In Les Miserables, Victor Hugo argued that a hell of boredom is worse than a hell of suffering. And if there is one consistent complaint I have heard from students about Everfi’s orientation programs, which take up to three hours to complete and are now required for hundreds of thousands of incoming freshmen, it is that they are tedious and boring as fuck.
But amid those boring programs is nestled a very murky ideology.
AlcoholEdu is merged with an Everfi program intended to “educate” students about sexual assault. I spoke with two students about the program, and did some of my own research on it. Here’s a screenshot from a survey portion of the program, retrieved from a student who posted it on Reddit:
Let’s go over some of the questions.
- 6. “If a woman is drunk and raped, she is responsible for what happened.”
- 7. “A male student who is drunk and sexually assaults a woman is responsible for what happened.”
I guess that depends on how you define consent in the context of alcohol, doesn’t it? If someone is so incapacitated (not “impaired”) to the point that (s)he cannot consent to someone pressuring them to have sex (“wasted”), then yes, that is rape. But does being drunk while having sex in and of itself constitute rape? Not any more than being drunk means you aren’t a criminal for getting drunk and beating your kids, or going out and raping someone. In other words, no.
It’s really quite simple, and a matter of equal treatment: if simply being drunk means a female student cannot consent or be held responsible for what she does, then the same rule applies to male students as well – unless you’re a sexist (read: Feminist), of course. If, by contrast, a drunk male student can still be held responsible for what he does as though he genuinely consented, then a drunk female student can still be held responsible for what she does as though she genuinely consented.
Furthermore, why does the program frame these in the context of gender at all? If the program is all about establishing a clear consensus about sex under the influence of alcohol, why does AlcoholEdu create a murky framework for its questions, to the effect of problematizing – rather than clarifying – concepts like consent, agency, and intoxication? Why would the developers do that? Two answers come to mind: either they are either incompetent in this issue, or they themselves have murky reasons for doing so.
- 9. “It is ok to pressure a date to drink alcohol in order to improve your chances of getting that person to have sex with you.”
While there is certainly wrong for someone to “have sex” with someone who is too drunk to resist, there is nothing wrong with drinking, or suggesting that someone else have a drink, in order to relax and as a precursor of having a good time. Contrary to the dogmatic assumptions of gender ideologues, both men and women do this. In addition, women are not “forced” to drink alcohol. If we want to assume that a woman’s no means no, we also have to take the non-Feminist position that women are competent enough to say it.
Here’s a thought: imagine if the program instead asked students these questions:
- Do you strongly agree, agree, disagree, or strongly disagree with the following statement: “It is ok to get drunk, have sex, and falsely accuse a man of rape.”
- Do you strongly agree, agree, disagree, or strongly disagree with the following statement: “If a woman gets drunk, has sex, and falsely accuses her partner of rape, the man is responsible for what happened.”
Food for thought.
I had a brief exchange of messages with the student who posted the AlcoholEdu screenshot on Reddit. Here it is:
- Me: Some news publications have stated that AlcoholEdu promotes stats like “1 in 4 college women have been raped.” Would you say this is true?
- Dschuck: Yes, it had many statistics such as 1 in 5 college women have been sexual assaulted and that 80% knew their assaulter.
- Me: Would you have been penalized or told you had answered incorrectly by AlcoholEdu for answering something other than a form of “I agree/strongly agree” when it was asking about responsibility in the context of alcohol and sexual consent in the picture you linked?
- Dschuck: No, much of it was a survey which was curious. Only at the end of the course would I have been penalized because I needed a 70% or have to retake the course.
- Me: Were there any other double-standards, or any over-the-top statements, made concerning gender in AlcoholEdu?
- Dschuck: The possibility of men being sexual assaulted or raped wasn’t brought up. The picture I posted was the worst questions in terms of gender biases. Others were made but no examples come to mind.
- Me: Many students have said that the worst flaw of the program is that it is tedious and boring. Would you say this is true?
- Dschuck: Yes absolutely is was very boring. Half of the course was taking surveys such as the one I posted. One quarter of it was watching videos which didn’t apply to anything. And the last quarter was the only part in which they tried to teach you anything.
- Me: Is there anything else you would like students to know about the program or your perceptions of it?
