The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Sexual assault stems from deep cultural issues

The plague of sexual assaults at SMU is tied to a much deeper problem than just the challenge of keeping women and men safe from predators on campus. It concerns the sexual culture of the community as a whole and how one might go about changing it.

Rape is not solely a sexual act, but an act of power, violation, and degradation. It stems from a mindset unconcerned with the intrinsic worth of individuals, and this mindset prevails on many, if not most, college campuses in the United States. Rampant objectification is clearly not a novel phenomenon here on the Hilltop, but throughout the United States, which is why these are not incidents isolated to colleges and universities.

Sexual objectification becomes really ugly when it destroys the lives of individuals in an act of sexual assault, but that is clearly not where the objectification begins. Assault is the ultimate outworking of objectification, which begins in the individual mind.

If we constantly expose ourselves to media that depicts sex as something to be consumed like any other item, then we not only degrade sexuality, but we open ourselves up to an alteration of our mindset as well.

Recent research in psychology and neuroscience demonstrates how watching porn over extended periods of time alters one’s brain chemistry.

Yet Forbes reports that the porn industry continues to turn, by conservative estimates, a $4 billion profit. Forbes’ analysis included adult video sales, Internet sites, pay-per-view movies, and magazines, but says nothing about the actual consumption of porn from free sources.

Regardless of how much the porn industry makes, porn is merely an overt example of objectification for the sake of personal pleasure. The sale of consumer goods using sexuality (most commonly using female images, but male portrayals are not exempt either) serves to reinforce and take advantage of an already degrading respect for sexuality.

The problem of objectification seems to manifest itself, regrettably, most often in the Greek community on campus. That is not to disparage fraternities or sororities in theory, as the necessity of community through brotherhood and sisterhood is commendable and essential, but the culture has questionable effects on the behavior of individuals.

Commodification of sexuality will not disappear by cracking down on parties or by enforcing penalties on fraternities for violating university policy.

Instead, people will change when they decide to have higher respect for the intrinsic worth of the other and exercise wisdom. That means that “no” really does mean no and that protecting each other from sexual assault is a necessary duty.

Instead of encouraging each other to engage in risky, undignified behavior, we need to see a change in attitude toward sexuality. Instead of viewing one’s sexual partner as an object of pleasure, one must view the other as an autonomous being of the same worth as oneself.

The encouragement of objectification goes both ways. Some willingly accept it and some willfully seek targets of it, both male and female. I want to clarify that I am not victim-blaming those who have been sexually assaulted. Those individuals deserve love, care and support unconditionally.

All I mean to say is the desire to be objectified and to objectify another person are equally wrong because they are drawn from the same source of disrespect for human sexuality. These characterize two distinct types of desires – to be possessed and to possess – which both turn oneself or another into an object, which is distinctly different from a human being.

I come at all of this from a Christian world view, which leads me to recognize the intrinsic value of each individual and to acknowledge the transcendent value of human sexuality. But what I have emphasized is not exclusive to Christians or other people of faith. What I have said is not applicable only to a bunch of shut-ins and prudes. I am not targeting one group but all individuals at SMU to realize that transforming someone into an object of sexual desire is degrading to oneself and the other. It is tantamount to a declaration of that person’s sub-human worth instead of the full consideration of his or her value as a human being with the same right to respectful treatment as anyone else.

Dearman is a junior majoring in philosophy, political science and English.  

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