Columns / Discourse / May 29, 2014

Reflections: Thoughts and thanks

The first comment I must have in my final column should have been in my first  —  I owe all of this, the space, the support, the ideas, to the decades-long struggle carried out by millions of dedicated feminists, the grand majority of them being women.

Many of these women went through hell and back at the hands of systematically despotic men before even joining the feminist movement. I thank you, each and every one of you, for your courage, your intelligence, your charisma and your patience. You see through the flimsy excuse that men are dim beasts, and demand better of us, as we should do of ourselves.

Men and women have never been treated equally, save in a few isolated societies. Thus, what we are doing — attempting to put men, women and all others on a level playing field — is utterly revolutionary. We should not forget this.

I have dedicated a fair amount of column space to taking on some of the more marginal aspects of assault. Writing about consent, I may have given the impression that consistently checking in on your partner was how to tackle the rape epidemic.

But I should reiterate that this is just good communication, which is absolutely necessary to any healthy sexual and/or romantic relationship, most crucially in cases of hook-ups where there is not a long history of communication and understanding. Thus, this kind of consent communication is how to not transgress your partner’s comfort and safety.

Thus, I possibly misled my readers over the origins of sexual assault on our campus. Most rapes are not one-time “mistakes,” by which an assaulter was blind to someone’s intoxication — most rapes are committed by serial offenders, whom are usually men that use tried-and-true tactics to coerce sex out of nonconsenting women. According to varying sources, these men commit 70-90 percent of rapes on college campuses.

These men regularly exploit alcohol, rohypnol (roofies) and sheer physical strength to commit rape time and time again. They have been socialized to believe in male ownership of female bodies, not in the autonomy of women. Serial rapists have built inner logics of domination to self-justify their actions.

Some rapists may have seeds of self-doubt stemming from the current campus climate, while others may be quite impervious, and when confronted, extremely belligerent. These men are Teresa Amott’s reasons for holding onto the policy of professors being mandated reporters — they have assaulted before, and they will assault again, unless we catch them (though we still need a stronger system to deal with them after that point.) While we may not agree with her tactics, I know we all want to bring a heavier dose of justice to victims of sexual assault, or at the very least, get these assaulters off of our campus.

As a student body interested in social justice, it is imperative we support the general feminist agenda. This means creating norms of respect, understanding, consent and intolerance for those that repeatedly transgress such norms. That being said, we should extend our understanding to those that come from societies mired in worse patriarchies than ours and we should be willing to patiently engage in such cross-cultural conversations as a means for global change.

I graduate in a week, and I can truly say I’ve never been prouder of Knox for tackling this issue in a serious manner. That does not mean we are done, far from it — we need better information at orientation and at every step of the way, as well as harsher punishment for offenders. If we, the student body, can keep talking about this next year, while simultaneously presenting our vision to the college and pressuring the administration to make the necessary changes, we can do something truly beautiful for our campus.

Next year, this column will be taken over by Andrew Marr ’16 and Nat Baldino ’15. I would be very happy if it was joined by others, women and trans* alike, to present alternative perspectives on these extremely important issues.

Writing this column has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my time here. Good luck, Knox, and may you never stop working towards gender justice.

Tags:  gender justice rape culture sexual assault Tom Courtright

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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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