carol christWhen I was in high school I heard a story about a girl who got drunk at a party after a football game and had sex with more than one of the football players. The story was told at the expense of the girl, who was categorized as “easy” and “cheap.” The idea that gang rape might have occurred was not something that either the teller or I might have been capable of considering, for these words and the reality to which they point were not part of our vocabulary.

However, the fact that I remember this story decades later suggests that even then something did not “sit right” with me about the way it was told. The image of the girl, who was cute and had curly long light brown hair still fleets through my memory.

Yesterday I read that the following universities are under investigation for possible violation of Title IX Civil Rights protections for failure to investigate charges of rape on college campuses.

• Arizona State University
• Butte-Glen Community College District
• Occidental College
• University of California-Berkeley
• University of Southern California
• Regis University
• University of Colorado at Boulder
• University of Colorado at Denver
• University of Denver
• University of Connecticut
• Catholic University of America
• Florida State University
• Emory University
• University of Hawaii at Manoa
• University of Idaho
• Knox College
• University of Chicago
• Indiana University-Bloomington
• Vincennes University
• Boston University
• Emerson College
• Harvard College
• Harvard Law
• Amherst College
• University of Massachusetts-Amherst
• Frostburg State University
• Michigan State University
• University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
• Guilford College
• University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill”
• Minot State University
• Dartmouth College
• Princeton University
• City University of New York – Hunter College
• Hobart & William Smith Colleges
• Sarah Lawrence College
• State University of New York at Binghamton
• Denison University
• Ohio State University
• Wittenberg University
• Oklahoma State University
• Carnegie Mellon University
• Franklin & Marshall College
• Pennsylvania State University
• Swarthmore College
• Temple University
• Vanderbilt University
• Southern Methodist University
• University of Texas-Pan American
• College of William & Mary
• University of Virginia
• Washington State University
• University of Wisconsin-Whitewater
• Bethany College
• West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine

If like me you did not find the college or university you attended on this list, it may mean that, as in the case of Yale, that the investigation was concluded and the case resolved, either with findings of insufficient information or with a promise by the university to institute new procedures. Or it may simply mean that women raped during or following campus parties on your campus or alma mater have not yet have brought their cases to the attention of the Title IX authorities.

The release of this information came about only after concerted efforts by groups like End Rape on Campus and members of congress led by Claire McCaskill, Kirsten Gillebrand, and Carolyn Maloney, along with the media coverage surrounding the newly-formed White House Task Force on College Sexual Assault forced the Department of Education to make public the scope of its investigations.

Rape is a widespread problem on college campuses, with statistics indicating that 19% of women and 6% of men will experience rape at the hands of men (who are 99% of rapists) while in college.

How can this problem be so widespread more than 4 decades after the feminist movement began to publicize rape statistics and to insist that “no means no” and that rape is almost never “a woman’s fault”?

One of the complicating factors is that the so-called “sexual revolution” was occurring at the same time as the feminist movement. On the one hand the sexual revolution was telling us—women and men—that sex was free and fun, challenging longstanding sexual mores that had previously told us that sex was meant to be practiced within a loving permanent relationship known as marriage. As birth control became available to unmarried women in the late 1960s, women became free as we had never been before to experiment with our sexuality. For some of us, being as casual about sex as men had always claimed to have been, became a mark of our feminist freedom.

Though some feminists later questioned whether we were acting freely or being manipulated in new ways by men and the media, and though evangelical groups have reiterated traditional prohibitions against sex outside marriage, we have yet to have had a new and open discussion as a culture or in our subcultures about what constitutes good sex.

From what I read, girls as young as 10 are being told by boys not much older than they are to consider it “normal” to give blow jobs to one or more than one boys in the presence of other boys and sometimes other girls at parties. I was not expected to do anything like this when I was experimenting with my own sexuality, but as the story with which I began this blog suggests, this does not mean that it is a new phenomenon.

