Men Can Stop Rape workshop provides for open discussion on sexual assault and masculinity

Jared Watkins (COL ’11), the Development Coordinator of the D.C. non-profit group Men Can Stop Rape, led an interactive discussion Thursday night on perceptions of sexual assault and rape in today’s society in White-Gravenor.

While the event was originally intended to be exclusively for male students, the invitation was later extended to female Hoyas as well, though the invitation seemed to advertise “free pizza” almost as much as the discussion (if not more).

In his introduction at the start of the discussion, Watkins touched on the basic premise of MCSR and its mission “to mobilize men to use their strength for creating cultures free from violence, especially men’s violence against women” and to develop healthy notions of masculinity. “We can be in touch with our emotions, we can also play sports and all that, but [men] can be strong without being violent,” he said.

Watkins then opened up the floor with an ice-breaker, asking for voluntary responses from the males in the room about what common stereotypes are associated with fraternity brothers. Some of the responses he evoked from the audience included “use alcohol as a tool,” “one track mind [for girls],” and “apathy towards sexual assault.”

The perspective was then flipped when he asked what stereotypes might be associated with a man like himself who comes in to speak on issues of sexual assault—replies included “liberal background,” “feminist,” and, humorously, “not in a frat.”

“Both of us have stereotypes about each other,” said Watkins. “The only stereotype I want both of us to assume is that we both want to prevent sexual violence.”

The dialogue continued as he asked the audience to imagine themselves in the shoes of a female trying to prevent herself from getting raped. Responses included many common risk-reduction techniques, like “drink responsibly,” “avoid reputation of promiscuity,” and “take self-defense classes.” When asked to consider what conscious action men should take to prevent themselves from being sexually assaulted, the general consensus was “nothing,” highlighting the problematic disconnect between men and their perceived place in the discourse of sexual violence. “[This is] the dominant story of rape prevention: it puts all the onus on women and has no role for men,” said Watkins.

Although the workshop certainly allowed for an inclusive dialogue on the fundamental problems of rape culture, Scott Lowder (COL’17), one of the males in attendance, felt that the incorporation of more tangible prevention methods would have been beneficial. “Although a discussion on the generalities of why men can and should work to stop sexual assault can be helpful, I was disappointed at the lack of focus on concrete information concerning consent and bystander intervention,” Lowder told Vox. “I did appreciate the attendance of SAPE (Sexual Assault Peer Educators) members who tried to provide some of that information towards the end of the lecture.”

Photo: david drexler via flickr

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