January 23, 2014

President Obama Speaks on Preventing Sexual Assault in Military and Colleges

Written by Hysen Sisco, MIM Intern

On January 22, 2014, President Obama spoke from the East Room about the status and prevention of sexual assault in the United States. President Obama spoke plainly when he said, “Sexual assault is an affront to our basic decency and humanity.” And to sexual assault victims, he said, “I’ve got your back.”

I commend the President for speaking so boldly against sexual assault, and validating the concerns of those who recognize rape culture in our society. While I understand that the President may feel limited due to the sensitive nature of this issue, I wish he had spoken more condemning the causes of this problem. Yes, he spoke of “a fundamental change in our culture – a shift in our attitudes about how we think about sexual violence.” But we need to amend our actions in order to spur lasting change. I’m talking about addressing pornography use in our country.

In his speech, the President covered three main issues: men’s attitudes toward women and the history of sexual assault in our country’s military and colleges. Let me illuminate how porn affects each of these dilemmas.

“Real men don’t hurt women.”

Porn changes how a user views those around them. In general, it represents women as passive objects that exist for the sexual pleasure of men; that they enjoy all sexual acts no matter how degrading.  President Obama explained the problem of men viewing women as sex objects, saying,

We’ve got to keep teaching young men in particular to show women the respect they deserve and to recognize sexual violence and be outraged by it, and to do their part to stop it from happening in the first place… I want every young man in America to feel some strong peer pressure in terms of how they are supposed to behave and treat women.

How many sexual assaults have occurred spontaneously and organically without some sort of inspiration? I’d say, very few. And research backs me up. Porn informs users’ beliefs about consent and pleasure. Porn shows women, and sometimes men, in violent, demeaning situations from which users gain positive reinforcement because their experience ends in orgasm. This cycle is repeated, despite the user’s personal opinions against sexual violence; those opinions are ground down with repetition. Their beliefs have changed such that they are more likely to be in society and act out with sexual assault or violence.

“These crimes have no place in the greatest military on Earth.”

In 2013, at least 70 sexual assaults were reported per day in our nation’s armed services due to a culture that accepts sexual assault. President Obama decried the legacy of the US Military as being a place of violence against women.

If [a] woman doesn’t feel like she has recourse when she’s subject to abuse, and we’re not there supporting her, shame on us.  When a member of our military is assaulted by the very people he or she trusted and serves with,… that’s a profound injustice that no one who volunteers to defend America should ever have to endure. 

… As Commander-in-Chief, I’ve made it clear to our military leadership that we need to deal aggressively with the problem of sexual assault in our armed forces.  It has been going on too long, and we have an obligation to protect the men and women who put their lives on the line to protect us… I’ve made it clear I expect significant progress in the year ahead.

Despite the Military Honor and Decency Act, which requires the US Department of Defense to remove all sexually explicit materials sold or rented by stores on military bases, pornography continues to be sold by the Army and Air Force. Because the belief that women are sex objects is strengthened on a regular basis via porn, sold to them by their employer, it can be rightly assumed that someone is going to act on that belief with a co-worker.

“Schools need to be places where … young people feel secure”

There is a sexual assault problem on our college campuses. The President voiced his concerns and resolve to fix this problem.

It is estimated that 1 in 5 women on college campuses has been sexually assaulted during their time there – 1 in 5… It’s totally unacceptable.

… [T]oday, I will sign a presidential memorandum creating the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault… to help [educational institutions] come up with better ways to prevent and respond to sexual assault on their campuses… [and] put those ideas into practice.

Some of the problem is due to the university administrations’ insufficient policies, some is due to the student’s attitudes about sex and consent. Rape culture is most powerful on college campuses where porn use is considered a requisite hobby. With the introduction of Sex Weeks at many universities – many of which omit any mention of the actual harms of pornography, but instead laud its benefits – students are actually in greater danger of sexual assault. You can read more about my thoughts on this issue here.

“The United States of America will be the global leader.”

The President concluded his speech saying, “I’ve often said in my travels around the world:  You can judge a nation, and how successful it will be, based on how it treats its women and its girls.” I suppose he is trying to avoid becoming like India and bits of Africa and the Middle East, nations in the public eye for the horrendous treatment of their women. Those countries, more often than not, face unrestrained access to pornography and severe addiction to it.

If this administration is really interested in protecting women from sexual assault, they should begin to enforce the existing laws against pornography. If less people have access to these obscene materials, the less likely they are to become predators acting out sexual aggressions they’ve seen.

 

 

UPDATE: If you want the Obama administration to understand the importance of this issue, find out how you can contact Attorney General Eric Holder, who refuses to enforce existing federal obscenity laws against hardcore pornography, here.

UPDATE: The task force organized by the Obama Administration has launched a new website for students, following its 90-day investigation into sexual assault on campuses. There, students can find resources to aid in sexual assault safety and even report their university or college for not complying with federal law in protecting student safety. While there isn’t any information on the causes of sexual harassment and rape culture, you can visit the site here: https://www.notalone.gov/

Further Reading