I applaud Barack Obama (who is right to be worried about his daughters will soon be starting college) for creating a Task Force on College Sexual Assault. Colleges and universities must be forced to insure that those who rape are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.  The collusion of college authorities in covering up rape in order to protect the “reputations” of their schools, fraternities, or teams must be stopped.  Rape is a pathology and few rapists act only once; this means that failure to prosecute leaves campus rapists free to prey on others.  Alcohol and drug cultures on college campuses need to be addressed with educational programs and if necessary by enforcement of laws.  Rape culture education, including programs that encourage witnesses to intervene, are being mandated, and they can be instituted voluntarily.

The culture of sexual abuse at parties that include drinking and drugs does not begin on college campuses and it is not limited to them.  Though the Task Force on College Sexual Assault is admirable, more must be done. Rape culture education is needed in high school and junior high–and maybe even in 5th and 6th grades.  We must also start talking among ourselves and with the girls and boys in our lives about what constitutes good, healthy, responsible sexual activity. If our bodies are ourselves, none of our sexual activities are “free.” Rather they shape our lives, the way we feel about ourselves, and the way we feel about others.

We can start by telling the kids we know that gang rape and group blow jobs do not constitute sexual freedom. We can tell girls that they have a right to say no.  We can also tell them that if they get really drunk, they do not deserve to be raped–but they might be. We can tell our boys that “no” means no and that a girl who is drunk or drugged is incapable of saying “yes.”  We can tell boys and girls that they have a right and responsibility to say no to participating in group sexual activity and gang rape. We can tell boys and girls that they should and must intervene verbally, physically, or by calling 911 when they are witnesses to rape.

We should not be afraid to give our opinions. Notoriously kids do not listen to their elders on these matters, but if we offer them no guidance at all, out of embarrassment or because we don’t have all the answers ourselves, should we be surprised at the outcome?  We may not know all the answers but we do know that some things are wrong. We can start there.

Also see Fight Against Sex Assaults Holds Colleges to Account.

Carol P. Christ is looking forward to the spring Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete which she leads through Ariadne Institutespace is still available on the spring tour. Carol can be heard in a recent interview on Voices of Women.  Carol is a founding mother in feminism and religion and women’s spirituality. Her books include She Who Changes and Rebirth of the Goddess and the widely-used anthologies Womanspirit Rising and Weaving the Visions



Categories: Abuse of Power, Ethics, Feminism, Feminism and Religion, Rape, Rape Culture

Tags: , , , , ,

12 replies

  1. It’s an epidemic in our country. We seemed to have taken giant steps backwards. Rape against girls underage is becoming more and more frequent. Social Media has become the platform to have pictures and videos of these girls splashed adding full humiliation. It certainly happens with the college age girls as well. Not only is their the trauma of the rape, the blame is being foisted almost always upon the victim and she is on trial not only in a college mediation but by everyone who thinks it’s just fine to continue blaming her throughout social media. Some of the questions by authorities whether in the college or the judicial system are showing that we have a great deal of work to do. One judge recently asked “did you cry while you being raped”. It’s just one of many each and everyday from “what were you wearing,” “why were you drinking,” to the he’s too good looking to have needed to rape.” No, our society didn’t seem to really get the message in the sixties and now has become openly victim shaming. I am grateful that I know and work with many who use social media everyday to fight back. And even we get threatened. I had shared a video done with the White House campaign to stop sexual assaults on campuses. Some “troll” decided to tell me I was next, and added this hashtag #checkyourselfbeforeyouwreckyourself”. It’s dangerous to even be in the fight to stop this. It’s worth the risk for me and many others.

    To my amazement I know many people who still insist there is no war on women. I beg to differ!


  2. It’s so crazy, so mind-boggling, nothing has changed from 30 years ago, 150 years ago, 700 BCE!!


  3. I’m stunned by the frequency of this and the number of colleges/universities being investigated. I wonder how the numbers have changed with the increase of religious fundamentalism.


  4. Thank you for this powerful post. Will share on Facebook. I find it so tragic that the “sex positive” culture only seems to diminish and demean women and girls.


  5. It is indeed an epidemic. I have little doubt that the two universities I attended should be on the list, too. Thanks for writing this blog. Maybe someone will pay attention to what’s going on on our campuses.


