By Brian Donohue
Voices for Planned Parenthood (VOX), a sexual health and reproduction rights advocacy group held their second annual forum on sexual assault Tuesday evening. The forum began in a lecture format, moved to a question and answer session and then a short film.
According to the key speaker, Dr. Christopher Kilmartin, a UMW Psychology professor and gender specialist, said that the purpose of the forum is to “create a dialogue about a common problem on college campuses and motivate people to help.” Kilmartin is also the 2007 Fulbright Distinguished Chair in Gender Studies at the University of Klagenfurt.
“We want to overcome the social stigma, start the conversation, and educate people about sexual assault,” Cara MacDonald, VOX president said. MacDonald also helped facilitate the forum.
Kilmartin claims that sexuality exists on a spectrum. The good end of the spectrum is represented by respectful, healthy sexual relationships and at the bad end of the spectrum is murder.
There is a line on this spectrum separating what is legal from what is not. According to Kilmartin, the problem with this is that too many people ask themselves how close they can come to this line without stepping over it. One of the biggest issues with this is what is and isn’t consensual sex.
“If it’s not consensual, it’s not sex,” Kilmartin said.
He went on to explain the “pathology on the part of the perpetrator”, an idea that men who commit sexual crimes are fundamentally different than those who do not. He said that “very few men assault women, but the ones who do, do it over and over.”
Kilmartin claimed that sexual assault is a societal problem and used a pyramid to illustrate how men are socialized to subjugate women and push the envelope in sexual interactions with them. At the top of the pyramid are the rapists. Below them are the direct facilitators of the rape. These would be the people who allow the crime to go unpunished by means of silence, bribery and lies to name a few methods. Below this are the standard barriers of culture like the hyper sexualization of women in American media and commercial outlets. Below this is the fundamental problem of American sexism.
“If we want to end this problem, we have to erode the pyramid from the bottom up,” said Kilmartin.
In a short question and answer session, one student asked how an individual could change a culture. To this Kilmartin replied, “We’ve got to speak up, and we need to be more aware of how we spend our money.”
Kilmartin showed a short film that he wrote and helped to produce. The film was designed to promote sexual harassment awareness in the Army. The film was engaging, well made, and surprisingly funny.
Kilmartin also commented on the “vilification of men.”
“One out of 50 adult males are in jail, which means that 49 out of 50 of us are not,” he said. “I don’t like male bashing, but I see where it comes from… Most men aren’t violent people, but most violent people are men.”