornography has and continues to play a major role in the sexualization of women. Pornography and hypersexualized media have conditioned young boys and men to view women as property merely for their pleasure. With the age at which children are exposed to pornography going lower, young boys are particularly vulnerable to the deviance of what is now mainstream. When young boys become desensitized to the violence of pornography, the road ahead can likely beget more deviance and violence if not treated. A young child and adolescents immature sexual template is set by every image they see. And a series of highly stimulating moving images is even more effective. When no means yes and violence is made to be sexy, a distorted and horrific view is what sex “should” be like is set.
This problem is often exacerbated by college Sex Week– a week of complete sex immersion on many college campuses throughout the country. Many Sex Weeks include porn stars and other sex experts educating students on ways to lose their virginity, how to use internal condoms and dental dams and how to preform and enjoy anal sex.
Many of the topics at Sex Week are pornographic in content and the ideas tend to stem from porn. Rather than being informative in teaching students about safe sex and ways to prevent STIs and pregnancy, Sex Week encourages pornographic and violent behaviors. Sex Week continues to give men skewed and unrealistic expectations of women and how we should preform in the bedroom. For instance, at Harvard Sex Week 2014, a main topic was anal sex and how “to do it well.” At the University of Texas at Austin’s 2015 Sex Week, a special lecture is dedicated to sex toys about how “alone or with a companion, sex toys give you the opportunity to enhance and widen your sexual landscape. But where to start?” Sex Week promotes behaviors that can lead to sexual frustration and violence towards women.
Unfortunately, is things do not change neither will this seemingly never-ending cycle of deviance and assault. By educating on the harms of pornography and putting an end to things such as Sex Week, I hope to see this country move to a place where it was be unfathomable for two thirds of the female population to be affected by sexual assault.
To learn more about the harms of porn, visit the Porn Harms research project: http://pornharms.com
Visit the Sex Week project page and TAKE ACTION to stop annual sex weeks here: https://endsexualexploitation.org/sexweek/