Sexual Assault at Emory

The main takeaway message I got from our discussion with Lauren Bernstein was that the prevention and control of sexual assault is extremely complicated. As Armstrong outlines, “processes at individual, organizational, and interactional levels contribute to high rates of sexual assault” [1]. Individual expectations combine within a policy that promotes male controlled party atmosphere. This ‘heterosexual script’ defines the sexual interaction between young men and women, and increases the likelihood of sexual assault. Whereas Armstrong calls for a decrease in alcohol usage and abolition of this gendered party scene, I agree more alone the lines of ¬¬ Lauren Bernstein [1].  Emory policy prohibits freshmen from visiting fraternity row for a certain period each year. Anyone who believes this actually prevents young men and women from going is certainly being naïve. Underage drinking happens, and it is likely going to continue to happen in the absence of fraternity presence. Within the recent press about the 7 instances of sexual assault occurring on Emory’s campus, the majority of focus has been placed on Greek life’s role. Of the 7 reports, only 2 were involved with fraternities. This suggests that this is not only a Greek problem; it is a campus problem.
Policy is not going to be able to change the culture of Emory. Students themselves need to be able to place value in getting rid of the ‘rape culture’. It should not be a pre-arrival online education module. It needs to be an interactive process where the actual reasons behind sexual assault can be understood and combated. With the removal of Emory’s Health and Physical Education requirements, it seems we are moving in the wrong direction. The other aspect that I do think will help stop these acts from occurring is the prevalence of organizations and events devoted to stopping assault. Increased awareness allows people to see that there is a problem and will help promote discourse about a somewhat taboo topic. 

Finally, I think it is important not only to consider this topic within only our setting. I liked someone’s assertion in class about the focus often being placed on college as the only instance where sexual assault or rape occurs. In our context, Emory’s campus, yes it is important to understand sexual violence from the collegiate context, but it is also important to remember that these acts occur in other societal places as well. It may be that colleges, often with increased support services for victims relative to outside society, have increased reporting of violence and thus the appearance that it occurs more often in this scene. A change in this larger context of sexual assault and rape will subsequently lead to a change in the ‘rape culture’ of colleges as well. This problem extends into many aspects of society and can only be prevented if we use an approach that considers the complexity of these factors.

1- Armstrong EA. Sexual Assault on Campus: A Multilevel, Integrative Approach to Party Rape. Pg 480-494.

Derby Days

This week the archival research led me to a full-page article dedicated to Sigma Chi’s Derby Days. This article from the 1973 Emory Wheel used a sarcastic tone to describe the event. The Wheel dons pictures of promiscuously dressed young women accompanied by the words “The Sexist World of Derby Day … What Would or Wouldn’t You Do for This Trophy”. Other captions include “Derby Day is a rite of passage from puberty into infantile sexuality” and comparisons to “that airline commercial where a sexy stewardess says, ‘I’m Debbie, fly me’”.
A Sigma Chi tradition started in 1922, Derby Days is supposed to be a weeklong philanthropy event. The Wheel also notes its attempts to be involved in raising spirit. Current day Emory Sigma Chi Derby Days include events such as a powderpuff flag football tournament, trips to the Children’s Hospital, and the sale of baked goods and tickets to social events in which the profits are donated to charity. The event most reminiscent of the Wheel article is the Sorority Talent Show. It was banned by Emory IFC a couple of years ago but it used to consist of choreographed dances by each sorority and one by the brothers of Sigma Chi. The winning sorority gets some form of a prize.
As a brother of Sigma Chi I feel I can comment on the nature of this event. There are no forced decisions to participate or to act in a certain way. Sorority members choose their own dance and perform it by their own will. Any behavior suggested from the Wheel may occur, but it does not go remarkably beyond anything that is witnessed at any other fraternity’s average party. Anyone who has an issue with something like this should then have issues with the framework of American Greek life in general. All criticisms of Greek life are valid; it creates a strict social scene prone to many types of liabilities in young, boisterous college students. Reading the American College Health Association’s Primary Prevention of Sexual Violence shed some light onto the environment that gives rise to sexual violence. There are similarities to Greek life, namely the abundance and abuse of drugs and alcohol as well as large social pressures.
My beliefs about Greek life at Emory, and they may certainly be misguided, are that the type of school Emory is changes susceptibility to these things. Within such a small social circle within a relatively small school like Emory, most of the people you hang out with already know one another. Because most everyone knows each other, I think this causes the frequency of sketchy sexual situations to go down. Also, Emory has smarter kids than your average state school and so people better understand the risks associated with activities in Greek life. Again, I could be naïve in my thinking, but in my fraternity and my friend group, I have never heard of any sexual assaults of any kind even under the definition provided by the ACHA.
Something such as the 1973 Derby Days would have never been allowed with the current day college administration. Across the country, schools are trying to more strictly control Greek life, as there have been many liability cases. I understand the reasoning behind the change but I do not think it is going to affect that much. College kids will continue to drink, do drugs, and act with more sexual freedom regardless of the presence of fraternities. It is something that makes college unique and I cannot realistically see it going away. Working with these organizations to educate both men and women about the risks associated with such actions would be a much more productive way to ensure that stuff like this happens less.

