“I wasn’t raped but…” class discussion

I mean no disrespect to rape victims, but I feel that Gavey in “I wasn’t raped but…” used an incorrect analogy. We didn’t get a chance to discuss this in class, but I was curious how everyone else saw it.

Gavey paralleled rape to depression, suggesting that although one might say they’re not depressed, they can be if they have the symptoms. Similarly, some might say a person has been raped although the person does not identify as a rape victim.

Depression is in the DSM and a person must meet a couple of the requirements. Rape doesn’t have to meet requirements, its determined person to person. People interpret it differently so there isn’t a set definition- I see it similar to the definition of hookup (I think theblock wrote a blog on the definition of hookups). Some people might think rape is constituted by not giving consent while others believe the victim has to actively not give consent. It seems like there is a spectrum for the definition of rape to me.

Rape Among Men

I read Disclosure by Michael Crichton at a pretty young age (it is beyond me how my parents let a 10 year old read that), and it made me familiar with the connotations men deal with when discussing rape or sexual coercion. Quick overview: male character either has sexual relations with his female boss or risks losing his job. When he does reveal that he is being sexually harassed, his female boss counters by suggesting that he assaulted her. The book showed popular perception because the male was at risk for his job while everyone sided with the female.

The book touched on parts of what “The Effects of Rape on Men” discussed more deeply. The main flaw in my thinking was after reading Crichton’s book; I never really factored homosexual rape- the more prominent one. Walken’s et al. article definitely gave me more insight to the effects of rape on men.

The initial survey was shocking; estimating that rate of sexual assault amongst gay and bisexual men was 27.6%. Additionally, previous studies showed that current or ex-partners committed 65% of the sexual assaults. I extrapolated the data and took it to mean that 1/5 gay or bisexual men will be raped by someone they previously dated. These numbers are ridiculously high, but gay and bisexual men are at a higher risk because of homophobic sexual assaults as a means of emasculation.

There are a lot of parallels reading between sexual assault among men and women. I learned that men experience a lot of the same emotional and physical anguish that females go through. For instance, men feel very vulnerable after the rape, overcompensating for their safety. This can lead to a change in life style when a person becomes obsessed and paranoid about their safety. Men who have been sexually assaulted also blame themselves for the incident or feel embarrassed which can hinder the emotional recovery process.

                    As  Eunice Owiny explains, “The man has been raped, the woman has been                       raped. Disclosure is easy for the woman. She gets the medical treatment, she                     gets the attention, she’s supported by so many organisations. But the man is                       inside, dying.” (Will Storr, 2011)

It seems like there is a double standard when it comes to rape. People are not completely understanding of a male being raped. Owiny, a male rape victim described his predicament as “Everybody has heard the women’s stories. But nobody has heard the men’s”. In East Africa, rape can be used as a political tool (I originally thought that rape was used as a political tool against females in my previous blogs) used as a means of power. There are some horrific stories in which male captives would be raped 11 times a day, and wouldn’t say a word about it after release for fear of being thought as vulnerable and weak. They would lose family support because the wife assumes if the man can’t protect himself, how is he supposed to protect her? The brother will say, “Now, my brother is not a man”.


Unaddressed men in the HIV epidemic

Homosexual men were the majority group diagnosed with AIDS a couple decades ago when the disease was first identified. This sexually transmitted disease was passed onto women over time and the latest statistics show that women account for 51% of the HIV epidemic in the US according to the CDC. For a predominantly male disease, there is clearly some reason why the number of infected women has increased exponentially in the past 3 decades.

Higgins suggests a model that women are more susceptible to HIV because of “biological differences in susceptibility, reduced sexual autonomy, and men’s sexual power and privilege”. I completely agree with these reasons, but disagree when she went further to suggest the model believes that men just don’t participate in prevention. It was at this point that I was a little skeptical of what I had gotten myself into reading, however Higgins explains the flaws in this model. She makes it clear that men aren’t the only ones responsible, there had to be some way heterosexual men contracted HIV.

