The “Think About It” mandatory tutorial that aims to educate students about alcohol and its effects, as well as other important issues such as building healthy relationships and sexual assault prevention, combines videos, quizzes and storylines to weave together a tale of the “college experience.” Through the eyes of characters like Alex, Nora, Jenn and Kelly, we take a backseat view of their experiences with sex, drugs and rock-and-roll university life. Beyond the petty complaints of sugary background images (anyone else remember the image of cuddling parakeets?) and unrealistic, or at least questionable, scenarios (freshmen doing lines of coke), the general format of the tutorial is a little problematic.
First, the tutorial requires paying attention for 2.5 to three hours: manageable, but only during early September — the first few weeks of school. “Think About It” should have been sent earlier, perhaps before classes started, to alert freshmen about the behavior the university wants them to avoid.
Don’t get me wrong, “Think About It” is very informative. Its section on alcohol and drugs is useful in presenting different types of drinks and how many and how quickly it takes to reach that warm, fuzzy feeling without going overboard. Alcohol poisoning is also covered. The tutorial’s section on sexual assault, which will be discussed in greater depth in a later paragraph, talks about consent, reporting and a survivor’s options.
However, the “Sex in College” section is problematic in a number of ways. Perhaps the most obvious mistake is that it does not talk about sex. We cannot have a discussion about hookups without talking about sex. Many students received abstinence-only sex education or at least noncomprehensive or sex-negative education in high school. Students with questions may not always find the best sources online or be too intimidated to reach out to Georgetown’s health resources. By not including the kind of AP Sex Education discussion many students need, this tutorial stigmatizes sex. Sexual pleasure itself is never mentioned. In Georgetown’s extremely high-stress environment, many students may be more sexually active because it has been proven to ease stress and improve sleep.
Meanwhile, the tutorial introduces hookups as an overall negative interaction. All of the experiences about hookups (whether those of “Nora” or “Kelly” or real students) are shown in the student survey of opinions about certain sexual behaviors to be negatively viewed by the students. One student laments that consensual hookups are a positive experience for many students and these experiences deserve to be heard as well. The tutorial presents a narrative that is heavily, if not completely, sex negative.
Moreover, some of the information about hookups is, simply put, dead wrong. The tutorial informs us that “Hookup Culture Perpetuates Double Standards.” Double standards existed long before hookup culture. Double standards still oppress women whether they engage in casual hookups, date other people or choose not to date. Double standards stem from the atmosphere of sexism that is so terribly prevalent in our country.
Not only is the “Sex in College” section disappointing because it includes misinformation — and blamed people caught in the oppressive double standard of hookups — but also because it is full of missed opportunities. College is a time of self-discovery, of learning more about your identity in ways unheard of or not possible at home. The spectrums of gender, gender expression, sexual attraction and romantic attraction were egregiously absent. This section asks us whether the media “create[s] social and cultural norms that make violence acceptable,” but it fails to answer its own questions. We completely miss a crucial discussion.
The last section of “Think About It,” titled “Bleak Friday,” deserves both the most praise and the most criticism. The opening page epitomizes this paradox well. Before the tutorial begins, it gives the reader a trigger warning because of the content matter. However, it does not provide a mechanism for readers who may be triggered to opt out of this system. Rather than forcing students to take a tutorial that may re-invoke their trauma, students should have the option of bypassing this section or talking to a counselor or other trained professional.
While I applaud the tutorial for presenting sexual assault in respectful, informative ways, it missed critical realities of sexual violence. The summary claims that “the majority of students will never be sexually assaulted or assault someone.” Yet the current rate at which people are victimized is troubling. According to V-Day, an international organization dedicated to ending violence against women, around one in three women will “be beaten or raped in her lifetime.” Rape Abuse Incest National Network statistics found that for white American women, that proportion is one in six. Women of color typically face higher rates (around 34 percent of Native Americans are sexually assaulted). Moreover, there are different statistics for members of the LGBT community — the National Center for Lesbian Rights predicts that around 64 percent of transgender people experience sexual assault in their lifetime. In conclusion, the university has no right to explain “sex culture” to students without giving students the information needed to make autonomous decisions about their bodies.
Holly Carabbio is a sophomore in the School of Foreign Service.
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