  6. As a rape survivor, I share the outrage of all the women on this list. But I have to add that my undergraduate college is not on the list, maybe because Smith is still a women’s college. With more male access to women’s dorm rooms, rape certainly could have happened there. But Smith is also a feminist institution again (it really wasn’t when I was there in the late 1960s), and many of the women attending are there because it’s feminist, so it would be more difficult for such assaults to go unnoticed.


  7. Carol, thank you for posting this article… when I quote statistics like these to friends – you can literally “feel” their discomfort but then the stories start pouring out about their near rapes or date rape or a boyfriend who insisted on them doing something they were not ready to do sexually. When standing in a circle of three women – one has likely been sexually penetrated inappropriately. I too, have a story I recall from college similar to the one you told and I was unknowingly given the date rape drug as an adult in my 30’s! After I graduated from CIIS I curated an art exhibit to raise funds for our Women’s Spirituality program at the school’s gallery; it was entitled “Violence Against Women/Women Against Violence”. One of the artists painted her rape as a baby… it so disturbed many attendees, we were asked to take it down. I refused because I felt that it was the discomfort and reality that would start the conversation and if not us at CIIS, then who would begin it? Lastly, I know a young man who was in a situation you described… he left the party and called the police – two girls were saved from rape. I am very proud of him. Hopefully, there will be more young adults like him and fewer that think rape is a right of passage. Best Regards, Jayne.


  8. Ah the problem that never ends and never changes.
    Some suggestions from a lesbian who doesn’t trust men farther than I could fling a rubber band.

    1. Never ever go to a frat party with gangs of guys and kegs of beers, women boycotte all frat social events until rape on campus ends.
    2. Take self defense classes.
    3. Do not go to social drinking events with guys, until rape ends.
    4. If you really must date a potential rapists and all men are potential rapists ALL OF THEM, then at least tell your roomie where you’ll be, and have an emergency number to call.
    5. Do not go in a car with the guys, drive your own car or go with a group of women.
    6. And stop wearing revealing clothing because men are monsters, preditors and also, as a radical lesbian, women are at war with men, or should at least be intelligent enough to know that men’s war and sexual attacks on women have never ended, they get covered up on campus, or ignored by the police or women are afraid of being humiliated on the stand of a court room, all of which men have created in the first place.

    7. Men who get caught raping women, well, they should be kicked out of college and jailed, I’d say they should never be allowed into professions where they have ANY POWER over women again.

    8. Your college or university not on the list? Well they just cover up their crimes better.

    9. My policy back in ye olde times was never to associate with men drinking, I don’t even deal with drinking men for the most part even today, and certainly NEVER with straight men. Hey, that’s me, my college room mate was date raped, and even way back then, when women knew that men ARE RAPISTS, yes they are, all of them are. Never believe a man who says he doesn’t rape or watch porn, they’re just all guilty and accept this fact.

    10. Best bet, be a lesbian , go to a women’s college and stay away from the creeps. And please, don’t make me associate with your boyfriend, your sons, your husbands because I don’t want to hang with them and don’t trust one word they say vis-a-vis the safety of women.

    11. But you het women are going to do all this anyway, so what’s the point.


    • I don’t think all men are rapists. But all men and boys need to be educated that rape has nothing at all to do with manhood. The stats are that 1 in 5 college women is raped. Let’s say serial rapists rape a minimum of 5 women, that would mean that most college men are not rapists, but only say 1 in 20. Still too high a number, especially if they get away with it and repeat their crimes.

      That said, I like your idea of college girls boycotting keg parties.

      Regarding keg parties, colleges should institute a no tolerance parties for underage drinking on campus and if frat parties are off campus and drinks are served to underage drinkers, then frats should be banned.

      Before I started college my mom and I attended a gathering where a girl at my college told us, “You were all good students in high school. Now you will find other things to do, like attending keg parties and you might become a C student.” No one said a word. I thought that would be great, but I was not invited to a keg party. Now I count myself lucky.


  9. Great article – thanks for posting it! Sexual violence is something we all should talk about. I started talking more about it after taking a course on Domestic and Sexual Violence in Theological Perspective, taught by Dr. Marvin Ellison. I told the mostly elderly ladies in my bible study class what I was learning about and the stories started coming out. We have to talk about this so we can help the survivors of rape, punish the perpetrators, and educate people. That is the only way we will be able to change this rape culture.


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