- Dschuck: Yes, I think classes like these serve some importance but all things taught should be taken with a grain of salt. It is someone’s opinion or at least it seems. Take some of the information they give you and double check the facts and form your own opinions on the issues.
Another element of the Everfi program is called Understanding Sexual Assault. On the Everfi website, on a page titled “EverFi Deploys National Sexual Assault Prevention Program”, they say:
EverFi, Inc., the education technology company that teaches, assesses, and certifies students in critical skills, today announced the national deployment of Haven – Understanding Sexual Assault™ at over 180 campuses nationwide where over 300,000 students will become certified through Haven on a mandatory basis this academic year. This scale makes it one of the largest online courses and especially important in meeting federal requirements outlined by the Department of Education and the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act (Campus SaVE Act).
With data from the National Institute of Justice showing that one in five college women (and one in 16 men) will experience some form of non-consensual sexual activity by college graduation, this topic presents an urgent challenge for campus leaders. As manifested by the increasing number of Title IX complaints at campuses across the nation, many higher education leaders are implementing campus wide programs that include both face-to-face programming and innovative digital learning, such as Haven, to provide all students with critical information required by new Federal legislation set to go into effect next year.
The “1-in-5 college women are raped” stat, much like the infamous “1 in 4” stat, is false. Writing about the 1-in-5 stat in an article for the Chronicle of Higher Education, Dr. Hoff-Sommers says,
Research on sexual assault is notoriously hard to conduct, and the studies are wildly inconsistent. A 2003 Bureau of Justice Statistics special report, “Violent Victimization of College Students, 1995-2002,” found that among the nation’s nearly four million female college students, there were six rapes or sexual assaults per thousand per year during the years surveyed. That comes to one victim in 40 students during four years of college—too many, of course, but vastly fewer than one in five.
The study cited used an online survey, conducted under a grant from the Justice Department, in which college women were asked about their sexual experiences, on campus and off, and the researchers—not the women themselves—decided whether they had been assaulted. The researchers employed an expansive definition of sexual assault that included “forced kissing” and even “attempted” forced kissing. The survey also asked subjects if they had sexual contact with someone when they were unable to give consent because they were drunk. A “yes” answer was automatically counted as a rape or assault. According to the authors, “an intoxicated person cannot legally consent to sexual contact.”
“Attempted forced kissing?” What the fuck is that? And we have already talked about intoxication. The truth is that we have a wide variety of stats on sexual assault that range from 1 in 4, all the way to 1 in 1,877. What Feminists and sex-assault victim advocates do is dishonestly cherry-pick from the most extreme of those stats, ram them down everyone’s throats, and call everyone who disagrees with their bullshit statistics a rape apologist.
Simply look at the campus crime reports from your university and you will see that the numbers do not match up, even if you assume there are extremely high rates of underreporting of rape (which no one can accurately measure anyway). My alma mater A&M-Commerce, for example, is a university with over ten thousand students. The campus crime statistics report an average of one sexual assault a year – if you round up. For the year 2008 there were none. But somehow we jump from that number to one thousand. Remember also that these crime reports only document what crimes were reported to authorities. They don’t tell us how many of those accusations are false.
Everfi continues on their website:
“Since 2008, over 700,000 students have been a part of our sexual assault prevention research and Haven beta development efforts,” said EverFi Director of Research Dr. Todd Wyatt. “After taking the digital course, 86% of participants better understand that anyone can be a victim of sexual assault and 82% of students demonstrated the positive role they can play in its prevention.”
Haven uses a tested population-level approach to educate all students on the issues associated with sexual assault and relationship violence, taking into account their personalized experiences. The course provides key definitions and statistics, reflective and personalized pathing, bystander skill and confidence-building strategies around real-life scenarios, signs of abuse, and situations that can be challenging or confusing regarding consent in their own relationships. In addition, EverFi’s robust assessment engine and data insights inform campus leadership on additional and future programming decisions across campus.
On August 7th, EverFi will host a webinar, A Roadmap for Prevention: Navigating the Regulatory Landscape of Campus Sexual Assault. This webinar is designed for campus administrators, prevention practitioners, and safety officers, and will focus on the pressing challenges of sexual assault and relationship violence and best practices gathered from across the country.
I viewed their webinar video. You will find that the speaker in the video is Rob Buelow, a Penn State alumnus who minored in Women’s Studies and is the associate director at Everfi. In other words, he is a Feminist overseeing a mass thought reform program that is required for hundreds of thousands of students.
