May 5, 2014

What the White House Missed: Pornography’s Role in Combating Rape and Sexual Assault

By Alison Meyer, MIM Intern

In response to a report by the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault, the White House released guidelines that would provide colleges and universities across the nation measures to combat sexual assaults on campus.  The White House even released this video against these attacks:

The report and video, however, do little to address the causes of rape culture in the United States, particularly one that is rarely addressed in these types of politicized campaigns: porn.

What were the perpetrator’s motives when they sexually assaulted someone?  Our research says that they were thinking this behavior was acceptable, that she wanted it, based on what he had seen in porn. Exposure to pornographic media is connected with believing women deserve or enjoy to be raped, accepting violence against women, and even engaging in rape themselves.

The report from the White House says that 1 in 5 women are sexually assaulted in college.  As a female sophomore in college, that number is terrifying.  Currently, I live in an on-campus apartment with four other women.  This means that it is extremely likely that throughout our college career, one of us will be sexually assaulted.

When a woman is assaulted, some of the most common questions are “How much had she drank? What was she wearing? Was she flirting with him?” etc. A girl was assaulted as she was leaving the library on my college campus.  A man pushed her against the side of a building and said to her, “I will have my way with you.”  She wasn’t drunk, dressed provocatively, or flirting with anyone, and yet, she was still assaulted.

The only way to stop this type of behavior on college campuses is not only to prosecute offenders, but to also stop men from becoming offenders.  When a mind is repeatedly exposed to pornography, it is easier to make the wrong decision. Educating about the harms of pornography and its link to sexual violence in adults can help put an end to rape culture.

As a woman who is about to finish my sophomore year of college, I am excited and happy about the stricter guidelines for college campuses in regards to reporting and prosecuting sexual assaults.  However, if society continues to downplay the causes of rape and sexual assault, the numbers will only rise unless something is done about it.

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