Baby, hottie, sex goddess—these are just some of the compliments flung around Wittenberg’s campus, especially around Valentine’s Day. While for some, the word flattery comes to mind, for other Wittenberg students, a different word comes to mind: sexual harassment.
In this context, sexual harassment refers to any unwelcome verbal or physical sexual advances, regardless of gender.
Wittenberg University policies do not tolerate sexual harassment, and the website states that all students, staff, and faculty should be free of sexual harassment and misconduct as it interferes with the mission of the university and threatens careers.
However, nearly two-thirds of U.S. college students experience some type of sexual harassment (either contact or noncontact), yet less than 10 percent of the incidences are reported to a university employee, and an even fewer amount are reported to the Title IX officer, according to a study done by the AAUW Educational Foundation.
The AAUW study also found that sexual harassment affects both men and women; however, women are more likely to be the targets and men are more likely to be the perpetrators.
“I think we live in a culture of harassment in that we consider it inherently complimentary for whoever is deemed powerful in a society to extend signs of approval and desire,” said Kate Causbie, senior. “This is why some people tell the women-turned-objects that the male gaze is a compliment.”
In addition to Causbie, female student Emma Brems, Wittenberg sophomore, attributes the unwanted advances to the college campus culture. Brems specifically remembered an incident while she was dancing at a party when a ‘random guy’ called her a ‘sex goddess.’
“Some people would take that as a compliment, but I am just very self-conscious,” said Brems. “I think that our culture has glorified the female body in a way that is unfair to females.”
In Wittenberg harassment cases specifically, the harassment incidences are most often between a male and a female, and alcohol is often, but not always, involved (one or both parties being intoxicated or incapacitated) according to Donna Picklesimer, Title IX Officer at Wittenberg.
Picklesimer went on to say that the single most effective way to prevent these incidences from occurring is for students to understand alcohol’s effect on themselves.
“Going to a party with the intention of getting drunk or wasted increases the likelihood of either being a victim or the accused of a non-consensual sexual encounter,” said Picklesimer.
Although the problem is not just at Wittenberg, or even college campuses in general, several Wittenberg students including Shannon Kelleher, senior, said they find sexual harassment to be deeply offensive.
“It’s frustrating that we’ve made so much progress towards gender equality at an institutional level, and yet a woman can’t go for a run without being made aware that her body is considered socially subordinate,” said Kelleher.