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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.



26 comments on “Free condoms at parties may encourage sexual assault
  1. Chandini Jha on said:

    Rape is not a drunken miscommunication, spurred by a charged sexual atmosphere and the sight of a bowl of condoms. Rape is an act of VIOLENCE. It’s an attempt to overpower someone else to hurt and humiliate them, using sex as the weapon.

    Not a shred of scientific evidence, outside of the author’s personal opinions, prove condoms provoke sexual assault According to Dr. Lisak, a U Mass professor who spent over 20 years researching rapists and conducted interviews with over 100 of them, most rapists “plan and pre-meditate their attacks, using sophisticated strategies to groom their victims and isolate them physically.” (source 1) It’s true that acquaintance rape is very high, but that’s because rapists METHODICALLY PLAN OUT their interactions with their victim. They have a pre-meditated, malicious plan to get someone too drunk to give consent, and then attack them.

    Source:
    (http://www.usfk.mil/usfk/Uploads/SAPR/SAPRMod17_UndetectedRapist.pdf)

    • Mary-Bailey on said:

      And these malicious plans are happening too often. Wouldn’t fostering an atmosphere where pressures to have sex could increase makes it easier for rapists to methodically plan out their interactions with their victims? Providing free condoms at parties will not foster an atmosphere that helps make it harder for rapists to plan an attack – my fear is it will generate an atmosphere and societal pressire that is more easily taken advantage of in cases of sexual assault. The party scene is not the place to provide condoms to students when 1 in 4 college women are being assaulted (80% of the time at parties) especially if “most rapists ‘plan and pre-meditate their attacks,’” and this is my main point.

      • Nora W on said:

        Condoms don’t perpetuate sexual assault, they perpetuate safe sex. And condoms don’t pressure people to have sex. Rape culture pressures people to have sex, let’s not blame the condoms and hoyas for choice they did nothing wrong.

      • Nora W on said:

        Also as another note, the reason why you are seeing those statistics about sexual assault and parties is because alcohol creates a false power dynamic and perpetrators take advantage of that. In order to help our friends and prevent perpetrators we need to all be active bystanders for our friends and fellow students. Condoms are not a part of the conversation.

    • Artanya on said:

      I don’t necessarily agree with your assertion that sexual assault is never an accident. It’s certainly possible for someone to mistakenly believe that they have consent. Let’s say a man and a woman are kissing and the man thinks he has a green light for second base. He reaches down and grabs her butt, but the woman reacts negatively to this and asks him to stop. The man immediately does stop. Was that man trying to violate her? Because I’ve seen that scenario play out multiple times at various parties. Someone can mistakenly believe that their partner wants to go further than they really do, and then stop when they realize their mistake. It happens all the time.

      Lisak’s research only dealt with forcible rapes. It doesn’t apply to the broader definition of rape that exists on most college campuses. Where rape is defined as any sexual act that occurs without verbal and enthusiastic consent.

  2. Nora W on said:

    Mary, I would like to say that I’m sorry. I’m sorry that you have been raised so surrounded by rape culture that you yourself are now perpetuating it. You seem to have the right intentions, reducing the risk of sexual assault is an obligation that we all have as decent people. I understand that you want to help, but I regret to inform you that this piece is not helping. Your piece is creating more problems, and let me explain why.

    You said “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”. There is no such thing as the accidental rapist. Sexual assault is not about sex is about power, perpetrators exercise their power over their victim and take advantage of their vulnerabilities. Alcohol can be used to manufacture a power dynamic, when one person is extremely drunk and the perpetrator is not the perpetrator can take advantage of that vulnerability. But that person is still purposefully taking advantage of the vulnerability. Sexual assault is no accident, and when you say it is you are perpetuating rape culture and creating an excuse for rapists. And you are right, when someone is pressured into having sex/giving consent it is sexual assault, however condoms do not pressure people into having sex. We need to have a better conversation about being supportive friends and supporting our friends no matter what their choices are. However, condoms do not peer pressure people into having sex. Condoms encourage people to have safe healthy sex, but to say that they encourage sexual assault is to divert the attention away from the perpetrators.

    Also, you said, “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.” I agree with you, we need a better conversation about sexual assault on this campus and in the general public. I would however like to clarify that this article is not positive contribution to the discussion. When talking about sexual assault we are talking about inclusiveness. We need to include all survivors and all allies, and when you blame an important ally for a problem that is not their fault you decrease their likeliness from joining the conversation and helping others. Hoyas for Choice is an amazing ally. In order to talk about sexual assault we have to be able to talk about sex and what is appropriate and what isn’t and Hoyas for Choice is leading that conversation on Georgetown campus. Healthy and good sex does not increase the rates of sexual assault, in fact it encourages a culture of consent so that we can all be active bystanders and help our friends.

