A challenge to old sex rules on campus

For the better part of a decade, a group of subversives within the University has been spreading its radical agenda to an unsuspecting audience. Along the way, it did raise a few minor ruckuses, but by and large it has been quietly successful, converting others here and at other campuses to the cause.

The radical notion these subversives have been promoting is that sex should be a matter of mutual consent and respect. And on April 24, they and their supporters met in the Fox Student Art Gallery to celebrate the publication of their latest manifesto.

The book, “Just Sex: Students Rewrite the Rules on Sex, Violence, Activism and Equality” (Rowan and Littlefield, 2000), contains essays and other material about the growing movement against sexual violence on America’s campuses. It was edited by two of that movement’s pioneers, Susan Villari, M.P.H., director of health education, and Jodi Gold (C’92), one of the co-founders of Students Together Against Acquaintance Rape (STAAR).

The co-editors got the idea for this book in the wake of the first National Campus Conference on Student Violence, held here in 1992.

Villari explained that the book was “in part a response to media reports that feminism had died, that rape wasn’t occurring in as great numbers [as advocates claimed], and that students were apathetic.”

Gold and Villari interviewed more than 300 students and surveyed policies at 605 colleges and universities across the country for the book, whose centerpiece is 20 essays by students, scholars and activists on sexual violence, the anti-sexual violence movement and its links to modern feminism.

The book includes several personal accounts of rape, all of which underscore one of the anti-sexual-violence activists’ key points: Silence does not equal consent. “I was really touched by the number of people who approached us with their stories,” Villari said. “I was also surprised at how many were willing to name names.”

That willingness to talk openly is one sign of the movement’s success. And the participation of men and women in the movement on equal terms is also distinctive, Gold said.

Gold described the goal of the anti-sexual-violence movement as “just sex,” which she said means “free of coercion and sexual violence, mutual and responsible.”

Unlike the New Left movements of the ’60s, this one hasn’t made headlines. “It’s a lot less fun but a lot more radical to push for change from within,” Gold said.

Originally published on May 4, 2000