The news that 20 percent of Rutgers University undergraduate women who took a campus survey reported having been sexually assaulted sounds terrifying – until you realize that the survey’s definition included “remarks about physical appearance” as “sexual violence.”
Rutgers announced the results of the survey on Wednesday, and they were then reported by news outlets including the Washington Post as further evidence of the rape epidemic on our college campuses.
But Reason’s Elizabeth Nolan Brown dug a bit deeper and found that the survey defined “‘sexual assault” and “sexual violence” as a “range of behaviors that are unwanted by the recipient and include remarks about physical appearance.”
In other words: A dude you’re not into’s coming up to you at a party and telling you he likes your sweater is sexual assault.
The survey also clarifies that this “sexual assault” or “sexual violence” “could be initiated by someone known or unknown to the recipient, including someone they are in a relationship with.”
In other words: Your boyfriend’s telling you that you look pretty when you’re mad at him and don’t want to hear it is also sexual assault.
#share#In January, I wrote a satirical list of everyday behaviors that men use to oppress women. Under an item that I called “broplimenting,” I advised that “men should always ask, ‘Do you consent to me complimenting you?’ before saying anything nice or else it’s assault.”
At the time, I actually wondered if equating unwanted compliments to assault would be too big of a stretch — even for satire. As it turns out, it wasn’t big enough of a stretch. Unwanted compliments literally are defined as “sexual assault” according to this survey, and asking for consent before offering them would actually be a great practice for any male student who might dare to attend Rutgers.
#related#It’s also important to note that only 30 percent of the students took the survey, and that those who did take it did so on a voluntary basis. So, you know, students who had been victims of horrible things like compliments may have been more likely to fill out the questionnaire than the ones who had not had such traumatic experiences.
Eighty percent of the students who participated were undergraduates, and 64 percent of them were women.