Yet this got me thinking. Why would someone suggest that men aren’t interested in prevention? Although transmission rates are significantly lower in men that doesn’t mean men will never get HIV. This is something that affects your life, and I can’t imagine a reason why knowledgeable men would actively not be interested in prevention.

Reading in one of my other classes that HPV vaccines are available for women as well as men changed my perspective on men not taking responsibility. It allowed me to parallel between men and HPV and men and HIV- although I understand that HPV can be actively prevented while HIV cannot.  I felt a little ignorant realizing that men can be a huge factor in prevention and it caused me to look at the HIV/AIDS epidemic a little differently. Higgins article hinted that men don’t take any responsibility, and I initially had trouble understanding that for HIV, but a disease like HPV makes me understand.

It is obvious that men can prevent certain strains of HPV from being transmitted through vaccine, yet I feel that the public has not been made aware. Similarly, I think this situation arises with HIV as well. HPV has a minimal effect on men, and I think some people may think that HIV has a minimal effect on men (when you consider the higher rate of transmission women have). I think men can alter the current transmission rates of HIV through condom use, abstinence, or monogamous relationships but the first step is to make sure you target both sexes through education. You can’t eradicate a disease by just focusing on one sex.


Rape and HIV

In my previous blogs, I definitely had a skeptical attitude towards sexually transmitted diseases In fact, I even mentioned that the spread of HIV is over emphasized and that it is only transmitted 1/300 times for women and 1/1000 times in men. Although this is true, I think my confusion was why people would want to falsely exaggerate a problem. The suspicions I had about statistical manipulation are completely separate to the feelings I have about the spread of infections through rape.

My parents were born and raised in South Africa, so I’ve been there a couple times. I’ve walked into plenty of public bathrooms with a container saying “Take a free condom, help fight AIDS”. The old me would have assumed free condoms would be the answer to everything. Condoms would cut down the spread of numerous diseases. I’ve learned a lot about HIV/AIDS this year through multiple classes that integrated the material into the curriculum- so rather than focusing on the articles about transmission rates, I read more about HIV in Africa as that was unfamiliar to me. It was this year that I realized my view was too simplistic, there are too many stigmas associated with condoms- cultural and social. For instance, people may not carry condoms with them because of people assuming they are sexually active, fear that a partner will get upset because of trust issues, or men dictating condom use in a male dominated culture. Just because they are available doesn’t mean they will be used.

Regardless of all that, I still assumed that knowledge and availability were the only two factors involved in safe sex. Unfortunately I never accounted for rape. What caught my eye in Structural Violence, Poverty and the AIDS Pandemic by Mukherjee, there was a comment on rape being used as a political tool in war. Mukherjee mentions, “in Rwanda, the systemic sexual molestation, rape and mutilation of women and girls were an integral part of the Hutu plan to annihilate the Tutsi population”(381). The statistics continue that 70% of the women who were raped (that survived the genocide) had contracted HIV. In some cases, women were taken to HIV positive soldiers on purpose to be raped and infected. The difference between rape pre-1990 and in the present is the transmission of HIV to the victims [2].

The main thing I realized from these articles is how ignorant my generation in the US can be. The genocide in Rwanda happened while we were growing up, yet none of my friends knew much about the history for instance. Similarly, we know about HIV, but none of us really understand all the vantage points. Part of it is lack of awareness, but I think a huge factor is being in an environment where we don’t experience these situations nearly as often. I really liked reading Mukherjee’s article because you realize that HIV transmission isn’t so easily prevented. In many cases, African women don’t have a say in the use of condoms. In the case of rape or even multiple partners, the infection gets passed on and on. Surprisingly, there are so many other facets that affect the spread including poverty, drugs, and even men who get raped. I was just focused on women who were raped after reading this chilling quote by a refugee:

For 60 days, my body was used as a thoroughfare for all the hoodlums, militiamen and soldiers in the district… Those men completely destroyed me; they caused me so much pain. They raped me in front of my six children… Three years ago, I discovered I had HIV/AIDS. There is no doubt in my mind that I was infected during these rapes.