Public Awareness of Sexual Health

Public health efforts are often intimately tied to many other aspects of society. The containment of AIDS has to deal with politics, religion, sexuality, and many other cultural factors. Thus, efforts to try and curb the proliferation need to be likewise thought out in these complex contexts. Jenny Higgins notes how the prevalent women vulnerability model has benefits but also some downsides. Most notably its lack of representing the role of the heterosexual male in the role AIDS transmission and prevention [1].

One of the most effective ways to increase exposure of a cause, and one that was really instrumental in demystifying AIDS, is celebrity support. When an infamous movie star such as Rock Hudson publicly announces his battle with AIDS it can have a noticeable change on public opinion. Magic Johnson is another more contemporary example. These show the masses that it is not only homosexuals or drug users that can contract AIDS; it can be the average heterosexual man or woman as well. Ryan White also became synonymous with the innocent contraction of AIDS and was a poster boy for AIDS support efforts. Nationally renowned figures like this have the ability to affect public health goals as well as to shape the mass attitude in a beneficial way. Conversely, public figures also have the power to impact a cause in a negative light as Peter Lewis Allen attributes to Jerry Falwell, Jesse Helms, and John O’Connor. These people changed policy making by “reawaking beliefs that had held power for thousands of years” stemming from their religious beliefs that AIDS was God’s punishment for homosexuality [2].

Our inquiries into the earlier decades of Emory publications had previously yielded a sparse discussion about reproduction, birth control and abortion. This week, however, there were a number of advertisements promoting abortion in the Emory Wheel from 1971. This surprising finding hints that the public discussion of reproductive health changed around this time. A Google search revealed that in 1971 the Supreme Court had its first ruling on abortion. In United States v Vuitch a DC law was upheld allowing abortions to be performed to preserve a woman’s life of health [3]. The term ‘health’ held a broad meaning and allowed many new cases to be covered. The early 1970s was also the time when states began creating abortion laws as well as the famous Roe v Wade case [4]. Although not directly relevant to AIDS, reproductive health is intimately intertwined with the disease.

This interaction between a given disease and popular culture sources is one that is interesting. Public figures such as basketball players and movie stars have the ability to shape both public opinion and political action. This action then determines the demand for what is represented in media outlets such as newspapers and, in our case, the Emory Wheel and Report. As we continue our research it would be beneficial to look at this progression of popular culture to public opinion to advertisements and article topics. 

[1]- Higgins, J. Rethinking Gender, Heterosexual Men, and Women’s Vulnerability to HIV/AIDS. American Journal of Public Health. March 2010, Vol 100, No.3. 435-445. 
[2]- Allen, P.L. AIDS in the USA. The Wages of Sin: Sex and Disease, Past and Present. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000. 119-155

Sexual Health- HIV/AIDS

The reason AIDS presents such a difficult disease to manage from a public health aspect is due to its ability to cross a wide range of behaviors and identities within communities still somewhat uncomfortable talking about sexuality. The challenge is effectively informing such diverse populations with targeted messages that are able to change their beliefs and, ultimately, their sexual behavior. As Dr. Del Rio stated in his addressing of AIDS, when the disease first came out in the 1980s it was primarily one that affected affluent, white, males (1). The resultant public chatter about the disease made it one that only could present from homosexual activity, which, as we know now, is very far from the truth. Now a completely different population is at the highest risk to get HIV and develop AIDS.

