In seeking silence, the Undergraduates for a Better Yale College (UBYC) create a culture of violence.
We write in response to yesterday’s debate regarding the UBYC’s mission to stop sex and its discussion on our campus. Alex Chituc ’13 admirably tackled many problematic aspects of the organization’s work in a column for the News (“Yalies for minding your own business,” Sept. 20). But we, a group of Title IX complainants, feel it is important to note that judging personal sexuality and suppressing dialogue around intimacy are not only invasive, but also dangerous.
The UBYC leadership claims to shoulder this task in order to fight sexual harassment and assault (“Change the climate, end Sex Week,” Sept. 20). In fact, their efforts threaten the safety of our campus. Stigmatization and silence deprive women and men alike of their power to articulate what they would and would not like in bed. Denying our peers the ability to draw their own lines of comfort through communication puts them at risk of great violence.
UBYC assumes that sex itself is at the root of violence against women, and therefore, that female sexuality should be curtailed. This fallacy deprives women of autonomy in a manner eerily reminiscent of DKE’s chanting. Both groups’ language belies a belief that violence is inevitable and that women lack the ability to make their own decisions about their relationships and their bodies. This kind of denial of agency lies at the heart of Yale’s rape culture, which the UBYC is supposedly working to combat. Similarly, their insistence that “a culture of promiscuity has no right to be surprised by objectification [and] sexual disrespect,” reeks of the kind of victim-blaming that makes reform impossible and discourages public exposure of “private” violence. If such an ethos were to take over our campus, how could survivors of rape feel comfortable coming forward to seek justice and support? How would victims of domestic abuse — for sexual violence is no invention of the sexual revolution, and is not isolated to casual encounters — escape the cycle of emotional and physical trauma?
As signatories of last spring’s Title IX complaint, we resent how UBYC has disingenuously coopted our efforts to promote a safe sexual climate, twisting them to support their own mission to censor and shame. And while we appreciate Chituc’s opposition to the organization on free speech grounds, we also find his characterization of our complaint somewhat problematic. The fact that “in a student body of 5,000, some people are assholes,” as Chituc puts it, is not an adequate explanation for DKE’s chanting. Official and unofficial toleration of rampant misogyny is.
Sexual violence is not a symptom of promiscuity itself, as UBYC believes, nor is it simply an inevitable result of the existence of “assholes.” Rather, it is a direct result of a culture, not unique to Yale but firmly entrenched here, that sees women as objects who lack real sexual desire, who attempt to halt sexual activity until they can be convinced (or forced) to do otherwise, who are utterly without agency or pleasure in any sexual interaction. The only way to challenge that culture is to talk about it in class, in Sex Week, and most importantly, in bed. Silence encourages rape and allows it to go unremarked and unpunished. Surely that is not something we can tolerate in the name of a more “dignified” campus.
Joseph Breen, Alexandra Brodsky, Kate Orazem, and Hannah Zeavin are seniors in Saybrook, Davenport, Jonathan Edwards, and Berkeley Colleges, respectively. They and 12 others filed a Title IX complaint against Yale last spring, alleging a “hostile sexual environment.” Their views do not necessarily reflect those of all of the Title IX complainants.
An earlier version of this column misstated Joseph Breen’s residential college. It is Saybrook.