Quotes like this make me realize that so much in the world is preventable and wonder how things would change if people were properly educated. If rape didn’t exist, I believe that transmission rates of HIV would decreased dramatically too, with the biggest impact in Africa.

[1] Structural Violence, Poverty, and the AIDS Pandemic. Mukherjee

[2] http://unu.edu/publications/articles/rape-and-hiv-as-weapons-of-war.html

Sexually transmitted infections

Over the years, we’ve seen fluctuating rates of sexually transmitted infections [1]. Although it is not accurate, I picture a trend similar to a bell curve to understand the rates. We initially saw a static number in the amount of cases surrounding the discovery of a disease, an exponential increase in the subsequent years, and then a decrease as people became aware and educated on the disease. This isn’t true for all the infections, but holds true for many.

So with the increase in education, why do young people account for half the STIs when they are only 25% of the population [2]? Emory had a required class that taught students about condom use, I assume that other colleges implement these same classes. The education is being drilled in everywhere we go, but apparently that is not enough.

I believed condoms and a little information would be enough. Apparently there are more components than that. Social and cultural factors seem to be the more prominent reason for contraceptive disuse rather than ignorance and unavailability [3].

Among young adults (15-24), use of contraceptives such as condoms are linked to lack of trust. The use of condoms is looked upon as an insult because it suggests infidelity within the relationship. In a monogamous relationship, condoms are thought to be unnecessary because the spread of diseases should be nonexistent. [4]

Another issue is the stigma associated with condoms. Carrying them around assumes sex. This may not be a big deal for guys, but the unfortunate double standard looks upon girls negatively for carrying them around. Reputation is a huge factor because people will believe you are carrying a disease, which means they assume you have a long sexual history.

It seems like culture has an impact too. In countries where males are typically dominant in the community, the women don’t have a say on contraceptive use. In South Africa for instance, men decide the use of condoms. Men receive more pleasure without condom use so it seems like that dictates the use.

It was eye opening to see that STIs are passed on because of reasons other than ignorance or availability. I thought those were the only two reasons, but stigma is a huge factor that I never considered. One of the primary sources that I used discussed most of the data based off Africa, so I think factors like disempowerment or violence would not be as big a determining factor in the US. I think factors like trust or rejection would be bigger determinants in the US.

[1] http://www.cdc.gov/std/stats10/figures/14.htm

[2] http://www.cdc.gov/std/stats10/adol.htm

[3] http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15545100/ns/health-sexual_health/t/why-young-people-dont-use-condoms/#.UI23jruwQcs

[4] http://www.phcfm.org/index.php/phcfm/article/view/79/101

Contraceptives and Fear

I’m a numbers guy, so I love seeing statistics used to prove a point. Percentages and figures allow me to understand the extent of the results, but it seems that the results from “Condom Use with a Casual Partner” and “Communicating with New Sex Partners” contradict each other.  Both discuss the use of contraceptives based off different variables such as age of first sexual experience, onset of puberty, sexual self- esteem, etc. I was irked that both authors attempt to scare the reader (aimed at young adults) into using contraceptives- either in fear of pregnancy or for transmission of a disease. I am absolutely in favor of contraceptives, but I dislike deception.

I understand trying to educate people about the common occurrence of these life-changing events, but scare tactics are ridiculous. I’m sure you’ve heard 80% of car accidents occur within a 10-mile radius of your house, and that’s why you should wear a seatbelt- even on short drives. This is an example of alarming people into seatbelt safety. Regardless of accuracy, it’s an obtuse statistic because the majority of your driving is also done within that 10-mile radius. It seems obvious that there would be a correlation with the location of your accidents and the area in which you spend the most time driving.