So while we need to combat AIDS on a public health stand point, it must be done with message that cross many different identities. As Judith Levine describes, “In AIDS prevention, the challenge where they affiliate and speak to their sense of belonging for the purpose of instilling and reinforcing safe-sex values and habits”(2). It must convey that this is disease that can affect anyone who is performing unsafe sexual or drug activities. It must be presented in a concise, easily understood way which effects change in the people it serves to target.

Another interesting factor to consider will be the effect that the new drug Truvada will change the way people act. Truvada is a drug that is given to healthy people and, along with other safe sex procedures, has been shown to prevent the contraction of HIV. While this is an important step in the controlling and hopeful eradication of HIV/AIDS, it also may have some negative consequences. Firstly, it must be taken every day to actually impart immunity. Incorrect use of it could lead to the development of strains of HIV resistant to Truvada. Secondly, although it was not shown in the preliminary clinical trials, the use of the drug may cause people to take part in more risky sexual behaviors because they feel they are protected. Truvada is not 100 percent effective in stopping the spread of HIV and this well intentioned drug could actually cause the disease to spread because of the invincibility factor it provides (3). 

It is plausible that a cure for AIDS may be invented within our lifetime. However, its high mutation rates and the resulting high evolutionary selective pressure make it unlikely candidate for a universal cure. This emphasizes the importance of effective public health management of the disease. I think the effort needs to occur on 3 fronts. Grade school health education must express how important it is to use safe sex procedures as well as the risks of intra venous drug use. This early exposure will hopefully create young adults more aware of the disease. Secondly, public health marketing campaigns must continually stress the universal nature of the disease. This is not a disease that only affects certain races or sexualities; anyone can get AIDS if they are not being safe. And finally, primary care physicians need to be a resource willing to talk about sexual practices and the appropriate ways to stay protected. AIDS is unlike any other disease of humankind in that so many different societal aspects contribute to its spread. This requires social efforts to fight back against it.

1- Del Rio, C. Viral Cultures lecture 02/20/2012  
2- Levine, J. Community: Risk, Identity, and Love in the Age of AIDS. Speaking of Sexuality:  Interdisciplinary Readings. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010. 619-630. Online at  
3- Park, A. Truvade: 5 Things to Know About the First Drug to Prevent HIV. Time (July 17, 2012). Online at 

An Individual Choice

Recent high profile comments on sexual health, specifically abortion and birth control, have led to more discussion of this hotly debated topic. The comments I am referring to are Representative Todd Akin’s statements about legitimate rape and Senate candidate Richard Mourdock’s remarks on God’s intentions following a rape. Akin goes on to say that there should be repercussions of legitimate rape and that the “punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child”. Both comments broadly neglect the role of the woman in this horrific circumstance. These comments can most certainly be considered insensitive and rude, but also detail the vast range of beliefs on the topic.

As a person of a scientific background, I believe the base of the discussion comes back to the determination of when life begins. The fusion of the sperm and egg does in fact represent the start of a new life form but with some considerations. This life form cannot survive on its own and is still completely dependent on the mother for the entire pregnancy. Therefore, in my singular opinion, the functional definition of the beginning of a new life should be limited to the birth of the child. Before this point, I think considerations on the mother’s part about whether to support or abort life are the most important factors.

As the authors of Speaking of Sexuality highlight in their coverage of sexual communication and the effects alcohol has on the matter, a person’s beliefs on contraception and abortion are often tied to many other factors. Societal factors such as gender roles, sexuality, religion, family upbringing, and education all contribute to a person’s belief on sexual health.

