Widgets Magazine

OPINIONS

We are not your porn

The first time I danced with my girlfriend at a frat party it look less than a minute for us to get interrupted. Soaked in entitlement, beer and sweat, a drunk frat boy slid his hand onto the small of my back and leaned in to say “Damn you two are so hot. Can we kiss?”

Since then, I count myself lucky to come out of a frat party without having been harassed. Although it is rare, every once in a while I go home on a Saturday night feeling respected. Most of the time, however, I enter a frat party with the understanding that I will be fetishized, sexualized and even violated.

Sexual harassment of women, especially on college campuses, is by no means an uncommon phenomenon. Over 55 percent of women in the U.S. have experienced street harassment at least once in their lives. Luckily feminist organizations and anti-harassment campaigns have played major roles in normalizing the condemnation of sexual harassment, both on the street and elsewhere. While men certainly still catcall women with little to no repercussions, in communities such as Stanford there is now a general recognition of the sexist nature of the practice.

But what about when a man interrupts a female couple kissing in an attempt to join in? By and large, efforts to curb sexual harassment have targeted interactions between heterosexual individuals. Despite the fact that the verbal harassment rate for LGBT individuals is approximately 20 percent higher than for their straight counterparts, queer women are often not recognized as victims of sexual harassment. The consequence? Harassment of queer women is brushed off as a natural byproduct of sexual curiosity.

Over the past few decades, homophobia against queer women has changed dramatically. While queerphobic violence, slurs, and other explicit forms of discrimination continue to plague the lives of queer women, they now also face extreme sexualization. This sexualization is evidenced by the titillation of men by ‘girl on girl’ action. It’s no surprise that in the US Pornhub’s most frequently searched term is ‘lesbian.’ Unfortunately, the flawed nature of queer female representation is not constrained to the porn industry. TV shows such as ‘Faking It’ that portray lesbian relationships as mere attention seeking strategies are no better. Rather than affirming the legitimacy of queer female relationships, this type of representation depicts the population as hypersexual and highly superficial.

Thus, while queer women may be significantly less stigmatized nowadays than they have been in the past, it stems from an increased sexualization of the identity rather than an increased respect for it. As a result, queer women across the country have been rendered unable to be intimate in public without facing violating and invasive remarks from people (namely men) who have taken to fetishizing the community.

This absence of respect is precisely what leads to the harassment that my girlfriend and I, along with many other queer female couples, face on campus. Men lining up to watch us dance, asking to dance with us, even to kiss us, has become the norm.  And while unwanted attention is certainly preferable to outright violence or homophobic slurs, this complete disregard of our personal boundaries should not be trivialized. In fact, the harassment of women has tangible consequences. Women who have been harassed often undergo ‘self-objectification,’ a process by which they internalize the sexism they have experienced. Sadly, self-objectification produces high rates of shame and body insecurity and is consequently linked to the onset of eating disorders, anxiety and depression.

Although queer women are certainly not the sole bearers of these consequences, they are uniquely prone to experiencing them. Unlike their straight counterparts, queer women are subject to ramifications of ‘minority stress.’ In effect, due to their status as a stigmatized minority, queer women have an increased susceptibility to the physical and mental consequences associated with harassment. Despite the severity of these consequences, ending the sexual harassment of queer women, especially on college campuses, remains to be prioritized.

Instead, queer women are treated as public porn: no more than entertainment for others. But we are not your porn. And treating us as such is neither natural nor harmless. So the next time you see a queer female couple at a party, on the street or in a park, understand that their intimacy is not an invitation. Their affection is not yours to enjoy. And their autonomy is not yours to take.


Contact Elena Marchetti-Bowick at elenamb ‘at’ stanford.edu.

About Elena Marchetti-Bowick

Elena Marchetti-Bowick '17 is a contributor for The Stanford Daily from Syracuse, New York. She is a sophomore majoring in economics with an interest in policy analysis. Her passions include cooking, playing tennis, and sunshine. To contact her, please email her at elenamb 'at' stanford.edu.
  • Mr. Concerned

    You make a lot of good points, and sexual harassment is never acceptable in any situation.

    However, I do not like how you stereotyped “frat boys.” Stanford Greek life is really progressive, and chances are that a guy who says something offensive to you is NOT in a fraternity. It is unfair to group an entire population into such confines.

