Tweets by @Stanford_Daily

RT @StanfordSports: Our recap of Stanford's 45-0 win. Key takeways: McCaffrey has a bright future and the O-line still needs to gel http://…: 2 days ago, The Stanford Daily
RT @StanfordSports: And that's the ballgame. Stanford routs UC-Davis 45-0.: 2 days ago, The Stanford Daily
Suspect "described as a white male adult, in his 30's, approx. 5' 7" and 140 lbs., fit build with short brown hair and wearing black shorts": 3 days ago, The Stanford Daily
Alert: "A female adult reported that she was...struck from behind with an unknown object that she believed to be a stick.": 3 days ago, The Stanford Daily
AlertSU system reporting a physical assault nearby Palm Drive and Campus Drive at 9:11 p.m.: 3 days ago, The Stanford Daily

OPINIONS

Stand Against Normal

I #StandWithLeah because we’re all still lying down.

The last few weeks have been a storm of controversial events: the Snapchat CEO’s leaked emails, Provost Etchemendy’s hasty response to the entire undergraduate population, #StandWithLeah and the ongoing struggle to reform the University’s sexual assault policies and resources.

It’s easy to see those events as separate or unrelated. Sexism isn’t the same as sexual assault, right? But, perhaps surprisingly, the underlying issue runs deeper than these two topics.

We can’t truly talk about sexism, rape or other issues on campus without understanding that we live in a culture of nonconsent.

In its most basic form, consent is permission, approval or agreement. Therefore, nonconsent is the lack of permission, approval or agreement.

Living in a culture of nonconsent means that our interactions with each other are inherently lacking explicit permission, approval or agreement. And to a large degree, we think this is perfectly normal.

Women are taught to go to parties in groups because it’s safer to not be alone; we mix our own drinks because we’re wary of roofies; we let at least one friend know when we decide to hook up with a stranger so just in case, someone knows where we were.

Stanford students wouldn’t bat an eye at those tips. But when we think about it, if these tips and tricks for navigating spaces on this campus are normal, that means that sexual assault, date rape and roofies are considered normal enough to be a danger. Everyone’s familiar with the “consent is sexy” signs that organizations like the Sexual Health Peer Resource Center (SHPRC) have been distributing over the past few years. We need those reminders for a reason.

“Some asshole felt me up last night,” we’ll complain, and our friends will express outrage and nod along in sympathy. Empathy, really — it’s happened to a lot of people.

“Should we report it?”

“No, it was dark and I didn’t see them clearly. Plus, the rest of the party was great so it balances it out!”

The conversation ends, the day goes on, nonconsent is just another part of campus life.

Nonconsent and parties seem undeniably related. But outside the “social scene” at Stanford, the same dynamics are reproduced. Say your house or dorm is doing Secret Snowflake, and you make a guy who normally wears baggy sweaters show up in a speedo for the night. Hilarious and harmless — but while he doesn’t say a word, he has issues with body image: He has cutting scars; he’s anxious and jittery the whole night.

He’s too afraid of what people would think to turn down the request or to say that he’s uncomfortable. “You’re supposed to be uncomfortable,” people tell him. Nonconsent is normal.

The word “passive-aggressive” also comes to mind — in fact, it’s hard to find a better example of casual nonconsent in our lives. “Passive-aggressive” seems to describe the way in which we resolve conflicts. We’re scared that a confrontation might ruin a friendship, a work relationship (no mention of Stanford is complete without throwing in the word “networking” somewhere) or a romantic relationship, and so we communicate through not communicating. For us, it’s easier to memorize the infinite list of “actions and their implied meanings” than saying “we need to talk.”

We’ve all become experts at interpreting what that side-eyed glance means in the bathroom, at dressing a certain way in the hopes that someone telepathically understands what we want, at performing this convoluted dance that looks more like a prescripted play than actual human interaction. Deviating from your lines can kill you. Remember the girl who was murdered for saying no to a prom invitation? Nonconsent is so ordinary in our society that we feel entitled to it — we feel like with many situations, other people aren’t supposed to have a choice in the matter. Luckily, murder isn’t the usual outcome of defying expectations of nonconsent.

That being said, it’s not just about labeling those extreme cases, or about focusing on rape as related to mental illness or social awkwardness. That’s what our stereotypical idea of the rapist is: a misogynistic, entitled man who rapes strangers out of rage. That might be why, in a study conducted by the Bureau of Justice, 49 percent of the respondents — college women — who had indicated that someone “made [them] have [penetrative] sexual intercourse by using force or threatening to harm [them]” did not believe they had been raped.