Within an American society founded upon freedom and embracing the benefits of diversity, I believe individual beliefs about reproduction cannot be forced onto others. Ultimately it must be the decision of the individual or couple about what methods they deem morally acceptable and realistically responsible. For this to occur, contraceptive methods and abortive procedures must be within reach in certain circumstances. Educational measures must also be taken to inform people about such services so that they may be able to make a rational, justified decision.

I think that as we witness the current and likely future rejection of past gender roles within the heterosexual so too will we see a change in the outlook on reproductive health. In order to give women the same degree of sexual freedom that men traditionally have, they will need the health related mechanisms to be able to control the results. With considerations such a career and family planning, the benefits of controlling the large commitment of pregnancy are important. Ultimately the decision should come down to the individual rather than a set base of rules.

Exploring Sexuality

College is a place where young adults experiment with many different things in an attempt to learn about themselves. Therefore it should not come as a surprise that sexuality is a topic that students come face to face with frequently. The authors of the articles Hooking Up and In the Same Boat even chose to interview college students and recent grads to learn more about the way sexuality is encountered.
The general undertone of their works suggests that the experience for males is for the most part a positive one. On the other hand, females must navigate this experience on a fine line, with threat of being viewed negatively if they step outside the social norms. Males seemed to be focus on performance and quantity. These two ideals have the capability to confirm their delicate machismo. Women on the other hand do not have the same freedom. They must not engage in sexual activity with a wide range of partners for fear of being called ‘slutty’. However, they must not refrain from all sexual encounters entirely because that would remove them from the heterosexual social frame. Thus, these women turn to socially constructed relationship terms to be able to freely engage in sexual activity without the social repercussions.
In class the idea of female selectivity was brought up with respect to evolutionary biology. The idea states that a female has a lot more invested in the production of her offspring than the male counterpoint does, and therefore will be more selective with whom she mates with. I have two things to add to this. Firstly, female selectivity implies that there must be competition among males. It has been shown in many other species as well as humans that males will go to great lengths in courtship behaviors. Taking with respect to the In the Same Boat article, the pressure these men feel to perform well in their sexual encounters may be a manifestation of this male competition driven by female selectivity. Another point to be made is to challenge the assumption that the female has the most invested in sexual reproduction. Reproductive fitness is a measure of how successful an organism is at producing offspring that survive to reproductive age and continue to pass on their hereditary information. There are two main methods to achieve this: have a large number offspring and by probability some of them will survive, or have a small number of offspring and dedicate a lot of care and support to make sure that a high percentage of them survive.  Human babies rely heavily on their parents for a number of years. A male presence as a supportive figure in a committed relationship with children would likely greatly increase that child’s likelihood of survival and success. Therefore it would be in the male’s evolutionary advantage to stick around after conception.
However I really think that the heterosexual hooking up phenomenon is due to the social structure of college. In college, both men and women want to explore sexual options and I feel starting a family is not necessarily on anyone’s minds. The fact that some women stated this desire may be a result of the negative consequences that come when women act outside the norms. I think a study more representative of coeds aged in the late 20s and 30s would show a greater emphasis on settling down as the novelty of exploring sexuality may have run its course.

