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New campus group addresses issues of sexual assault

While many groups on campus are dedicated to issues of social justice, a new group has taken a novel approach to preventing sexual assault.

Real Men, which started in the fall of 2009, aims to spread awareness about sexual assault, and take much-needed steps to reduce the number of cases that occur at Grinnell College. According to the Campus Climate Assessment conducted in fall 2009, 17 percent of students thought that sexual assault was a problem at the college.
“[Real Men]’s purpose is to empower men, and all genders, really, but specifically men, to band together and help prevent sexual assault as opposed to being the perpetrators of it,” said P.J. Mahaffey ’11, the Senior SA in Clark Hall who was one of the original members of the group.

The idea for Real Men came from Dan Hirsch, the East Campus RLC, who had done similar work at USC. It was found that 90 percent of sexual assault cases of sexual assault cases are perpetrated by the same four percent of men at USC.

“We’re trying to empower the rest of the men that are not that four percent to take a stand and do something about it,” Hirsch said.

Assault cases and violent crimes associated with USC’s athletics and fraternities prompted the university to create a group, called Men Care, to address the situation. After coming to Grinnell, Hirsch decided to continue the work, adapting it to the unique setting of the College.

“Grinnell is much more aware, of things like gender neutrality and male-to-male violence, and other things like that, that were not as big of a part of the workshops [at USC] as they need to be here to make it fit with the socially just culture and the way Grinnell functions,” Hirsch said.

Hirsch spoke with Greg Wallace, Director of Athletics, about the possibility of creating a group similar to Men Care on the Grinnell campus, and approached a couple of students to begin meetings last fall. Currently there are eight student members representing athletes, students and social justice groups on campus.

Real Men is funded by Student Affairs, the Center for Religious Studies and Social Justice, and the Athletics Department, and sought out members to reflect this diversity.
Real Men first appeared at the Wellness Fair in February, where they passed out buttons, posters and shirts to kick off their campaign against sexual assault, and to challenge common perceptions of what it means to be a “real man.” Recently, they also held a workshop for Student Advisors, as a preliminary exercise for feedback, and to prepare themselves for future events.

Despite the name, Real Men’s membership is not restricted by gender, a significant detail given the group’s commitment to campus outreach, and students and groups are encouraged to contact them at [realmen] and get involved.

“We’re ending our formative stage, but we’re still kind of getting our feet on the ground and figuring out how we interact with this campus, and people are already reaching out to Real Men,” Hirsch said.

The main focus of Real Men over the summer will be preparing for an NSO workshop aimed at incoming first-year male athletes. They will also be partnering with AJust and the Stonewall Resource Center to raise awareness of the issues of sexual assault.

“The main thing right now is getting our name out this spring,” Mahaffey said.

The group is still somewhat unknown, but it was looked on favorably by a number of students.

Students also liked the fact that this social justice project targeted a group whose perspective is often the one that is discounted.

“Sometimes I think that Grinnellians, and this is not necessarily a bad thing, but we’re very focused on social justice and equality for minority groups, and groups that are disenfranchised, and I think that the male perspective, the ‘wasp’ perspective, can get left out sometimes here,” Hannah Lytle ’11 said. “I also think it’s really neat, because I think it can help correct some of the perceptions people might have of athletes or the general masculine phenotype, which I think will be great for everyone, hopefully.”

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  • M

    Matt BachtellJul 2, 2010 at 4:52 pm


    It would be best for you to contact the people who started the group, as checking on the Grinnell website reveals comparatively little information about them. They’ll be able to give you the best information:
    Dan Hirsch:
    P.J. Mahaffey:

    Hope everything goes well for you!

  • C

    cindy dunnJul 2, 2010 at 5:30 am

    Good morning,

    I love the Real Men movement and am interested in getting more information in hopes of starting a new group at our college. Would it be possible for you to send me some information or a link to get the info.?

    Thank you!

    Cindy Dunn