We challenged guys to think about rape culture on campus

“Not in our locker room”

As a young woman, nothing frustrates me more than the somewhat accepted notion that by nature I cannot be the intellectual or social equal of a man.

Knowing this thinking exists in our culture, I am extra sensitive to rhetoric that limits women in any capacity, especially that which objectifies women, which is particularly damaging.

When we reduce women to objects of sexual desire, we strip them of their basic humanity using the simplest weapon of all: language. When objectifying and offensive language or “locker-room talk” becomes the social norm, we perpetuate a dangerous rape culture where women are passive receivers of unwanted verbal attacks, or worse, action.

To rise against this, I teamed up with four other girls to take on a two month research project looking into issues of sexual assault and rape culture on college campuses, with the idea that we would make a micro change in the fabric of our own campus through subtle peer education techniques.

Results from the 2016 Villanova {sexual} "Climate Survey" helped inspire our project! #6days till vid drops ⬇️??

A photo posted by not in our locker room (@not_in_our_lockerroom) on

During our research, we continually encountered tips on educating women and teaching rape prevention techniques, but this doesn’t cut it. Most of our peers understand that they should not go out alone, that they should not talk to strange men, that they should never put their drink down at a bar, and that if they are dress provocatively, they are likely to draw unwanted attention.

Still, a recent study conducted by Villanova’s Title IX Coordinator revealed that 15% of Villanova women have experienced non-consensual sexual contact during their time at the university. If our rape prevention tricks were actually effective, why would this number be so high?

I know firsthand how this kind of language can manifest into action at Villanova, but this project was so much bigger than me or any of the girls I worked with. 15% is such a significant number, and it quickly became obvious to us that more than 15% of men engage in these damaging discourses.

So our project focused on educating men.

Interviewing them to get a better understanding of their attitudes towards these issues and how they perceive the climate on our campus was key — and some of what they said surprised us.

They plainly described a rape culture at Villanova where men accept damaging discourses that facilitate rape culture for fear of standing out or offending their peer groups. And we learned that most men don’t understand what consent is, and if they do, they are unlikely to step in and ask whether a friend in an unclear situation has gained consent. They did however express and understanding of bystander intervention, but as one guy put it, “you want to be cool so you don’t necessarily say anything even if you should.”

We also learned that Villanova men are fast to judge appearances. Three out of four men interviewed discussed judging Villanova women by their clothing at a bar before deciding whether or not it would be an “easy night,” as one guy said.

You can watch these responses firsthand in the video above.

We are grateful to the men who stand up to this limiting and damaging culture and we are grateful to their open minds and willingness to facilitate change and help us in our research efforts.

And since the release of our video, the response has been hopeful. The overwhelming amount of support and positive feedback we received after the release of our video does suggest we’re making a positive change.

Villanova University