Sexual assault on college campuses isn't an epidemic; rather, it's a decades-old problem that we're only now talking about, one entrenched in gendered stereotypes. And according to a study recently published in the journal Violence Against Women, it's a problem that involves too many men.
Looking at a pool of 379 male volunteers from a southern university, the only one that agreed to be part of the study, researchers resurrected questions from a 1973 survey. They found that 54% of athletes and 38% of the non-athletes used "coercive behaviors — almost all of which met the legal definition of rape" — to get women into bed, the Washington Post reported.
"As high as these numbers are, they may actually under-represent the rates of coercion, since the study relied on self-reported behavior," said Sarah Desmarais, a forensic psychologist at North Carolina State University and one of the study's authors, according to the Independent.
Within isolated athletic communities — 159 of the men surveyed played recreational sports, while 29 were intercollegiate athletes — aggressive behavior and male dominance are lauded, their members largely protected for errant actions. That half the athletes pressured their partners wasn't necessarily unexpected, the researchers said. That so many non-athletes had done the same was more surprising.
According to the Post, men who bought into rape myths — that a woman needs to "fight back" in order to make a sex act rape — and into gender roles that cast women as little more than baby-makers were more likely to be sexually manipulative.
Those men exist outside sports teams, too, and this isn't the first study to suggest men are too comfortable with forcing women into sex. What colleges and universities need to do, the researchers said, is to educate students about gender equality — to teach respect for women as people. Realistically, that education probably needs to start well before college if it's to be effective.