It’s not a coincidence when the same Bureau of Justice study reports that 82 percent of rape is by someone the victim knew, such as friends, acquaintances, intimates or relatives. There is the implicit assumption that if the rapist is someone the victim knew, if they don’t match his or her idea of the “stereotypical rapist,” it isn’t rape.

We need to have a conversation about nonconsent, about all students on campus — rapists or not. The reality is that we have smudged the line of consent ourselves. The ways we fight with our friends, date, hook up, go to parties and trash talk other people all contribute to the normality of nonconsent. It seems almost hypocritical to condemn sexual assault without also critically examining the nonconsensual aspects of our everyday lives that may seem normal.

The conversation about sexual assault needs to be a conversation about nonconsent. It needs to be a conversation about alcohol, communication, social norms, “awkwardness,” bodily autonomy and sexism. It needs to be a conversation about Greek life, about hookup culture, about the glorification of the Game: the batting of eyelashes, the unspoken first kiss, the rough sex in bed with the lights off and the silent morning after.

If we can’t have those conversations, we can’t change a thing. When we stand with Leah, we stand against nonconsent. When we stand with Leah, we stand against normal.

 

Contact Lily Zheng at lilyz8@stanford.edu.

About Lily Zheng

Lily Zheng, '17, is a columnist for The Stanford Daily. She is a Psychology major, president of the student group Kardinal Kink, and interested in sex, identity, activism, kink, and how all of that squashes together here on Stanford and in the Bay Area. She will write about kink until the world stops spinning--that, or until she finally gets into that long-term ten-person relationship she's wanted for a while now. In her spare time, she enjoys playing first-person shooters, lounging around topless, and pretending to work on her novel. Contact her at lilyz8 'at' stanford.edu, she loves getting messages!
  • brookstyle

    half the respondents didnt know they’d been raped?

  • not who you think I am

    Looking at the study in question, it’s stated that half the respondents indicated that they had been forced to have sex (as well as several other things polled in that study that indexed rape vs. not rape) but did not self-label what had happened to them as rape.

  • brookstyle

    doesn’t seem right. HALF of them were forced to have sex but didn’t call it rape?

  • not who you think I am

    From the study, using this definition of rape:
    Forced sexual intercourse including both psychological coercion as well as physical force. Forced sexual intercourse means vaginal, anal, or oral penetration by the offender(s).This category also includes incidents where the penetration is from a foreign object such as a bottle. Includes attempted rapes, male as well as female victims, and both heterosexual and homosexual rape. Attempted rape includes verbal threats of rape.

    In each incident report, respondents were asked, “Do you consider this incident to be a rape?” For the 86 incidents categorized as a completed rape, 46.5 percent (n = 40) of the women answered “yes,” 48.8 percent (n = 42) answered “no,” and 4.7 percent (n = 4) answered “don’t know.”

    That 48.8% is the number we’re talking about.

  • Anonymous

    I find it hard to believe that the founder of Kardinal Kink is giving “rape advice” to other Stanford students. Your previous letters about BDSM are an invitation to sexual deviants, to prey on Stanford students.

    In other words: You (Lily) are the one who needs sexual advice and professional counseling, as well as the Stanford professors and adults who find what you write appropriate for The Stanford Daily.

  • Malena

    So basically it’s a definitions issue. The study makers created a different definition than most people have of rape. Then decided their own definition is the real one whereas what people think of rape is the “fake” rape definition. Smart argument. Only an asshole would care unless we have all the details to what the “real” definition of rape is. If they don’t believe they’ve been raped, is for a reason: the situation might have been more unclear than the study-makers want to “categorize” it as.

  • Malena

    I think Kink is fine and does not imply any threat. However, I agree that Lily might be less equipped to discuss “rape advice” since she claims to be asexual (how can you understand sex if you don’t feel the need/want for it?), plus her gender identity conflicts (male/female) might be skewing perception, but we cannot tell for sure. This is something she should clarify. It is totally legit to give her opinion but there’s also valid evidence to question her advice and knowledge on the issues.

  • Malena

    “if these tips and tricks for navigating spaces on this campus are normal, that means that sexual assault, date rape and roofies are considered normal enough to be a danger”
    BULLSHIT. If extreme sexist feminists are covered by media “warning” people about the rape apocalypse, even if we’re careful to avoid that alleged rape apocalypse, are we really thinking it’s a REAL THING? The fact that people over hype things, doesn’t mean you can use it as an excuse to claim that thing has to be a huge deal. This is a complete fallacy you’re working with and you know it.