According to a study printed in the Journal of American College Health last year, about 20 percent of undergraduate women experience some type of sexual assault while in college and approximately 2-to-3 percent of college-aged women experience rape.
The two themes common in most of these assaults were that college-aged males perpetrated nearly all of them, and the vast majority involved alcohol in some way.
The notion that college-aged men are less than pristine members of society is hardly a new one. Show me a platform for rampant debauchery and sexism and I’ll show you a freshman dormitory any time after 10 p.m.
What comes to mind is Bluto, a drunken unprincipled character in his seventh year of college, played masterfully by John Belushi in the movie “Animal House.” I have encountered a decent share of Blutos during my time in college. In fact, I happened to see one looking at pictures of girls in bikinis on his laptop during a lecture today.
Yes, attending a large state university certainly presents a lifestyle that may be considered less than savory. But to be clear, the sexism, homophobia, and lack of discipline that many believe define my peers are not necessarily the norm and it’s most definitely not accurate or fair to generalize all college-aged men as that character Bluto.
But it is important to point out that this behavior does represent a definitive segment of the population – one that needs help.
Yet it’s not the job of society alone to question how we can expect better of these young men; rather, it is the job of young men to make a concerted effort to expect better of themselves and one another.
The trademarks of this group of young men include a patent disrespect for women and an unflinching embrace of a culture of machismo.
In one of my sociology lectures, which held in excess of 100 students, the professor asked everyone in the class who was a feminist to raise their hand.
I observed as several females raised their hand in support. One lone male did the same, garnering grins and laughs from his fellow male counterparts. Apparently, showing open support for equality in gender is not cool, and certainly not macho.
This macho culture causes a sort of cognitive dissonance among college-aged males. On one hand, they are in the midst of a very unsure time of their lives and they’re discovering a lot about themselves while on their own for the first time, but concurrently, the prevailing macho culture dictates that they must never show weakness or emotion.
This combination of feelings results in a rabid overcompensation when it comes to masculinity. Essentially, perhaps there was more to Bluto than he let on and he doesn’t know how to deal with it.
Males must recognize the macho culture for what it really is: insecurity. While no one likes to be accused of being insecure, it is vital for it to be addressed, as this insecurity can have a direct connection to one’s likelihood to engage in a sexual assault.
An article published in 1979 by psychologists Nicholas Groth and Jean Birnbaum introduced the idea of “power rapists,” those who engage in sexual assaults as a means to accommodate their feelings of inadequacy and as a way of affirming their masculinity.
It is the responsibility of college-aged males to let one another know that the perceived manly image they believe they should strive to attain is bogus. In fact, one displays a lot more toughness and bravery by rejecting that image entirely in favor of one that is self-defined.
Men can start by recognizing that sexist comments shouldn’t be greeted with laughs, but rather they deserve to be scoffed at and rejected for both their immature nature and utter lack of originality.
There are endless numbers of things that are worthy of criticism and humorous insight in this world, and you’re talking about your belief that women belong in the kitchen? Pretty weak, bro.
Dan Treadway is an associate editor at the Daily Texan and a political communication senior at the University of Texas at Austin.