The readings and discussion this week shed light on the migration of LGBTs to large urban areas. These people find it harder to express their ‘true self’ in rural areas where the repercussions from community members might be more harsh and backwards. In the United States, the percentage of people identifying as gay, lesbian or bisexual sits at about 3.5%. But as you shift the focus to metropolitan cities within the US, there are 10 cities with above 7% and 5 cities with above 12%1. LGBT individuals may migrate to these areas in order to find social groups with similar beliefs. These groups form communities in the same way you see specific ethic neighborhoods developing within cities. The impact that these community of non-heterosexuals also appears to have effected other sexual identities within metro areas, as we have recently seen the proliferation of the term ‘metrosexual’ and shows such as Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.
Atlanta now represents a liberal, accepting safe haven in the south surrounded by the more stereotypical ‘south’. The influx from outside rural areas of those seeking groups of likeminded people would contribute greatly to the diverse we see in Atlanta today. In the same way Jewish communities have developed in the North Druid Hills neighborhoods, the areas of Midtown and Ansley Park have become ubiquitously known for their pro-LGBT opinions and population. 
However, Atlanta must not have always been so accepting of this diversity. As such we would expect the discourse of sexual identity in Emory publications to be interesting. Emory was primarily a liberal arts school consisting of mainly regional students. Because these students hailed predominantly from the ‘south’, the overall opinions (possibly despite the education offered) must have aligned with that of the communities the students came from. As Emory transitioned into a nationally renowned intellectual and research center, this may have changed the way the university as a whole functioned with respect to the acknowledgement of sexual identity and fluidity. 
I think it would be interesting to look further into the level and attitude of the sexual identity discourse at Emory, as well as throughout the entire Atlanta metro area, in response to the evolving identity of Emory as an institution. I believe the recruitment of liberal, intellectual minds from across vastly different parts of the world would correspond with an increased tolerance and discussion of such topics. Emory’s role at the frontline of the AIDS battle would most likely also cause a change in the way the gay community was regarded in Atlanta.

1) Gates, G. How many people are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender? (April 2011) The Williams Institute.

Complicated Sexuality

In this week’s readings we were learning about the identities of those who describe themselves as asexual and bisexual. I had previously known these terms but was slightly naïve at the deep qualities that they possess. Until recent interest, both of these identities have had relatively little research done in comparison to the massive amounts of literature describing hetero-/homosexual relationships.
It seemed to me that asexuals seem to be lacking a sexual identity niche even within the novel sexual spectrum. A person “lacking interest or desire for sex” does not seem to be included anywhere within the two poles of hetero-/homosexual. Yet for whatever reason approximately 1 percent of the population identifies as such. However, the term ‘asexual’ applies to all low sexual desire people who have varied asexual experiences. Some are engaged in romantic or other relationships and can still partake in sexual encounters, despite what is inferred from the name.
On the other hand, bisexuals do fit within the framework or sexuality, but the existence of the term frustrates some working to deconstruct conventional notions of sexual identity. As historian George Chauncey puts it, “Even the third category of ‘bisexuality’ depends for its meaning on its intermediate position on the axis defined by those two poles.” These people would argue that by acknowledging bisexuality, the contrast between heterosexuality and homosexuality becomes more pronounced and difficult to deconstruct. My beliefs are more along the line of Steven Angelides. He emphasizes the tri-nary relationship between the terms and states, “to invoke and define any one of the terms hetero-, homo-, or bisexuality is to invoke and define the others by default. Each requires the other two for its self-definition.” I think bisexuality refers to some arbitrary point within the continuous spectrum referring to a person with a broad sexual desire. The term may suggest polarity but does not take away from the reformist ideas of sexuality. Potentially a new term, such as ‘polysexual’, could be used to describe the diverse interests of this identity and would also satisfy the deconstructionists.
Regardless, these two cases show the difficulties in coming up with a concise conception of sexual identity. Each person is different and thus likely experiences different sexual desires and identities. Compounded with the fluidity within each person as their life continues, it seems nearly impossible to come up with a framework that satisfies and categorizes everyone’s experience. I disagree with the assertion made by Sharday Mosurinjohn about the need for marketing towards non-heterosexual individuals. Marketing is designed to target the masses, and in our society the majority of relationships are heterosexual. It is not private business’ responsibility to inform children of their sexual options. I think this again falls to the role of education. If students are taught openly about sexuality, they will be better informed when they do come face to face with confusing sexual experiences. Educating future generations is the only way we will become able and willing to embrace the diversity of sexual identities.


