By D. Lanier Shook September 24, 2014
Recently more attention has been focused on the issue of violence toward women on campus. Several networks — especially NPR — have aired excellent pieces about this troubling trend. (Click here to connect to several of the NPR articles or click here to read an incredible article about The Dark Power of Fraternities that appeared in the February issue of The Atlantic.) Today many schools are taking steps to address this problem, including requiring parents to discuss it with their children before they send them to campus.
This attention is essential to recognize this danger and bring it into the light. Bullies and predators survive because they are ignored and tolerated. In the past month North Carolina and Virginia have seen two young women victimized by campus violence. That’s why I’m sharing three important reasons why young women are being victimized on college campuses. This article may not save every college student from being a victim and it won’t help victims of the past, but it might help one student and that would be worth writing it.
1. Young Women On Campus Are Victims of A Media That Has Turned Sex Into A Commodity
Popular culture has turned what is supposed to be intimacy into a commodity that’s added like salt to french fries or sugar to breakfast cereal. For the past few decades popular television shows have focused on casual hookups. Friends, How I Met Your Mother, Thirty Rock, and Two & A Half Men are just some of these shows. Others have gone even further.
To be clear, the open and frank discussion of sexuality is not a good thing. But treating sexuality like golf or a gallery crawl not only strips the intimacy of a relationship, it also is unrealistic. In the real world relationships are complicated and sexuality doesn’t simplify things one bit.
Society’s ideas about sexuality come to a focus on college campuses where hormones peak and there are few restrictions. College students are consenting adults and few schools are willing to regulate their sexuality. In this party influenced, hormone driven culture young women can easily become nothing more than a notch on a young man’s belt. No one deserved to be no more than a biologically driven notch on a belt.
2. Young Women On Campus Are Victims of A Culture That Treats Substance Abuse Lightly
To be clear alcohol be consumed responsibly and the state of Colorado even believes marijuana can be consumed responsibly — or at least legally. But young people watching modern television or movies could easily get the idea that alcohol is an alternative to coffee, tea, or soda pop. Media, business, and culture have turned alcohol into something that shows sophistication and maturity.
Unfortunately alcohol has very different properties from coffee, tea, or soda pop. Drunk driving, addiction, and physical injury are three results of alcohol consumption that don’t get addressed enough. But on college campuses alcohol produces a very different issue.
When hormones and alcohol meet in an unregulated culture full of adolescents very few good things can result. Young women end up at the center of this crisis and bear the brunt of the damage. Should authorities — on and off campus — be expected to patrol every party, every dormitory, and every college student? Do they even have the resources or authority to do that?
Alcohol can be consumed responsibly. But we must hold our media responsible for the way they sell its image to adolescents. Because that influences what they when they’re on their own and no one is watching.
3. Young Women On Campus Are Vicitms of An Unrealistic College — and Youth — Culture
Here are the facts: eighteen year olds are not adults. For proof, click here to read what the National Institutes of Health says about the teenage brain or just think back to when you were eighteen. College takes those kids, gives them the power of adults and expects them to make complicated life-changing decisions under the influence of other eighteen year olds.
Is it realistic to throw young people into the average college environment and expect to have no casualties? These casualties range from crushing school debt to alcohol abuse to life-threatening injury to death. Society, parents, and students have to have this conversation or more young people will suffer the consequences.
We should be shocked by the victimization of women on campus.
But what will we do with that shock?
Will that shock go away within a few weeks? Or will we fuel that shock into a demand for change in the media and culture — on and off campus. This is the question that will determine how young women will be treated on campus.