Similarly, we saw that there was a high risk of STDs among college student. This source also mentioned that binge drinking occurs more frequently at college. The other article off handedly mentioned that there is a higher risk of sexual behavior among college students and these rates are actually dependent on drinking. I read this as “college kids drink more, drinking increases sexual activity, and increased sexual activity leads to increased transmission of diseases”. The authors phrased it to make us believe college kids are at high risk for STIs when I believe it should be aimed at anyone who drinks heavily (and therefore their sexual inhibitions are decreased). In reality, these rates of transmission are lower than we’ve been made to believe. Transmission of the HIV infection during intercourse is 1/300 for women and 1/1000 for men in heterosexual relationships. Until I heard that statistic, I was made to believe that HIV would be passed on in an instant.

Maybe the last example was a stretch, but let me point out another incident. The purposes of the articles were to inform us of the consequences of sex- mainly unwanted pregnancy or passing of STIs. In order to scare us about pregnancy, it was made clear that single parent pregnancies have been occurring at a higher rate in the past 40 years. Is it because the frequency of sex has increased or use of contraceptives decreased? My take is that marriage is happening later and later (26 is the average age of marriage instead of 21 from 1960). I think that sex is occurring at the same rate; it’s just that by brute numbers, there is an extra 5 years in between for an unwanted pregnancy to occur.

Just making it clear that I support the ideas the authors had, but I don’t agree with the sneaky way of scaring impressionable minds. I was always told “correlation is not causation”, and I am just skeptical this is what the authors were doing. I think there are better ways to educate people, but in the meantime there are more effective ways of prevention amongst college students. The biggest in my opinion is making sure situations such as the one suggested in the Emory Wheel from 1995 are avoided. It said that freshmen girls are allowed to frat houses while freshmen boys are barred from that area. It seems like a good prevention method to stop girls who are supposedly ignorant of proper safety from boys who have an agenda in mind (don’t mean to stereotype, but all frat guys were put into a negative light in this article).

Battle of the Homosexual Sexes

The articles we read solely focused on gay men as opposed to both genders within homosexuality. It is important to realize that men and women are not thought of equally- especially when discussing same sex relationships. In one of CDC’s regular health surveys, it was noted that there was an increased trend in the percent of women who had a homosexual experience in the past 10 years. Why would the sexual encounters of women increase but men stay fairly stagnant?

I believe that it’s the stigma associated with lesbians and gays. The media displays female homosexuality as hot and erotic. These ideas are reciprocated through the impressionable minds of young ones. I don’t think our society would use the same adjectives to describe male homosexuality. So there are negative connotations associated with gay men. This is a case of double standards where one gender is unfairly scrutinized. An example of this is in the 1981 Emory Report, mentioning male nurses are discriminated against their female counterparts. It might not mean much when reading, but it impacts a lot of men.

There was a recent psychological study done that focused on the arousal patterns of males. It was found that although many men might categorize themselves as bisexual although they were only attracted to males. Similarly we read about men on the “down low” who will have encounters with other men while not identifying as bisexual or homosexual. I think there are many reasons why men would not want to identify as gay (an extreme over being bisexual). As seen in the Emory Report from 1985-1987, it is very clear that homosexuality was a trait that was discriminated against. It would have put a faculty member at risk for their position, a student in fear of their grades, and unfair restrictions on a group.

It seems weird to think that in progressive times, we are still discriminating. In a time when we have debates about same-sex marriage, discuss sexuality in schools and households; we still have people fearful of revealing their identity. Even when an entire university tries to prevent discrimination, they fail to mention discrimination towards homosexuals. Steps need to be taken and stereotypes need to be removed before we start seeing a change in the trends.



Sexuality and Asexuality


I knew the word “sex” from a young age (I thought it was taboo to say that word out loud), but wouldn’t have been able to explain “the birds and the bees” until around 9th grade. My parents were also too self conscious and conservative to explain concepts like that to me and my siblings. At this age, I would have been considered asexual according to the bitchmagazine article. Prause and Graham define asexuality as a deficiency in sexual desire.

