Are We Having the Wrong Conversation About the College Rape Culture?
U.S. colleges are answering outcries against a rampant rape culture with new educational and judicial initiatives. But what are they missing?
Colleges across the U.S. are facing lawsuits from rape victims who claim that a “rape culture” among their male student population has resulted in leniency toward college rapists and too little support for the young women affected.
Politicians, celebrities and activists have swarmed upon the issue. Even the White House has gotten involved, with President Barack Obama commissioning an official “Task Force to Protect Students From Sexual Assault” in January of this year. Even more recently, The Washington Post reported on the launch of the White House’s “It’s on Us” campaign to push awareness with the aid of colleges and celebrities (“Seeking to End Rape on Campus, White House Launches ‘It’s on Us,’” Juliet Eilperin, Sept. 19, 2014).
The article refers to studies that say “one in five women will be sexually assaulted while in college … many of them during their first year by someone they know” (ibid., emphasis added).
With this appalling statistic in mind, debates are being waged over whether men or women need more education about sexual consent and assault. Some say that the victims are being wrongfully blamed; others say that men are being overly scrutinized for the actions of a minority (though that minority perpetrates a large percentage of rapes according to an oft-quoted study by David Lisak of the University of Massachusetts, Boston).
I thought it interesting that, upon the launch of the “It’s on Us” campaign, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said, “It’s on all of us to change the culture that asks the wrong questions” (The Washington Post).
Yes, our culture is asking the wrong questions. And it is very unlikely the initiatives cited above will even come close to asking the right question at the core of this serious issue.
College-aged adults can reduce the risk of rape and save themselves from the many other negative consequences that come from premarital sex by committing themselves to high standards of sexual purity.The unspoken rule
As part of the initiative to protect women and deal with the problem of campus rape, California passed a law Sept. 28 that highlights “affirmative consent” as a defining factor between consensual sex and rape, rather than the more common “no means no” standard held elsewhere (“California Enacts ‘Yes Means Yes’ Law, Defining Sexual Consent,” Bill Chappell, NPR.org).
In essence, the “affirmative consent” standard is that a man must receive a verbal “yes” from a female before engaging in sexual activity. Without a “yes,” the sexual activity is considered sexual violence.
Today there’s an unspoken assumption underneath the whole discussion of sex and rape on campus: As long as it’s consensual, sex outside of marriage is okay—even good.
“Affirmative consent” belies a college social culture that promotes casual sexual relationships. Is it any wonder, then, that colleges have developed a problem of rape since students are regularly engaged in compromising situations?
God, through His perfect law, provides a far better way that could prevent these problems right now if people were having the right conversation.
The right conversation
God, who created sex as a gift to be shared exclusively between a husband and wife, makes it clear that sex outside of marriage, even if it’s consensual, is a sin that incurs the penalty of death (Romans 1:28-32).
Consider Jesus Christ’s words: “Whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). Through this and other scriptures, we understand that Christ’s teaching is that sex outside of marriage as well as lustful thoughts break one of God’s commandments (Exodus 20:14).
Change the culture
Public demand is to change our culture, but will it happen? The Bible tells us that man ultimately cannot (and will not) solve his own moral problems (Jeremiah 10:23).
Thankfully, God gives us His commandments for a reason. He knows a better way, a way of living that doesn’t incur physical and psychological damage, disease, unwanted pregnancy or damaged relationships.
Sex should only be shared between husband and wife, as God intended when He created marriage in the beginning (Genesis 2:24). College-aged adults can reduce the risk of rape and save themselves from the many other negative consequences that come from premarital sex by committing themselves to high standards of sexual purity and saving sex until it can be enjoyed with their future spouse within a happy marriage relationship.
If you’re a single college student, consider how applying God’s laws can save you the heartache that comes from disregarding them!
To learn more about the Bible’s teaching on sex, read our article “The Gift of Sex.”