The State Of Sexual Entitlement In The ‘Cac
One of my best friends goes to a small liberal arts school in Massachusetts– not in the ‘Cac, but similar. Over fall break she recounted the tale of a boy who offered her a ticket to see Florence+The Machine a few days after meeting her, and then chastised her for not having sex with him following the concert. She was too nice to tell him to “go fuck himself.” Later he’d text her to say that she clearly didn’t understand how it works.
I spent a good portion of the ride back to Maine privately seething–the kind of seething where you look down and realize that suddenly you’re going 90 mph. When will the sexual entitlement end? I want to know. Because make no mistake, it’s a poison on our campuses.
The dictionary defines “entitle”:
1. to give (a person) the right to do or have something; qualify; allow
2. to give a name or title to
3. to confer a title of rank or honour upon
From the above, it’s clear that entitlement is based on a transaction. For my friend’s companion, the expected transaction was a concert ticket in exchange for sex. As disgusting as that seems, his text temper tantrum was relatively small potatoes sexual entitlement.
Unfortunately, the extremes of sexual entitlement are much harder to dismiss, as we learn from an ongoing case in Middletown…
1. “to give (a person) the right to do or have something; qualify; allow”
Wesleyan is currently being charged with a violation of Title IX for its handling of the Beta Theta Pi house–an unregulated space with a reputation for sexual misconduct. A former first-year student alleges that she wasn’t properly informed the fraternity’s history, whereas warning e-mails had been sent to prior student bodies.
She was sexually assaulted at the frat’s Halloween Party two years ago.
Salon and The Huffington Post have picked up on the frat’s alleged nickname as a “rape factory,” but we all know that rapes don’t materialize off a conveyor belt. Within the space of the fraternity, a guest of the house acted as if he had the right to complete an unwanted transaction.
Let’s review some basic principles: Sex is a want not a need. Arousal is a hope and not a guarantee. A rightful transaction is between two willing parties. And last, but certainly not least, expectations don’t cash in as entitlements.
In this case,the penalty for sexual entitlement was a first-degree sexual assault charge and a 15-month prison sentence. ”Who wouldn’t want to have sex with me?” doesn’t hold up in a court of law, and as citizens of the ‘Cac it certainly shouldn’t hold up among the jury of our peers.
If you can’t grasp that you’re drinking the poison.
2. “to give a name or title to”
This second definition is a somewhat more literal definition of “entitle,” but it hints at the power of words. What we call someone dictates how we think about them, and ultimately how we treat them.
In The Amherst College Voice and elsewhere on the internet, Dana Bolger’s op-ed is making quite an impact. Bolger speaks out about a t-shirt design for an Amherst frat’s Bavaria pig roast, in which a scantily clad woman–rather than a pig–is referred to as a “fat one”:
It’s a t-shirt–a piece of cotton with ink on it. Why not dismiss the uproar over this design, just as we dismissed the Check Out Our Cox shirts? Because this shirt is genuinely offensive. Rather than invite humorous scrutiny of the wearer’s anatomy based on a sports-related innuendo, this shirt (literally) skewers a protected class of citizens that have nothing to do with the Bavaria event.
This design does more to glorify a stereotype than dismiss it, and it’s an uncalled for comment on women’s weight and function in society from a group that is supposed to focus on brotherhood. The brothers of this frat had a choice in portraying themselves as pigs, but the women who would see the shirt had no say in being stripped down and objectified by the artist. Bolger says:
“Amherst’s silence concerning the shirt shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. We’re all part of a larger culture, one that excuses (and often promotes) the objectification of female bodies, the glamorization of violence against women and the normalization of rape. Our media and pop culture saturate us with misogynistic images, songs and advertisements. Our politicians decide which victims of violence against women should be taken seriously and which “types” of rape are legitimate. Our society blames victims of sexual assault, rather than perpetrators, leaving them free to rape again.”
This incident brings a new dimension to sexual entitlement: the language that we use. In this case, “fat ones” is no proper way to shape discourse about the female sex at a private institution that prides itself on safety and acceptance.
3. “to confer a title of rank or honor upon”
I have the utmost respect for varsity athletes in the ‘Cac, and many times I have been in awe of how well they balance athletics and academics. While an athlete is a member of a sports team, a sportsman is an individual of athletic talent and good character–and I have been privileged to meet many sportsmen in my time in the ‘Cac.
I believe that the philosophy of the NESCAC urges athletes to aspire to be sportsmen. I would even go so far as to say that the title or rank of “varsity athlete” is contingent upon the maintenance of high character standards…At least, that’s how it should be.
And yet, as criticized by Rose Barrett, here is a sample of comments allegedly made by certain members of the Tufts men’s lacrosse team at a Smith vs. Tufts volleyball game (according to The Tufts Daily, the school has since launched an investigation into the incident):
When a player squatted to receive a serve: “Look at those childbearing hips!”
Commenting on a player’s build: “Whoa, we got a big one!”
Every single time a particular Latina player made contact with the ball: “Hey Sonia — Sonia you suck!” “Sonia, you f–ked up!” “That was all your fault, Sonia! You’re gonna get deported!”
“Hey number five, I bet you have a tight butthole!”
“Number seven! Number seven, where’s your boyfriend?”
“Woo, look at those volleyball shorts!”
“Hey! My sister’s your boyfriend!”
Commenting on Barrett’s Op-ed, ‘TuftsAlum12′ wrote, “This op-ed reflects a failure to appreciate or understand sports. In the words of Al Davis, “Just win, baby”–and Tufts did just that crushing Smith 3-0 in that match. Now, Ms. Barret please return to your suburban soccer league where everyone get a trophy and let the big girls and boys take care of business as a new generation of Jumbos try to lift our school’s dismal athletic mantle.”
Clearly any idiot can tout free speech, or point out the precedence of heckling at sports–but a ‘Cac citizen should recognize the weight behind sexually charged remarks and refrain from them, rather than feel entitled to make such remarks as a male bystander.
In yet another lesson in entitlement, the Tufts lacrosse players involved in this incident may call themselves athletes–but they are certainly not sportsmen.
That is an honor that is earned.