The Scarlet & Black

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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Letter to the Editor: Active bystanders and campus culture

It happens every single Sunday morning. My friends and I will discuss in excited voices the parties from the previous night, who left with whom, and truly how much fun it was. As is typical of these conversations, however, there is a common thread shared amongst my female* friends—namely that their otherwise perfect night was, once again, marred by the unwarranted (unwanted?) grinding on their a**es. These statements are always given as an inevitable. “Oh yeah, and of course there was this guy that grinded on me, and I had to save my friend from this other guy who kept grinding on her because he wouldn’t take a hint so we just ran away to ‘use the restroom.’ But otherwise I had a great night!”

Too often (and by that I mean all the time) these conversations are unapologetically blasé, as if we are somehow complacent with the notion that if a woman should choose to go out on the weekend there is a high probability of some dude(s) thrusting their junk in said woman’s direction without their consent. This is not okay. I’m fed up with continuously thrusting men off of my female peers and then watching the same guys continue, unfazed, to the next girl. I’m devastated hearing similar conversations throughout Sunday and into the week up until the next party, when the cycle continues. And if my frustration is any indication of the frustration my female friends and all women on campus must feel when others violate their personal boundaries without consent, then there is something that we as a community are not doing correctly in addressing unwanted sexual contact at parties.

On student staff, we are trained to address issues in the moment. Moreover, we are trained about the importance of following up with the person(s) involved in the next few days or week to check in and see if the problem is resolved or if it necessitates a further discussion in order to mitigate future problems. This, in my opinion, is the critical step we’re missing in our discourse about active bystanderism. We aren’t following up with the people responsible for breaking boundaries of consent the next day and saying, “Hey, what you did last night made a lot of folks uncomfortable.”

I and a lot of other folks, including ACE security, are good about recognizing and stopping unwarranted grinding in the moment, but in every instance there’s no penalty. There’s nothing stopping that guy from moving on to the next girl down the line. Pulling your friends away from these men and running “to the bathroom” are all fine ways to avoid unwanted grinding but ultimately they eschew the core issue: specifically, the issue of men thinking they can get away with grinding on someone without their permission time and again.

Don’t get me wrong, I am in no way intending to victim blame. It’s not anyone but the transgressor’s fault when they continuously choose not to ask for consent. Furthermore, as inebriation is a common factor in the party scene at Grinnell, I will say this as succinctly as I can: no amount of alcohol or other drugs you willingly consume insulates you from your actions while under the influence. That being said, what I am articulating is that we as a community need to step up and be more proactive about addressing issues of sexual misconduct and not simply accept our current paradigm of putting a bandage on it every weekend.

More to the point, I’m done making excuses for these guys. I’m done hearing my friends relate another occurrence of having to shove men off them, oftentimes with force. To anybody out there who thinks they can simply get away with accosting women (or anybody else) every weekend without consequences the next day, I’m here to tell you that I will confront you afterwards. I will let you know that what you did was not okay. My intention in doing so is not to critique your morals or character in any way; I simply wish to illuminate the seriousness of your actions and to remind you of them in case you forget (which might be likely in cases of intoxication). Active bystanderism can and should be extended into a long-term solution, and this is my way of doing so.

I don’t want to be alone in this. A self-governing community relies on equal participation of all its members and if we challenge those people who continuously break consent maybe we can begin to foster a space in which both women and men can feel safe going out on the weekends. I urge anyone who sees and recognizes people who do not ask for consent to confront them, as your level of comfort allows, in the following days with the same grace and tact you would anyone else for any other social justice issue. If you are not comfortable, find someone at the party or event who is. We Grinnellians are constantly derided for being all talk and no action when it comes to social justice, so let’s put our words to the test and move one step closer to creating a safe community for everyone. You’re Grinnellians, I believe in you.

*I realize that men can also be the recipients of unwarranted touching. For the purposes of this letter I focus on consent at parties as it relates to women since it is their boundaries, more often than not, which are continuously broken.

—Chase Booth ’16

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    Grin alumOct 31, 2014 at 3:17 pm

    If someone is behaving like a total pig, smack him in the face. End of story.
    Nothing wrong with writing a letter to the S&B, but it does seem ineffectual, as does giggling and running into the bathroom. Bad behavior does not need to be tolerated.