    I encourage you to reach out to health education services, myself, or the women’s center, and learn more.

    • Artanya on said:

      What do you mean by “pressured,” exactly? Forcing, threatening, or blackmailing someone into giving consent is certainly rape, but “pressured” is a much more general term. Is saying “please” an act of attempted rape? What if the woman feels pressured but the man has done nothing to directly pressure her (she didn’t want to seem rude by turning him down, perhaps, or she didn’t want to seem uptight by saying no)? Is said man guilty of rape?

      I also can’t necessarily agree with your assertion that sexual assault is never an accident. It’s certainly possible for someone to mistakenly believe that they have consent. Let’s say a man and a woman are kissing and the man thinks he has a green light for second base. He reaches down and grabs her butt, but the woman reacts negatively to this and asks him to stop. The man immediately does stop. Was that man trying to violate her? Because I’ve seen that scenario play out multiple times at various parties. Someone can mistakenly believe that their partner wants to go further than they really do, and then stop when they realize their mistake. It happens all the time.

      • Nora W on said:

        The Georgetown University Student Code of Conduct defines coercion, which is what I am equating with pressure, as “the use of force, or the threat of force, the use of a threat of immediate or future harm, or the use of physical or severe and/or pervasive emotional intimidation to cause or attempt to cause another person to engage in or submit to certain activities. Coercion also includes the administration of a drug, intoxicant or similar substance that impairs the faculties of a person.” The first part of the definition is most relevant to what you were discussing with blackmail and threats, but it should also be noted that pervasive emotional intimidation is also an aspect of coercion. Consent should be freely given, if someone is continually badgering someone else and saying please that could be considered coercion if the student felt that the badgering and “pleases” were emotional intimidation. Quite honestly in my opinion, saying please and then listening to what the partner said may not always be coercion, but it’s a jerk move, why not listen to the partner’s request the first time? To address your point about the person feeling internal pressure, if someone feels that it was internal pressure that led them to have sex then they are not going to be reporting the event as sexual assault. I don’t know what gave you the idea that people are constantly claiming that something was sexual assault, what about our system or culture encourages people to constantly say that they were assaulted?

        Regarding your second point, all aspects of a sexual interaction should be consensual. Partners should be given more opportunities to respond before an interaction instead of after it. Consent should be proactive, instead of waiting for a no why wouldn’t we ask for a yes? I would also like to challenge your statement that one sexual act justifies the next, if making out with someone justifies a butt grab then is inviting someone back to your room inviting them to have sex? All of the examples that you have provided are a product of rape culture, the idea that consent is reactive instead of proactive and that making out is a “green light for second base”. Also, the fact that something “happens all the time” does not mean that it is okay, according to our statistics rape happens all the time, does that make it okay? We should be challenging what we see, not the systems that seek to protect survivors. I will also point out once again that if the interaction that you are describing is so accidental that both parties feel comfortable the student would not be reporting the incident as sexual assault. What is meant by there is no such thing as an accidental rapist is that someone who violates someone else clearly does it with malintent they know what they are doing, it is not someone at a party who immediately stops upon hearing no and apologizes, that being said whether or not it would be considered sexual assault we should all do a better job thinking of consent as proactive and challenging what we see around us.

        To give you a better reference when you are defining sexual assault, Georgetown University’s definition of sexual assault can be found through this link on page 13: http://studentconduct.georgetown.edu/files/SMALLER%20Code%20of%20Student%20Conduct%202013-2014.pdf

        I will also add the note that these definitions are designed to protect survivors. If someone has drunk consensual sex and they wake up the next morning feeling safe and secure, their partner is not going to be charged with sexual assault. The point of these definitions is that when someone feels truly violated and as if their power has been taken from them they have a means of protecting themselves and reporting their perpetrator.

        Finally, I would ask that you consider your language when discussing this issue. Although women make up the majority of sexual assault survivors, men, trans*, gender queer, and people of any gender interpretation are survivors as well, and using gendered terms excludes them from the discussion. Additionally, women can be perpetrators as well.

        • Artanya on said:

          “Consent should be proactive, instead of waiting for a no why wouldn’t we ask for a yes? I would also like to challenge your statement that one sexual act justifies the next, if making out with someone justifies a butt grab then is inviting someone back to your room inviting them to have sex?”

          I’d argue that the two situations are not really analogous.

          Asking for intercourse requires ONE question. Asking for every single touch requires dozens or hundreds of questions. Every single time you reposition your hands during a make-out session. Every single time you move from kissing the lips, to kissing the cheeks, to kissing the neck. You’d have to stop and verbally ask first.

