Fixing Yale's 'Hostile Sexual Environment' Isn't Just The University's Responsibility

“So then I went back to his suite with him. And we bumped into his friends, and he introduced me, and they were all ‘Nice to meet you,’ in that douchey voice that actually means ‘Ah, you’re getting it on with our boy tonight.” I don’t even know his friends, and they probably think I’m a slut because he told them I’m a slut! Whatever, then we went back and hooked up. And it was decent, I guess.”
This gossip was the result of a quick catch up sesh I had with my friend after one of those “OMG—so much to tell youuu” texts. I’m sure y’all have had friends like this girl. Actually, scratch that, I’m sure y’all have BEEN this girl before. I know I have: you hookup, you overanalyze, and you wonder if people think you’re a slut, and then you hookup again. It’s like the water cycle… only less hydrating and more damaging to the morale.
And for certain guys, this cycle, in contrast to our menstrual cycle, is their fave. This can be evidenced by a 2008 photo of a few of Yale’s finest Zeta Psi frat boys in front of our Women’s Center holding up a sign that says “We Love Yale Sluts”— classy.
The incident was one of several that were targeted in a recent complaint by 16 Yale students against the administration “for its failure to eliminate a hostile sexual environment on campus, in violation of Title IX.” (Read more on that here.) Thus, the Office of Civil Rights is opening an investigation of Yale, and should they find anything incriminating, will revoke our federal funding.
The Yale Daily News broke the story on April 1st, so I choked on my cereal and laughed because I thought it was an April Fool’s Day joke. Perhaps it’s because I always laugh at inappropriate moments, or perhaps it’s because I am afraid of confrontation, but I didn’t see how suing our administration would make a sexist situation better. It seemed like a dumb idea and I had Spanish homework to do. And so, it flew off my radar.
That is, until CNN news crews and the New York Times went crazy and my mom called and voiced her concern about my sexual well-being. Which was awkward.
Obviously, I represent a different subset of the population than the people who filed the complaint. Like I mentioned above, I go through the “Am I a Slut?” cycle quite frequently yet still believe that the Title IX complaint would accomplish very little. However, that isn’t to say that we don’t deserve the complaint.
The complaint has legitimacy. It isn’t right for frat boys to go around objectifying women, and it isn’t right for those accused of raping girls to go without any consequences. In my experience, Yale has had shady (read: gossiped-about, but not factually supported) situations involving boys getting kicked out for sexual harassment, but then coming back to school later. And it has received much criticism for not putting harsher restrictions on frats after incidences such as the one mentioned above. But while the spotlight has been put on the sweating administration, maybe attention should be turned to the individuals.
Our administration promotes open discussion, available resources and education about equality. And so, as was expected, in response to the complaint, we all got sent an email about a new Advisory Committee on Campus Climate (filled with fat biographies of committee members) formed to check in on the sexual environment here and report on their findings. Additionally, while the taskforce did its work, Yale would have discussions with students and figure out what was going on.
And this is all perfectly lovely. Open discussion is wonderful, transparency in bureaucracy is always refreshing, and taskforces are great. Except, they can’t be the only answer. Because while taskforces do appear to make changes at a macro-level, they do very little at the micro-level.
Although the media and our administration and a fraction of our student population is getting riled up at the complaint, the taskforce will never be able fully get a handle on the problem, because it cannot address the “Am I A Slut?” cycle—that’s not an administration thing, that’s a cultural thing.
Ladies and gentlemen, despite recent media attention, I know that this problem is not just a thing at my school. I’m sure you’ve seen echoes of it at your school: girls feeling pressured to hookup with guys after being their dates to a formal, guys talking about who is easy, girls telling other girls that “it’s okay because you were drunk,” etc. If we actually want to put a full stop to this college-environment-induced sexual hostility, we need to start realizing that objectification is not okay just because we’re drunk, or because all of our friends think it’s fine.
People do stupid things sometimes, and some nameless administration BS can dull it, but it isn’t going to stop it. The most effective way of stopping it is for you, your best friend, your boyfriend, your girlfriend, your roommates, whoever to a.) understand that something that they do, or a friend does, is not okay for the human morale, and then b.) not being afraid to talk about it. You don’t have to go Naomi Campbell on them, but lightheartedly point out their errors, let them know (or let yourself know) that you are judging their behavior. Most likely, they’ll start to change it.
On campus, some people are serious about the Title IX complaint, they discuss it in dining halls and go to the panels and Facebook chat friends about it—but from my perspective, a considerable number of people make a joke about it while they pregame, and then later on in the night go off and hookup with a rando—thus reinforcing the “Am I A Slut?” cycle.
Taskforces can dull the spikes of an outraged media, but they can’t change the nature of “OMG—so much to tell youuu” texts.

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