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Only men can stop sexual assault

"THAT GIRL over there is hot."

"Yeah, but she is totally wasted."

"Even better."

Sadly, this dialogue is not far from conversations that go on all the time on college campuses, city bars and pretty much everywhere where people gather to drink. Women are preyed on in this society by men who look at women as sexual objects inferior to themselves, and such attitudes lead to rape and sexual assault all around the country. Women can never be held responsible for being raped or sexually assaulted regardless of the situation.

Tuesday night Dr. Christopher Kilmartin, a professor at Mary Washington University and a professional psychologist, spoke on Grounds about the dangers of sexism and how prejudiced views against women lead to sexual assault. Invited by Virginia Athletics, the Office of the Dean of Students Fraternity and Sorority Life, and one in four, a group dedicated to ending sexual assault, Kilmartin offered an intriguing take on how to prevent sexual assault: to make men more aware of how their actions can lead to the portrayal of women as social equals to men.

Blue light phones, Safe Ride, well-lit paths, self-defense classes and police officers are not enough to prevent sexual assault on college campuses or in metropolitan areas. Such measures serve only to protect potential female victims by either reducing the chances that an assaulter can sneak up on them at night, such as shuttle services and lighted paths, or act as a secondary source once an attack has been initiated, such as campus phones and self defense. Kilmartin pointed out that the best way to prevent sexual assault is to stop the perpetrators: the men who look at women as sub-humans and sexual objects.

While many men think that their part in preventing sexual assault ends with their personal choice not to assault women, this idea neglects the huge influence that men can have over their friends. Kilmartin discussed how important it is to interject when a group of guys are making derogatory comments about women, even when they are in jest. Such jokes propagate negative stereotypes and demean women, creating the environment in which some men feel that they can do whatever they please to a woman without her consent. Is it not a virtue of masculinity to be courageous? Men must be bold and stand against their friends in situations where women are being degraded.

Kilmartin offered three things that men can do on a daily basis to end stereotypes against women as well as demonstrate a lack of support for those who sexually assault or verbally demean women. The first step is to become educated and realize that the negative stereotypes against women are false. Secondly, noticing sexism in society allows men to not support companies that use women as sexual objects in their advertisements or to withdraw support from public icons that have proven themselves to be sexually violent towards women or to demean them in any way. Finally, Kilmartin discussed how truly important it is to stand up to sexism within social groups, because it is in these groups that the men who become sexual assault predators receive their opinions on female inferiority.

Men, this is your chance to stand up. Give up the stupid jokes about female drivers and throw the words "slut" and "bitch" out of your vocabulary. These are gigantic steps towards preventing sexual assault, because if women are viewed as social equals to men then predators will not think it so harmless to sexually assault and rape women. Men need to talk to their little brothers that men should stand up for women rather than shoot them down. As Kilmartin offered, society should not define masculinity as a contrast to femininity, for this creates the mindset that men are opposite -- and therefore inferior -- to women.

Men need to understand that when a girl says that she is waiting for marriage or that she does not want to have sex that this is not an invitation to try again later. Just because we have larger muscles than women does not mean they are meant to force ourselves upon them. If anything, we should be using our muscles to protect women. If a girl does not want to have sex, respect her choice as a social equal to a man and do not force it upon her physically or through coercion: look for someone else who is interested in the same type of relationship that you are.

Men must realize that the root of this serious problem is the negative stereotypes they perpetuate in society, and through rejecting these stereotypes and respecting the individuality and opinions of women we can have a gigantic impact on ending sexual assault and rape.

Greg Crapanzano's column appears Fridays in The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at


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