Columns / Discourse / April 21, 2014

Men at Knox

Over the past year momentum has been building in efforts to take on the disturbingly high sexual assault rate on college campuses: one out of five women will experience sexual assault at college, according to the CDC.

Much of the discussion on sexual assault is centered on victims, a necessary move to take care of those hurt by assault. Yet more time should be spent discussing the criminals, men that ‘chase the girl’ until she ‘gives in’ and says yes, or at least, stops saying no.

Thus, the role of this column is to bring up issues related to male culture, male homosocial spaces and modern masculinities, while discussing tactics for creating a more self-reflective manhood.

Though it may seem a lofty goal to reform American masculinity, we should remember that these things are never truly static; they are being constantly reformulated by each and every film and book and throwaway comment.

Both the social structure and personal responsibility are important to talk about aggressive masculinity is reinforced by watching “The Expendables,” yet the decision to pin someone to the wall is a conscious choice.

Reforming masculinity should then have a wide range of aims, including reducing assault rates, expanding opportunities for all and destroying taboos that would have us favor comfort over truth.

The clearest victims of masculinity as it currently exists are sexual assault victims. Open your ears to women at most any alcohol-soaked party, my fellow self-identifying males, and you will inevitably hear about the creep at the counter, whom despite clear disinterest on the part of your female friend, started kissing her on the dance floor.

It is not popular amongst men to discuss masculinity, just as it is not popular amongst European-Americans (white folks) to discuss whiteness, or really any ruling party to discuss their own privilege.

Yet it is absolutely necessary, for we are coming to a time when ‘progress’ or ‘equality’ can no longer be only pushed up from below, but must be actively advocated from the top as well.

It’s a difficult discussion, we (this author is a straight European-American male) haven’t ever been forced to reflect on whether our lot in life is due to the system we live in or our personal responsibility.

This unquestioning, unreflective privilege occasionally leads to developments that are not for our betterment. For example, our preference for comfort over truth has helped lead to the incredible imbalance in study abroad rates; there are roughly three women to every man in study abroad programs.

There could be a variety of reasons for this; the most enduring reason to this author is the issue of control. A male classmate in Argentina spoke of being taught to always be in control of the situation, something that is nearly impossible when you don’t speak the language or know the culture of the others.

In a college as progressive as our brochures purport us to be, it should be entirely within our capabilities to have the kind of frank discussion necessary for the topic. Over the next two months, this columnist hopes to address issues ranging from rape culture, the intersection of gender and race, to tips on being a better gender ally. This is a learning experience for the author as well, who fully expects to receive criticism from all sides of the political spectrum.

Tags:  feminism gender ally Knox College men politics rape culture sexual assault sexual harassment women

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Tom Courtright
Tom Courtright is a columnist for The Knox Student, primarily covering Africa. He grew up in Kilimanjaro, Tanzania and is currently studying international relations, history and journalism. He begins his volunteer term with Peace Corps in September 2014, on the Pacific island of Fiji.

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Apr 21, 2014

Thoughtful post, although the CDC data you use is fairly out of date. I’d recommend checking out the 2010 NISVS report that gives a more reliable estimate (Nearly 1 in 5 women is raped during her lifetime (18.3%); significantly lower than the figure found in the 80’s; still unacceptably high, but we’re making progress).

– old CDC data (

-2010 CDC data (

Here’s some further reading if you’re interested in being an effective ally and reducing sexual violence at Knox:

– Repeat Rape and Multiple Offending Among Undetected Rapists (

-RAINN policy recommendations to the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault: (

Apr 23, 2014

Maybe the study-abroad part, which was thrown it at the end, deserves its own post. This is otherwise a strong, provoking piece.

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