Vanderbilt, Sexual Violence on Campus, and the ‘Cure’

Anyone who has read this week about the rape and sexual assault committed by drunken Vanderbilt University football players has to be disgusted—and even more so by the fact that part of the defense was to imply that it was the product of the “culture” on campus. That college campus “culture” explains why this week higher education officials were meeting to talk about curbing sexual violence on campus. Sadly, most colleges don’t even know why they can’t “cure” the problem.

The reason most of the colleges like Vanderbilt and those in our public college system can’t “cure” the problem is because it would require them to talk about things they either won’t talk about or don’t want to talk about.

Reviewing the agenda for the collegiate meeting, it appears that our colleges will spend most of their time talking about “process,” things like how to avoid bad situations, what to do if you are in a bad situation, and how to handle incidences of sexual assaults. About the only substantive, contributing cause of sexual violence they will discuss is the effect and influence of alcohol.

All those things are good and should be talked about. But it’s not enough if they are really serious about changing an environment where sexual assault is far too commonplace.

For example, one of the things they don’t want to talk about is what Dr. Mary Anne Layden’s research shows. She is Director of the Sexual Trauma and Psychopathology Program in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania. Here is what her research has led her to conclude:

“We were never going to solve the problem of sexual violence by treating victims who’ve been damaged by the problem and treating them one at a time and trying to put them back together. There weren’t enough therapists in the world. There were too many victims in the world. We couldn’t solve this by pulling them out of the river one at a time. We were going to have to go upstream and see who was pushing them in.”

And what she found was that the porn industry was pushing people into the river.

After ten years of treating victims of sexual violence, she said she realized she “had not treated one case of sexual violence that didn’t involve pornography.”

But at the University of Tennessee Knoxville campus, we have Sex Week. At last year’s Sex Week, porn actress Tristan Taormino came to answer questions like “Can porn be ethical?” and “What is ‘good’ porn?” The self-described feminist pornographer also shared her thoughts on “why she thinks anti-porn feminists haven’t watched enough porn.” I’m sure Dr. Layden would say that’s a classic example of taking one step forward and multiple steps backward!

But that’s not all. You will never hear an honest discussion on campus about whether there are any creational boundaries to human sexuality. For one, most public colleges and “elite” universities like Vanderbilt will, at best, only give lip service to the existence of a Creator to begin with. But the LGBT agenda and feminist agendas on campus sure aren’t going to acknowledge the obvious natural complementariness of the two (yes, just two) sexes. To allow such a discussion is to allow the possibility that their agenda is wrong.

And, of course, while we don’t want to talk about it in polite society, there are those who take that view of human sexuality to its logical extremes to advocate for bondage, domination, and sadomasochism, which makes the line between sex and violence pretty fuzzy.

So, since we can’t or won’t talk honestly about sex and the possibility that there is a design and function for sex, we can’t really solve the problem; we can only clamp down on it. In this I’m reminded of what C.S. Lewis said in the Abolition of Man:

“In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests [hearts] and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”

Naturally, in our case, when it comes to sexual violence on college campuses, we cut short the discussion we really need to have and then wonder why our discussions aren’t more fruitful.


David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.

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