    Furthermore, you must consider that we live in a society where gender roles exist, where men generally make the “first move.” As I already mentioned, sexual harassment is never okay, but I certainly do not see anything wrong with a guy asking you to dance.

  • skeptic

    An example of feminists going as far as to hate on men for being open about sex. The time has come when feminism means sex is wrong, again.

  • ’17

    I agree with you that this is a problem that can extend to men beyond Greek life, but I don’t think we should be so quick to excuse fraternity brothers from any wrongdoing. I hope this article makes everyone on campus, regardless of gender or Greek affiliation, think. No matter who is the perpetrator of sexual harassment, if we see something, we should say something.

    On your second point, I agree that asking a woman to dance can be harmless, but that is not the context in which this story was presented. The men in question interrupted the author and her partner to ask her if the author would dance with him. I find it extremely hard to believe that the same situation would come about had the author had been dancing with a man. As she states in her conclusion, “[queer women’s] intimacy is not an invitation. Their affection is not yours to enjoy.”

  • mia

    you’re missing the point entirely. interrupting/inserting oneself into an intimate moment between two people under the (societally-enforced) assumption that your advances will be welcomed is not “being open about sex.” it’s being disrespectful to a relationship you are fetishizing and are assuming is somehow less legitimate/exclusive than a heterosexual relationship. can you even imagine a scenario in which a man or woman approaches a heterosexual couple that is making out or otherwise engaging intimately and invites his/herself into their interaction? asks them to make out again so he/she can observe it? it’s rude. it’s shameful. it’s voyeuristic. and it’s something that is somehow acceptable when the couple is queer and female. and that’s where the problem lies.

  • Common Sense

    While I agree that sexual harassment is not okay, I am having trouble viewing this as sexual harassment especially given the context of the situation. We all know that frats are places you go to to get drunk, dance, get covered in beer and sweat (not all yours) possibly hookup, and have a fun, somewhat irresponsible, time.

    You wouldn’t be angry if you walked into a perfume department and someone tried to sell you perfume.

    So my question is, if you know that the norm at these places is slurred words and an attempt at sexual encounters, why do you continue to go?

  • Anonymous

    As a member of a fraternity on campus, I will say honestly that I often find myself feeling defensive while reading articles written about fraternities, fraternity parties, etc.

    I felt that the writer, describing an experience from a viewpoint relatively underrepresented in the current conversation surrounding social life and Greek life, raised interesting and thought-provoking concerns without snidely lambasting fraternities as (in my opinion) so many do here at Stanford. With the exception of the smarmy description of the fraternity member (membership actually unsubstantiated in the article), the writer actually gives a very fair summary of the culture of sexual harassment both throughout the nation and here at Stanford, clearly vocalizing her acknowledgement of the progressive and conscientious mentality most Stanford students have in their social interactions.

    The behavior the writer describes is one I have seen firsthand, and one that I will ardently discourage within my house. While I am proud of my fraternity and the opportunities for social interaction we create for members of the Stanford community, I am also aware that problems such as this do exist within this system. Problems such as this must be combatted in order to construct a more hospitable environment for other students and frankly to ensure that fraternities can continue to provide opportunities for social interaction in the future.

    Thank you, Ms. Marchetti-Bowick, for your constructive contribution to this ongoing discussion.

  • emily

    Sexual harassment is sexual harassment. The context of this story does not matter. By saying that this couple should not go to these parties because they anticipate this kind of encounter, you place the blame for these kinds of unacceptable behaviors on those being harmed by them rather than those perpetrating them. Any couple should be able to go to a party on campus and feel safe and respected. If they do not, wouldn’t you think it is “common sense” that it is the fault of whoever is making them feel that way, not their own? Going to a party with your significant other should not be a privilege reserved for heterosexuals.

  • commentary

    claps Elena! this slaps

  • Funkytown

    So lesbians have evolved to have no fetishes outside of inanimate objects? STFU! Lol!

  • skeptic

    You are a sexist. You think asking for consent is harassment based only on the sexual preferences of the couple. You are against polygamia and open sexual relationships. Are you a Mormon?