          I’m not even sure how cuddling would even be possible, when you consider all the various touches that accompany such an activity. It would require dozens of requests for permission just by itself.

          Of course everyone deserves a choice, but there are practical limits to how precisely things can be communicated. No always means no, as does any sign of discomfort or disinterest, but stopping what you’re doing every half-second to verbally ask if you can move your hand two inches to the left just isn’t practically feasible. Things tend to flow naturally when two people are fooling around, and never allowing one touch to lead to another touch (without a question and answer session) would make intimacy unbearably tedious.

          Kissing would be completely out of the question, as you need your mouth free to announce your every movement in advance and ask if it would be permissible. “May I now place my left hand upon your right buttock?” “May I now move said hand to you left buttock?” “May I kiss your neck?” “May I kiss your neck again?” On and on…

          Ask before you do anything substantially new, but it’s absurd to expect someone to stop and ask prior to every little incremental progression to a marginally different touch. Or a repetition of a previous touch.

          I’d also take issue with the idea that sexual assault is a crime of subjectivity. If you feel assaulted you were, and if you don’t feel assaulted than you weren’t. That’s an absurd way to define such a serious crime. The criteria need to be slightly more objective than that. I don’t believe that most woman accuse someone of assault on ridiculous grounds, but it certainly can happen. In the interest of fundamental fairness, what counts as “consent” or “coercion” needs to be examined from a more objective perspective. It’s not reasonable to allow every putative victim to apply their own personal definition of consent and/or coercion.

        • Nora W on said:

          Artanya,

          Did I ever say that you have to ask for every single touch? I don’t recall saying that? I don’t see that in my post? Maybe you misunderstood, but what I’m guessing is that you didn’t and are trolling for the sake of trolling. Consent is no joke and I will not stand for you attempting to turn it into one. There is a difference between making out with someone and sticking your hand down their shirt, or taking off their top. You and I both said that consent is necessary when doing something substantially new, if we agree then why do you feel the need to make this into a joke.

          I would also like to say that a subjective definition is more than appropriate when encouraging someone to seek confidential resources and services. Also, if someone really does feel that something was wrong there was most likely something wrong. In our culture of victim blaming why don’t we let someone who has had a traumatic experience get resources without judgement on the difference between how they felt and what it was? Also, how they feel about it is not a part of the punitive process, if you had taken the time to read the student code of conduct link you would have seen that the university adjudicates on a very clear standard.

  3. Rapists cause rape. Not condoms or alcohol or hookup culture the only reason people are raped is because rapists rape them. End of story.

  4. I APPLAUD H*yas For Choice whole heartedly for their actions. Promoting safe sex by distributing condoms at parties does just that! Promote safe sex. Saying it connects to higher rates of sexual assault is absurd. Sexual assault is dependent on the person that does the crime. Condoms have nothing to do with that. I attend a university not too far from Georgetown where we have condoms in almost every dorm, main building, and health facility. Why? To promote safe sex! STDS and HIV rates in the D.C. community are way too high and preventative care is one of the biggest steps to change that! Secondly, to even bring up the thought that having condoms at a party is in conjunction with rape is not only stupid as it is offensive. Condoms PROTECT. They either stop the higher chances of disease or infection, or they stop unwanted pregnancy. Regardless of the reason, condoms don’t bring about negatives. Condoms don’t feed into addiction, they don’t damage the body, and they certainly don’t rape. While all other factors in a party may do all of those things. The fact that you can accept alcohol at parties before a condom is really ludicrous. I think it would be best for you to look into some statistics about that first before tackling this view that you present because honestly, while I do see your blurred perception, I can’t help but see it as one of ignorance. I would PRAY that H*yas For Choice look at this article (after a moment of laughter) as a wake up call to see just how important and beneficial they are to their campus. Lastly, “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.”The act of someone committing a sex crime leads to a sex crime. What you think, want to do, wish you could do and or yearn for are all things that people will think of regardless of if a condom is there or not. Condoms PROTECT. PEOPLE hurt.

  5. Eric on said:

    So your alternative is to perpetuate unprotected sexual assault. Sounds much better.

