Challenging the Norms of Rape Culture

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Denim Day NYC, in conjunction with Sexual Assault Awareness month, held a contest for undergrads to write an op-ed on "telling the truth about sexual violence." This is the winning essay from Manhattan.

By Lauren Peterson, The New School

Welcome to The New School. Our lively campus is quietly nestled in the trendy area of Greenwich Village, NY. Upon entering the hallways of our school, visitors are welcomed with one of the University's most prized attributes - diversity. The New School houses students from all over the world who come to New York City to live out their dream in dance, drama, art and other liberal arts entities. Our University buildings line the streets of 5th and 6th Ave but ideally, New York City is our indigenous campus. We simply find our solstice in the boisterous streets of New York City.

At The New School, we pride ourselves on gender neutrality. Throughout our campus we have "All Gender Restrooms" scattered throughout the buildings. When the restrooms were first installed, there was quite a bit of scrutiny surrounding the implementation.

Women felt as though their privacy was violated and rape culture was still an evident issue on University campuses. Hearing these conversations fluster our halls, I began to think about the issue of sexual violence within our particular University. I've concluded that in order for us to understand rape culture, we must first eliminate the stigma associated with gender. What about men? What about those who classify themselves as Trans? Is the idea of sexual violence only applicable to women? These questions started to furiously pump through my head.

Sexual violence is a daunting issue that haunts ANY gender. We can't expect to educate our youth and campus about it until we begin thinking outside the box. Are the international students at our University aware of the laws and regulations regarding sexual violence and rape in New York State? As a native Floridian, I was given a student handbook and was told to sit down and read all 50 million pages of it. Even if I briefly skimmed through it, was I able to grasp the concept? These international students barely speak English! How can anyone expect them to understand a bunch of U.S. laws? Let's take awareness to the next level. I propose that all colleges and universities execute a mandatory introduction course to sexual violence not only on campus but in the city as well. Universities can't expect to hand a college student a pamphlet the size of a textbook and tell them to explore the policies and missions of their campus. It simply doesn't work like that. Now what? Let's talk consent.

YES! Yes? Yes. Do you know the difference between the three? How far does your "yes" really travel? Does "yes" mean "yes" to everything? NO! Consent is one of the most controversial issues surrounding sexual violence on college campuses. Saying yes to one thing, does not mean you've said yes to everything. I therefore declare a recall on the definition of the term "consent". The dictionary defines consent as "permission for something to happen or agreement to do something". (

If I agree to kiss you, does that mean I agree to take it to the next level? Absolutely NOT! We can recall statistics detailing sexual violence against individuals who know each other. We must train our students and society about the limitations of the word "yes". Let's hang consent posters in popular college bars and around our campuses.

Make our international students aware of what the concept of consent means within the United States. We see "Don't Text and Drive" warning signs all over the roads these days. Why not throw up a sign saying "How far will YES take you tonight?" NYC is our campus and we must fight to protect our students (man, woman, Trans, etc.), on and

OFF school premises.

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