  • skeptic

    EXCEPT THIS IS NOT SEXUAL HARASSMENT. Asking for consent is not sexual harassment independent of the ‘apparent’ sexual orientation of the person or the amount of people already hooking up. You seem to have a very traditional view of relationships: monogamous and you don’t accept the existence or possibility of different ones.

  • skeptic

    You are a shame to any liberal. You assume it’s OK for a retrograde conservative to claim asking for consent is assault. This is the real culture of nonconsent, one pushed by feminists like these. They assume people cannot like both girls AND boys and accept multiple people into a relationship. And in order to safeguard their traditional practices they call anything else sexual assault.

  • skeptic

    The sexual preferences of the couple DO NOT CHANGE the fact that asking for consent IS NOT ASSAULT. This person makes feminism AND ASSAULT sound like a joke. Asking to dance or kiss is obviously not assault or harassment and you guys are not progressives if you think it is.

  • You are missing the point…

    As a pansexual woman, who does not practice monogamy and has engaged in multiple threesomes/ group sex situations, it is still harassment. It is a serious problem that I, especially as a femme, cannot make out with another woman in public without receiving unwanted sexual attention (the definition of harassment) from men. While I believe threesomes can occur in healthy, consensual, and fun ways, they require mutual respect of all involved, an attitude that is sorely lacking in the exchanges described by the author. The problem isn’t so much the asking as it is the attitude behind it. Asking to “get in on that” operates under several fucked up assumptions: that women (all women, but especially queer women) exist for the consumption of men, that men are entitled to interrupt two queer partners expressing affection in a way that they would likely NEVER interrupt a heterosexual couple, and that it is okay to reduce queer women to sexual objects in the name of sex positivity, a movement which by the way has it roots in promoting the sexual pleasure of women.

  • ThisBitchIsRetarded

    This author is a biased, dumb, ignorant bitch. I agree with some of the points, but not in the twisted, convoluted way this CUNT is explaining them. Harrassment of women is a SERIOUS issue, and this idiot is making her cause seem more extremist.
    Asking a lesbian to dance is assault? I hope whoever wrote this burns in a fire.
    YOU are hurting your cause. YOU are making it worse for women with your extremism. YOU devalue this issue in the eyes of the public because you take it way too fucking far so people think it’s a joke.
    Fuck you, and fuck everyone who thinks like this, bitch.
    Have a wonderful day hurting women, you psycho verbal rapist.

  • Stanford Student

    The author has not claimed that what she and other couples are experiencing is sexual assault; sexual harassment and sexual assault are two entirely different terms (legally and conceptually). You are absolutely incorrect about the main point of the article.

  • m

    alright homie, first of all you need to chill the fuck out. screaming and crying and calling the author and everyone who agrees with her names does nothing but make you seem like an immature asshole. second of all, the author did not use the word assault a single time in her entire article. assault and harassment are totally different things and she made absolutely no indication that she was conflating the two. harassment simply means unwanted sexual attention and the scenario described certainly meets that standard. asking a lesbian to dance is not a problem in and of itself. the issue arises when a lesbian couple is clearly sharing an intimate moment and a man takes that as his cue to insert himself into the situation as if the women were asking for it. that kind of behavior toward a heterosexual couple would never be considered acceptable and the fact that that same decency is not extended to lesbian couples is a sign of the patriarchal society in which we live.
    i’m gonna go ahead and assume that you’re not a queer lady and therefore have never had to deal with the constant fear of strange people approaching you and your partner, often menacingly, looking for sexual gratification. it is therefore not your place to speak to what should and should not be classified as sexual harassment in situations like this. saying that this article is extreme and hurts women just shows that you have absolutely no concept of what it is like to actually deal with these issues, because as a queer woman myself, i can tell you that it is one of the most aggravating and upsetting aspects of my personal life and the author did an excellent job getting the right message across.

  • skeptic

    Asking for consent is not sexual harassment. Go learn about ethics and consent

  • skeptic

    You are an idiot. Heterosexual couples are not interrupted by hetero men or women because they are not interested in being part in them; not because they think it’s more respectable. You are 100% anti sex-positive and you show it. You cannot call sex positivism sexual harassment. Harassment is NOT unwanted sexual attention. Look up the definition you fake feminist. It means nothing like that unless you use newspeak, redefining language to fit your anti sex ideology. Stop pretending you are into open relationships if you fight against people feeling ‘entitled’ to be open about sex.