  6. Adriana on said:

    I think that the idea that condoms at parties will promote sexual assault is an absurd idea. I thank you for writing this article, because based on the comments you’re doing something that does not get done very often on this campus. You are promoting a conversation about what sexual assault looks like on the Hilltop, and at college campuses around the nation. That being said, your idea that encouraging safe sex will lead to increased instances of sexual assault is damaging to both the public image of the perpetrator and survivors. Perpetrators, both men and women, need to take responsibilities for their actions, and your article is simply perpetuating the rape culture that we live in– there is very little onus placed on the perpetrator for their actions, but rather focuses on what society, or more damagingly, the survivor can do to decrease their risk of sexual assault. Ultimately, the decision to assault is placed in the hands of the person who commits the act, just like any other crime. If you place me in the room with something of yours that I covet, I still have to make the choice to steal it. If I chose to steal it, no one would put the blame on you for leaving your belonging in my care, I would face the repercussions of my actions, no matter if I was intoxicated at the time of the crime or not. Students should feel comfortable attending a party (or walking home late at night, or hanging out with a friend alone…) and not have to worry about sexual assault, and your idea that a perpetrator would be loathe to stop him or herself in the presence of condoms is inexcusable.

    H*yas for Choice is implementing a service that will hopefully positively impact the health of Georgetown students, and those that have ill intent will follow through on their intentions in the presence of condoms or not.

    • Anon on said:

      I think Mary’s article is right to be skeptical of the ethics of this program, even if it is not clear if the presence of condoms is a strong cause of sexual assault (I will not argue that the evidence for this claim is strong, there is enough evidence presented in this thread that convinced me to reject that claim). I think it’s more likely that this service is simply a symptom of an extremely strong hook up culture, and allows the culture to continue with fewer transmitted STD’s and fewer unplanned pregnancy. I think a better conversation to have over this service is if casual sex is truly a healthy form of sex that Hoyas for Choice is trying to permit. Personally, I don’t believe that casual sex is conducive to building healthy or mature relationships. Casual, one night stands reduce interaction between individuals to simply sexual interaction. People might argue that many hook ups turn into relationships, but is that the kind of culture that we want to see develop? Do we want people feel like an easy way to find a relationship is to sleep with someone and let the feelings develop later? I don’t think sex within monogamous, loving, and committed relationships is unhealthy, I simply worry that this kind of program exerts a subtle sort of pressure for people to have sex, especially when combined with alcohol. I think there is a widespread belief that hooking up is something you do when you go to college. For the most part, I think that is true. There are so many people who have experienced the awkward/awesome experience of hooking up with someone at or after a party. However, Georgetown students should be promoting the healthy exploration of sexuality within intimate relationships, not with a rando you met at brown house after 5 cups of jungle juice. This delivery service is not likely to be frequently used by couples who are already sexually active (except for occasions where they may have run out of condoms). It is clear that this program is being directed at people who have just met, might not have expected to have sex that night, and want to have safe sex. Will easier access to these condoms at parties help to prevent the spread of STDs and unwanted pregnancies? Absolutely. However, Hoyas for Choice should strongly consider hosting a non-homophobic speaker who can discuss the importance of developing sexual relationships within existing intimate relationships instead of with random/semi random strangers.

      • Anon on said:

        Sorry Adrianna, this was meant to be a separate post. First time commenting on a voice article

      • Anon on said:

        “I think a better conversation to have over this service is if casual sex is truly a healthy form of sex that Hoyas for Choice is trying to permit.” permit should be promote

  7. Offended H*YA on said:

    Has anyone noticed the picture that goes with this article? Is the author of this article seriously comparing offering free condoms to offering free clubs to beat people with? Now THAT is an unsubstantiated and ignorant comparison. Ms. Frank, I highly suggest doing background research on a topic before you form and publish wild opinions on the matter.

    • The picture is the same as was in the print edition. Pictures that go with these pieces are often caricatures or satires of the articles. They do not support the article. The picture is making fun of the claim that “just having condoms there makes more people have sex,” by saying that having a bowl of clubs there doesn’t make people want to club each other.

      The picture and the article aren’t on the same side of the issue.

  8. Thank you for your article, I would have focused on the interesting question ” we should consider the unintended consequences of providing free condoms in bulk at parties, which are already full of “hook-up culture” pressures.” and avoided jumping to the “may encourage assault”

    Sorry about the shrill defenders of sex positivism and the supreme goodness of condoms.

    • Nora W on said:

      Considering our culture of slut shaming, victim blaming, and STIs what is so wrong with people defending sex positivity, victims or sexual assault, and the goodness of condoms? Georgetown has a hook up culture, whether or not you agree with it, we do. Knowing that we have a hook up culture isn’t it best to accept that and help protect students protect themselves instead of pretending that we have a different culture and letting students potentially spread STIs or get pregnant?

  9. Anon on said:

    “Social pressures already lead to sex crimes”

    This seems to be one of the author’s main premises for basing her conclusions, but I just don’t buy it for these circumstances. I’d like to see the author provide some citations of studies that support this.

  10. Pingback: Georgetown Won’t Try To Stop Condom Delivery Service Launched By H*yas For Choice

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