I think it is human nature to try and classify things. We always try to identify ourselves within finite groups. But the diversity within the human population often makes this very difficult. Sex usually seems like the easiest way to divide people, but even this is not as easy as previously thought. Using a spectrum to describe sex, gender and sexual identity, as was presented first by Alfred Kinsey, is a much more advantageous method. Not only does it incorporate the many identities throughout a wide range, it also seems to create a feeling of relatedness. It was easier to separate the ‘self’ from the ‘other’ when there was not a continuous spectrum connecting everyone.
One thought that I have always silently pondered is the reason behind the evolution of non-heterosexual desire and action. Biologically, fitness is defined as the extent to which an organism is able to produce offspring. The desire to have sexual relations with a member of the same sex (thus, not being able to produce offspring) should have un-advantageous, and over time removed from the population. The fact that it is still present in humans as well as in other species means that it confers some advantages. One idea brought up by Schwartz and Rutter in their chapter Sexual Desire and Gender is that it promotes group bonding, which in turn increases the fitness of the entire group. Whatever the reason, non-heterosexual behavior doesn’t seem like it is going to go away anytime soon so we might as well traverse this ethical bridge sooner rather than later.
I think the biggest issue facing non-heterosexual behavior is misinformation. Upon entry of Ghana we were welcomed with 6 important rules, 3 of which informed us that any sort of homosexual acts are prohibited by law. This outlawing is consistent in many places throughout Africa and is designed to curb the spreading of AIDS. From my conversations with many people there, it was surprising to me how widespread and deeply rooted these sexually oppressive beliefs were. Rather than keeping their countries in the ethical dark ages, I think it would be a much more effective measure to educate their constituents. Both hetero- and homosexual behavior have the risks associated with STIs and both are protected by safe sex practices.
There is no reason to squander and regulate the sexual diversity present within the human race. Evolutionarily, it is doing something beneficial or else it wouldn’t still exist. We live in a country and time period where we place so much emphasis on how technology and the government is going to lead to a loss of our freedoms, yet some of those same people readily fight to deny sexual freedoms to others. I think education has the ability to open people to the idea of accepting others for the way that they are. We should live in a society where sexual diversity (as well as every type of diversity, for that matter) is celebrated.

An Unfortunate Identity

For the white, Methodist community present in the south during the late 19th century, Yun Ch’i-ho presented the ideal spokesperson to bring their religion to the Far East. Yun’s stead fast acceptance of religious principles and acute awareness of the roles that race and gender played made him a perfect fit. Despite an obsessive desire for romantic interaction, Yun understood his innate inferiority to white women in the south. He idolized their beauty as a manifestation of the perfection of western society.

Yun was infuriated with the concomitant presence of another Chinese student at Emory named George Bell. Unlike Yun, Bell did not see the perceived boundaries between their Asian heritage and that of the white southern women. His brazen sexual behavior was in stark contrast to that of Yun’s. When he renounced his admiration for Tommie Berry and her family, he suggests the “cheek and brass” Bell as a better-suited alternative.

Despite the inferiority Yun felt in the United States, his American education made him feel far superior as he returned home to Korea and throughout his work in other Asian countries. Although Yun was unwilling to try and bring a white woman back to Korea with him due to the impracticality of the matter, he felt that he was entitled to his choice once back in Korea. A Chinese Methodist student was selected to be his wife. The pressure to perform the ceremony in Methodist tradition would have been intense as it would have presented a circumstance where Asian beliefs could be conformed to meet that of westernized Christianity.

For a Christian, Korean man, his sexual role in society was acutely defined. He was too entrenched in his religious beliefs to settle for anything less than a similarly defined religious woman and too inferior in his race to dream of “the refined company of western girls”. This frustrating conundrum may have been responsible for Yun’s rare sexual deviations in which he disregards his normally conservative beliefs to frequent sexual workers in Paris and Shanghi. His identity in society, as enforced by the Methodist south where he received his education and training, provided confusing discrepancies which must have contributed to his obsession with social norms, especially those relating to sexuality.

The complex interplay of the diverse aspects of society still can turn into heated discussions. There are most certainly people today facing the same pressures that Yun felt over 100 years ago. I believe a change is under way however. Each new generation seems more open-minded than their precursor, as the ignorant hateful beliefs of the past become more diluted in a decreasing number of people. I envision a point sometime in the future where race, sexuality, religion and any other identifying factor will be so intermixed that distinct, finite groups would be unimaginable; a place when Yun would have be free to navigate social and sexual interaction happily and without worry of offending any group which he identified with.