A student (whose name will remain anonymous) who was required to take the course messaged me on the AVFMS Facebook page. This is what he told me:
At my university every single student is required to do an online course called Alcohol EDU… Part of alcohol edu is a little program called EverFi, which is all about sexual abuse and stuff like that. While taking it I found that a lot of the things being sad here were sexist, and a lot of the claims being made were in fact harmful towards male students. I feel like I have been forced into being told and brainwashed that I am a terrible person because I am a male. I feel degraded, and forced into feeling this way, so that I might attend my college (university at Buffalo). It is sickening.
This student emailed Rob Buelow about his concerns, and received this in response from him directly (my comments are interspersed):
Thanks for your interest and honest feedback to the Haven online course you have recently taken. We appreciate your outreach and concerns, and wanted the opportunity to clarify for you a couple of things in response to the feedback you offered.
Our agenda in Haven is prevention, and we’ve tried to bring together what our field has learned about comprehensive and effective programming. The content and design of Haven has been deeply informed by the existing literature and in consultation with researchers, practitioners, and thought leaders nationwide.
Our use of “feminist analysis” in the course is necessary for creating a campus environment built on equality and free from discrimination based on sex/gender. This feminist lens is not a political ploy but rather a critical perspective on the cultural messages students receive about masculinity/femininity (which we purposefully frame reflectively and without value judgment). We feel that a truly “upstream” or primary prevention approach has to explore these underlying sociocultural contributors to sexism and violence.
Mr. Buelow, it is an undeniable fact that Feminism and discrimination go hand-in-hand like Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse. To claim one is against the other is dishonest in the extreme – just as it is to say it is not a “political ploy” to advocate a political ideology.
Given campus and Federal data about the rates/traits of sexual assault, the research base related to this issue, and the current framework being used by many campus practitioners and national organizations, we could not build a prevention program that did not recognize the gendered nature of sexual assault. In particular, what we know about perpetrator attributes and attitudes related to gender roles is that men who commit sexual assault (which is only a small minority of men on campus) often engage in hyper-masculine behavior, misperceive sexual intent by misinterpreting verbal/non-verbal cues, foster and exploit vulnerability, and have skewed perspectives about their peers’ support for their attitudes/behaviors. Thus, exploring and critically deconstructing social messages about gender roles and correcting misperceptions regarding social norms are key components of an effective prevention approach.
I agree that some men who rape engage in hypermasculine behavior (and some do so under the influence of alcohol), just as I believe some women who make false rape accusations engage in hyperfeminine behavior (and do so when alcohol is a factor). If you’re going to do an alcohol prevention program, perhaps you could also address the phenomenon of women who drink, have sex, and then falsely accuse male students of rape to maintain their “I’m a good girl” status.
Of course, adopting a Feminist lens – which incorporates the assumption that women are never responsible for anything men are responsible for, and that men cannot be victimized by women in a gendered fashion – kinda prevents you from doing that.
Regarding your specific point that our section on men and masculinity disregards men’s experience of abuse and hardship, I agree that we could include additional language explicitly addressing the pressures men face to “be a real man.” We attempted to do this by describing the insults men get from women and other men when they don’t “measure up” (pussy, bitch, etc.), but it’s also worthwhile talking about the sexist and patriarchal roots of this sort of language – why is the best insult against a man to call him a woman? We also directly describe male experiences of rape and abuse in our Red Flags and It Happened to My Friend segments, understanding that we cannot ignore male victimization (roughly 3-6% of college men experience sexual violence during their time on campus). However, once again, it is worth noting that this victimization is predominantly committed by other men.
Yes, some men insult other men by accusing them of displaying stereotypical feminine behavior. And some women insult other women by accusing them of displaying stereotypical masculine behavior, such as always being ready to have sex. You only see it as “patriarchal,” Mr. Buelow, because you only want to see the bad that men do. And that is why you are a Feminist, rather than an egalitarian.
I hope this response adequately addresses your feedback and answers any questions you may have about the design and content of our prevention programs. We greatly appreciate your input and welcome suggestions you have on how we can better address these issues in our platform.
No worries, Mr. Buelow. The design intent is clear.
A sincere thank you to the students who spoke with me about this issue.