Name: Kathy Greaves
Department: Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS)
Throughout this week Her Campus at Oregon State is going to write and openly discuss the issues of sexual assault on college campuses. Kathy Greaves is a professor here at Oregon State who teaches Human Sexuality, and she also writes for the Daily Barometer as Dr. Sex. Since she has such a high respect among students and staff, we decided to interview her on her opinions of the issues of sexual assault and the culture around sexual assault.
HC at Oregon State: What are your thoughts on the hook up culture in college?
Kathy: I’m not surprised at all, and I think that in most instances it is fine and safe. If you are willing to participate in sexual activity, then you aren’t in theory at risk for sexual assault. But if someone wants you to do something that you don’t want to do, then that’s where things start to get fuzzy. For example, the Emma Sulkowicz case about the girl who carried around her mattress that she had been sexually assaulted on. After the story had been released, more details came out where she had had sex with this guy before, but this time he had wanted to have anal and she said no, and he forced her to anyway. In most instances the hook up culture is totally safe, but instances like this do occur. The issue becomes what your idea of a hook up is versus your partner’s idea of a hook up. Young adults today are more likely to be okay with sex outside of a committed relationship, and so the hook up culture is okay if all parts are understanding about what it is. There is a market for it, but you can still run into problems with it.
HC at Oregon State: Why is sexual assault such an issue on college campuses?
Kathy: I think that a big part of it is that we reflect the nation. And as a nation we still accept and tolerate sexual assault. Specifically at universities there is a huge sports culture and a huge Greek culture. In both of those cultures research shows that “that guy” (who is more likely to sexually assault women) gravitates to those two communities. To make it clear, I am not saying that all the men in sports or in Greek culture are rapists. It’s that “that guy” gravitates to those cultures, so we find more of “that guy” in those environments. If college campuses did not have such a huge Greek culture and sports culture, we would see less sexual assault. Unfortunately, this makes the guys in those activities look bad.
HC at Oregon State: How does the media affect sexual assault in a negative way? In a positive way?
Kathy: I think that the media tends to go with whatever is popular. I know that they try and talk about it, such as publicizing the “It’s On Us” campaign. But if you are talking about all of media including advertising and not just the news media, then every item you can possibly think of has advertising that objectifies women. Specifically using the Carl’s Jr commercial where the girl is in a bikini with a perfect body eating this big juicy burger. Those women do not eat those burgers and no one eats a hamburger sexually like these commercials imply. So I think that the media makes women objects, and then “that guy” sees this idea of a woman just being an object. She is no longer there as the man’s partner, she is there to please him. This is because women are used in the media to please men and show items that are normally not sexually appealing and turn them that way. So I think that the news media tries to put a stand against sexual assault, but that advertisements do not.
HC at Oregon State: What are your opinions on the “Its On Us” Campaign?
Kathy: I think it is wonderful, and I really hope that it’s not all fluff. The president of the United States is behind it which is wonderful, but sometimes those kinds of campaigns are a feel good thing. A positive is that it shows that everyone is against sexual assault. But it’s just a lot of talk and nothing specifically comes out of it. If there isn’t some way for us to change the laws or court proceedings or just for something drastic to change around the culture of sexual assault, then I don’t know what the “Its On Us” campaign is for. It needs to go beyond the fact that we think sexual assault is a bad thing. We now need to take action.
HC at Oregon State: What local or national legal measures do you think are working or are trying to work on fixing the sexual assault issues?
Kathy: I think that it starts somewhere small such as the questionnaires that everyone had to take this fall regarding alcohol and sexual assault. It needs to start locally before it can become an issue nationally. I think having those questionnaires at least makes every student aware of the issue of sexual assault. Even the “Its On Us” campaign brings the idea at least to students minds. I think that if more people got behind it, such as really masculine professional athletes, and started making public announcements, then “that guy” would see his idol saying that rape is not okay, and then something might change.
HC at Oregon State: What ways do you believe we can change the sexual assault culture?
Kathy: I think classes are the biggest way that we can begin to change the culture. I think that it would be nice if they included sexual assault in high school sexual education and teaching them that it’s not “her” fault. I think we need to start raising our boys to not objectify women. It’s very difficult to raise boys to not objectify women when every advertisement that they look at is objectifying women. It needs to be a whole cultural shift. It’s so engrained into our culture and who we are, that it is going to be very difficult to completely get rid of it. We just need to keep working on future generations and basically shoving it at them to not act and think this way. We need to stop supporting the products that objectify women. We can do this by taking a stand against these companies, by writing emails and complaining about how the advertising is offensive to women.
HC at Oregon State: How does alcohol and drugs play a part in sexual assault?
Kathy: Alcohol is involved in about 95% of all sexual assaults. It impairs our decision making on both the part of the perpetrator and the victim. You are more likely to go to isolated places and trust people. You even do things you normally wouldn’t do.
HC at Oregon State: Why are men usually associated with being the assailant in sexual crimes and the women being the victim?
Kathy: It’s all about patriarchy and control. The reality is that most men aren’t men who would sexually assault a woman. Just “that guy” sees the patriarchy in our society and sees how men have more power than women, and he has this perspective that women are there to just please men however they want.
Give it up for Kathy Greaves and the encouraging message she has provided us against sexual assault. Tune in next week for another inspiring Campus Celebrity, and be sure to check out the rest of our content centered around campus safety and sexual assault!