In the past two weeks, multiple organizations at Kenyon that prioritize students’ sexual health held events to educate the community on sexual issues in a cultural context. These events included “Communication is Key,” a Sexual Misconduct Advisors (SMA) discussion held last Wednesday, and another event held by the Title IX office, Sexual Misconduct After Kenyon: Alumni Perspectives, the following Saturday. Both events follow a Sexual Health and Education Forum that took place on Feb. 12.
These panels come at a time of increased national attention on issues of sexual misconduct and harassment, in light of the #metoo movement. The discussions during these Kenyon events promoted greater awareness of heteronormative roles and norms in collegiate settings and how harmful they can be to students. At the “Communication is Key” discussion, panelists included Assistant Professor of Sociology Austin Johnson, Professor of Psychology Sarah Murnen and Civil Rights/Title IX Coordinator Samantha Hughes. Throughout the course of an hour, major talking points included the Kristen Roupenian New Yorker short story “Cat Person,” the sexual misconduct allegations against comedian Aziz Ansari and the complexities of hookup culture.
The panel’s tone was colloquial. Some discussion surrounded the fact that while women’s roles in the context of sex are changing, men still have a lot they can change about their behavior in general. After one student brought up Shock Your Mom, an annual Kenyon party traditionally held by the swim team that encourages provocative dress, Murnen addressed the competitive nature of sex and performative nudity. Grace Gerber ’19 voiced her observation that porn prioritizes male pleasure and encourages female degradation, which led to further comments from other students about cultural standards of male aggression, which allow men to not accept “no” as an answer.
Panelists began the discussion by answering a question proposed by the moderator, SMA Talia Light Rake ’20, on the nature of hookup culture. They observed that its heteronormative basis is likely why some of the values it promotes often correlate to rape culture.
Sexual Misconduct After Kenyon: Alumni Perspectives included an assembly of five Kenyon alumni. Panelists agreed to participate because of their interest in the topic and involvement in philanthropy and education efforts outside of the College. The panel, organized by Hayley Yussman ’18, was meant to allow alumni to share their experiences with sexual misconduct policy in the workplace. Audience members asked the panelists how the #metoo movement changed attitudes in the workplace and how to protect yourself by considering certain aspects of a company’s policies when searching for a job.
In regards to the effects of the #metoo movement in the workplace, Sarah Miller ’02 said she has witnessed an increase in the number of women able to speak up on their own behalf. The panelists agreed that although people have always frowned on companies with reputations of sexual assault, recent political turnovers have promoted a zero-tolerance policy.
Light Rake organized the SMA communication panel to provide an opportunity for students to engage with these topics of sexual health in a new way. Light Rake emphasized her personal belief in the importance of constantly furthering the conversation around sexual health on campus, and how Kenyon might be able to improve its students’ qualities of life by doing this.