I don’t know if I would necessarily agree that kids are asexual because they don’t have an understanding of the “mechanics of life”. Rather, they are just ignorant, and that doesn’t correlate with asexuality. There are many arguments about which category children fall under. Of course, it is very difficult to quantify results like this when you don’t have a definitive explanation for the meaning of “sexuality” or results will vary based off the age of puberty and other biological/ environmental effects.

When reading the articles, the main thing that  I got was that people (I’m focusing on the media in this case) can’t decide on the sexual or asexual nature of children. So they do the most logical thing, they bombard children with highly variable commercials. For instance we might see a steamy ad about cologne (which apparently needs topless men and women to get the point across) alongside a commercial about baby milk formula while showing a baby and the mother’s bosom.

Children are confused about sex. The media is like that ex that sends you mixed signals. I don’t know if the confusion is ever cleared, but after reading the 1986 Emory Report, I feel that Emory was very practical about teaching this. They were trying to remove the ignorance. RAs and coordinators were coached on appropriate discussions.

As awkward as talks can be, this is important. Some people can go their whole lives without being exposed to a natural biological process- reproduction is a way of maintaing the population, I think societies view on this topic needs to be reevaluated. Even the people who do have an understanding may not have been introduced to safe sex methods. Obviously Emory starting this program and the articles we read weren’t related, but it’s interesting seeing that our university had the foresight to see a problem (the articles were written in 2007 and 2012, Emory implemented the program in 1986).

Desire, Dating, Marriage (1981-2012)


I should preface this blog with a warning- I was looking through yearbooks published before 1963 that had little to do with my topic. Luckily my partners found all the sources I ended up using.

I was originally reading these articles and realizing how impressed I was with Emory’s views. While most states prevent same sex couples from receiving the same benefits as their heterosexual counterparts, Emory “Student Health Service Plan is Expanded to Include Domestic Partnerships” [Fig 1]. Issues like these cause nationwide debates, but I liked the direction Emory was taking in this.  Reading “Emory Encourages Acceptance of Gays”[Fig 2] was also a refreshing read.  Then I stumbled upon a third article.

“LGBT Group says Emory Needs More Tolerance.” [Fig 3] That got me thinking. Emory is enforcing all these new policies the majority student population seems to agree with. Yet there is some intolerance from students, but more surprisingly at universities with a strong tie to religion, the board of trustees seems to be the biggest culprit. This seems highly hypocritical for a group in charge of “establishing policy and exercising fiduciary responsibility for the long-term well-being of the institution” (Overview, Board of Trustees). You have to appreciate that we have people who are going against their beliefs all for the sake of the betterment of the university and its students, although it’s easier to enforce policies when you actually believe in them.

That is where the inconsistencies occur. I’ll map out my train of thought. We have the board of trustees coming out with monumental changes, and although they don’t believe in the policies, they are trying to improve the university. The university looks great from the outside. On the inside though, the same people who are in charge of the policies are also in charge of other facets of the university. Some of these include hiring faculty- gay ones might be discriminated against. Our minds are still forming our principles, yet since we have no diversity teaching us, we seem to believe in the same ideas as the last generation. We are ignorant of the issues.

That is apparent. We witnessed it in class where although some people are not directly affected by same sex marriage, they are against it because they are uncomfortable with it. Uncomfortable. That is not a good enough reason to be opposed to a decision that would affect millions. You can tell me that you believe it will weaken the definition of marriage or even the legality of it. It might be a stretch, but I think the frequency statements like this would decrease with more diversity.

So getting back onto point, the people who are making the rules are simultaneously undermining their own efforts. This seemed like an attack on the board of trustees, and I focused on them because the article in the Emory Wheel did too- I didn’t know who else to scapegoat. Initially I wasn’t expecting my blog to take this turn, but I thought the irony between the articles was worth talking about.