Sexual assault and sexism

By Alex Swanson

Sexual assault remains one of sexism’s ugliest and least discussed manifestations.

In a recent conversation, a friend notified me that sexism is no longer an issue in America.

A little bewildered, I pushed back — I responded that, among a multitude of other issues, sexual assault is still prevalent.

“Yes, of course,” he answered, “But that’s not sexism. That’s biology.”

That conversation was one of many in which I have heard someone make the inccorect claim that sexism and sexual assault are mutually exclusive.

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Women are certainly not the only sociological group affected by sexual assault. Men are, just as surely, not the sole perpetrators.

Further, I adamantly believe that, when discussing social harms such as sexual assault, we must be meticulously careful not to marginalize or discount the identity of any victim.

It is just as imperative, however, that we recognize that the nine out of 10 victims of sexual assault are female while 99 percent of sexual offenders are male.SO These wildly disproportionate statistics have to signify some sort of societal undercurrent.

The reality is that sexism is partially and significantly responsible for the prevalence of sexual assault. Sexual assault is not biological, but is rather sociological.

Domestic abuse, much of which is sexual assault, has been documented, diachronically, in most every society across the globe — but not within non-patriarchal societies. SO

Sexual assault at least partially occurs when gender-prejudice permeates into the sexual aspects of our lives. It is, in a reductive form, another way in which a man can express dominance over a woman, another expression of sexism.

In our patriarchal society, we tell men that being sexually active is part of being a real man. If you “can’t get it up,” then the inaccurate idea is that something is seriously wrong with your manhood.

Alternately, we teach women to do their best to be beautiful and then we idolize them as sexual objects.

Those gender roles are psychologically significant in regard to creating the mindset that fosters sexual assaults.SO

In addition to stemming from sexism, sexual assault can actually breed further sexism, which more closely establishes the tie between the two phenomena.

This is exemplified in how women are societally tasked with the responsibility of raising children, which often contributes to the unequal pay scale of 77 cents on the dollar.

That form of discrimination can very well extend into the realm of assault.

As many as 32,000 women are impregnated against their will each year, and in most states the rapist can sue for visitation rights. SO

Women who are involuntarily impregnated face three choices: abortion, adoption or raising the baby — with potential visitation rights from the father. All of which can definitely result in financial and emotional distress.

Now, to address the notion of sexual assault as being a biological impulse — to remark that boys will be boys is to assert that rape is natural. It is not. The physical and psychological effects of sexual assault, including PTSD, STIs and depression, clearly evidence the unnaturalness of rape.

This biological explanation for sexual assault only serves to shift the responsibility of eradicating assault away from oneself. When we accept that sexual assault is a sociological issue, we have to also accept responsibility for creating and participating in the culture that allows these assaults and then consciously resist it.

We do, however, make up sociology, and when we come to an agreement that sexual assault is unacceptable, we will be able to affect the necessary sociological change. The possibility of eliminating sexual assault is very much within our grasps; #It’sOnUs.

Alex is a senior in LAS.

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