Harvard College’s Caleb Weatherl discusses Harvard’s ironic approach to sexual assault on campus in a Harvard Crimson article this week. Sex Signals, a required freshmen orientation event, reveals a clear agenda: sex is recreation, sex is fine, sex is meaningless. For a school ranked top in the world, such an agenda is not just misleading – it’s pitiful.
The event misleads freshmen, manipulating them into believing that their peers are just dying to strip naked every weekend. Weatherl’s thesis sums it up:
Sex Signals points incoming freshmen in the wrong direction by how casually it treats both sexual activity and rape, by the amount of sex it implies is occurring on campus, and by failing to adequately address personal responsibility to make smart choices.
Weatherl concludes that
Ultimately, Sex Signals squanders the opportunity that the College has to begin a frank, informed discussion about how serious the issue of sexual assault is and what we can do to prevent it. It leaves students with jokes about sex and the attitudes that fuel rape as well as the impression that much more sex is happening at the College than truly is. At the end of the performance, the actors emphasize that something “magical” can happen when the lessons of the show are followed. They then proceed to jokingly discuss different sexual activities that the magic might entail. What a shame: Sexual assault is no laughing matter, especially at a university-sponsored rape prevention program.
Why freshmen must sit through a contrived and lie-filled presentation is an ivy-covered mystery. Make them read Foucault. Make them read poetry. Read off rape stats. There are many ways to learn about the severity of sex and the dangers of assault, but one way to assuredly do the opposite is to make vulgar jokes about women, sex, assault, and relationships.