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Free condoms at parties may encourage sexual assault
Rape is frequently ignored when dealing with the idea of the “party scene” because of the lack of informed discussion surrounding sex crimes. For this reason, there’s a chance that the new condom delivery service created by H*yas for Choice has the potential to do more harm than good.
This service will offer bulk condoms for pickup or delivery at the request of party hosts in an attempt to promote safe sex at Georgetown. The program is necessitated by the lack of easy access to condoms since Georgetown doesn’t permit their sale on campus.
But, sexual assault and rape are among the most prevalent issues facing young men and women in college. National reports found that one in four college-aged women and one in ten college-aged men are victims of a sex crime. According to Sexual Assault and Health Issues Coordinator Jen Schweer, Georgetown matches the national average.
Despite these statistics, there is despairingly little conversation among students and the general public on how to lessen instances of assault. It is an occurrence that has been dismissed as habitually inevitable.
The stated purpose of this new service is not to increase the rate of sexual assault, but we should consider the unintended consequences of providing free condoms in bulk at parties, which are already full of “hook-up culture” pressures. The danger is that sex under pressure is not safe sex, and it is not consensual sex. Sex under pressure is sexual assault.
Partying and drinking seem synonymous in college because at every party there is alcohol readily available. What if at every party there are condoms readily available? It’s not to say that students will be inspired to have sex just because they see a condom, but rather that, over time, students will begin to inadvertently associate partying with having sex, just as they have grown to associate partying and drinking. Social pressures already lead to sex crimes. My concern with the condom delivery service is that it will increase this pressure and generate an atmosphere even more conducive to sexual assault. H*yas for Choice needs to keep this under consideration.
Sexual assault is already rampant at parties. In a study conducted by the National Institute of Justice, at least 80 percent of all sexual assault cases occurred at social interactions like parties, and women who attended parties with binge drinking were 1.5 times more likely to be sexually pressured. Although sex at parties is ideally between consenting individuals, too many of these interactions are not.
I have often heard “rapists are going to rape people no matter what” when this issue is discussed. This statement is an inaccurate generalization about rapists, insinuating that all rapists intentionally seek nonconsensual sex, enough to assault 25 percent of the women at Georgetown. But, nine out of 10 female rape victims are well acquainted with their attacker and view them as friends. At parties, sexual assault is most often the result of a combination of pressure from the perpetrator and a lack of visceral, negative response from the potential victim. Although silence is in no way consent, pressure from friends can stop women from definitively saying no to sexual advances. Added pressure from the party atmosphere on top of the pressure students already face from peers could increase the rate of sexual assault.
I have seen the effects of these social pressures at parties first hand. Several friends who never knew about “hook-up culture” before college are now overwhelmed. They have come to view it as a norm of college life, as something expected. I have seen too many friends give in to pressure from guys to engage in sexual activities, and I have had to step in and say no on their behalves. Social pressure alone is a powerful motivator, especially at parties. There’s no telling what might happen if you throw bulk condoms into the mix.
H*yas for Choice does not have an obligation to focus on sexual assault prevention—that is not the purpose of the club. However, H*yas for Choice has created a service that is intertwined with the issue of sexual assault because their consumers are partying college students. It is not an issue that can be glossed over when adding free condoms to an atmosphere dominated by peer pressure, drunken behavior, and an unacceptably high number of attempted sex crimes.
There is already a serious lack of attention to sexual assault, which affects millions of people nationally and hundreds of students on the Georgetown campus. I am not placing the burden of fixing sexual assault on H*yas for Choice. Rather, I feel that their implementation of the condom delivery service gives them enough direct interaction with the party scene for them to consider the possible side effects on sexual assault.
All I ask of H*yas for Choice is that they pay special attention to this possibility. They should be commended for their efforts so far to include educational pamphlets with every condom package, but, until parties are no longer plagued by high rates of sexual assault, efforts to just make sex safe at parties will never have just the intended outcome. H*yas for Choice should either address this issue or consider not creating this service at all.