MARS at NYU teaches men how not to be bystanders
Men Against Rape and Sexual Assault are penning a new rulebook for how men should stand for sexual respect
Don’t wear jeans that are too tight. Don’t wear a top that dips too low. Don’t get too drunk. Don’t lead him on. Don’t fall asleep. And don’t, absolutely don't, ask for it—whatever that means.
There is an implicit rulebook for women, one that women have adhered too since their first dress cut in middle school for a suggestive shirt from Hot Topic. Yet there isn’t a rulebook for men; at least, not one that is engrained in their mind in the same way that girls ours has been engrained into ours.
But at NYU, a group of boys are hoping to change that. They're hoping to pen a rulebook for men and give the female rulebook a more equitable and modern reboot. MARS at NYU (Men Against Sexual Assault and Rape) began in December 2017 as a collaborative initiative among male students at NYU to educate themselves on their responsibility in preventing sexual misconduct and rape culture.
“It’s up to us to start having this conversation about sexual assault,” said Ollie Jones, one of the original founders of MARS. “Men need to be educated because this fight shouldn’t be a one-sided thing.”
MARS is not structured like a traditional club with meetings every other week. Rather, meetings are forums for education and discussion, jumping off points for the attendees to continue to transform conversation into action outside of the meetings. The club is made of an all male executive board – though they are looking to change that. On the other hand, the educational section of MARS is run exclusively by women as well as gender non-conforming individuals.
In addition to their individual meetings, MARS also works to collaborate with the many clubs on the NYU campus that advocate for sexual respect and an end to sexual assault. In the past, they have held joint events with CAS Student Council (such as yesterday's Upstander Dialogue) and Students for Sexual Respect at NYU. Emily Hockett is the president of Students for Sexual Respect at NYU and worked with MARS in shaping its policy and structure.
“As a survivor-driven student group SSR privileges the needs and interests of survivors at NYU,” Hockett said. “Though our programming efforts target the larger NYU community, we feel that MARS has been a crucial player that has engaged a wider audience on these issues and expanded the forms of possible involvement at NYU around this issue.”
Through its inter-club collaborations and interacting with like-minded activists clubs, MARS has been able to get the word out about its mission and slowly expand its audience. The issue that MARS faces in recruitment however is the fact that the only men that come to their events and meetings are men that have chosen to come and are willing to be educated.
MARS has already been brainstorming and executing for this issue by getting in touch with the Inter-Fraternity Council. For example, after reaching out, several members of Pi Delta Psi Fraternity Inc. came to a MARS information session and expressed interest in working with MARS more in the future.
And as Ollie Jones sees it, the main goal of MARS is to increase conversation, to build upon it where it is already established and to instigate it where it is not.
“We at NYU, especially men, see ourselves as a very progressive group—which tends to make us stop short on many issues," Jones said. "Maybe NYU men are not as bad as at other places, but there is still a need for a lot of improvement. The discussion is never really over.”