Could you discuss rape culture on college campuses with reference to 3 or 4 peer-reviewed articles? 

Expert Answers
kipling2448 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It is widely recognized these days that rape and other forms of sexual abuse against women is, and has long been, a systemic problem across the United States, particularly with respect to university campuses and what is known as “college life.”  Below are links to three peer-reviewed scholarly articles that all discuss sexual assault on college campuses and the roles of male-dominated cultures and alcohol consumption in perpetuating this problem.  With regard to quantifiable data indicating that rape on college campuses is a systemic problem, and that instances of rape are not statistical aberrations, one of the three articles, “A Longitudinal Perspective on Dating Violence Among Adolescent and College-Age Women,” published in the American Journal of Public Health, cites the following data:

“Overall, our study indicated that physical and sexual dating violence is a common experience, with 88% of the women reporting at least 1 incident of physical or sexual victimization between adolescence and their fourth year of college when victimization was defined broadly. The percentage remained high (66%) even when analyses were limited to the more severe forms of sexual (attempted or completed rape) or physical (hitting, pushing, throwing something) victimization.”

Having demonstrated that incidences of rape on college campuses represent a systemic problem, further discussions focus on potential reasons for so many cases of rape against college women.  Sarah J. Argiero, Jessica L. Dyrdahl, Sarah S. Fernandez, Laura E. Whitney, and Robert Woodring, in their article “A Cultural Perspective for Understanding How Campus Environments Perpetuate Rape-Supportive Culture” (Journal of the Indiana University Student Personnel Association, 2010 Edition), and Elizabeth A. Armstrong, Laura Hamilton and Brian Sweeney, in “Sexual Assault on Campus: A Multilevel, Integrative Approach to Party Rape” (Social Problems, Vol. 53, Issue 4, pp. 483-499) focus on what is called the “rape-supportive culture” of college campuses, which involves traditional manifestations of male-bonding and competition, tribal rituals and over-consumption of mind-altering substances, especially alcohol.  Specifically, as Armstrong, et. al., conclude in their study:

“College women ‘are at a greater risk for rape and other forms of sexual assault than women in the general population or in a comparable age group’.  At least half and perhaps as many as three-quarters of the sexual assaults that occur on college campuses involve alcohol consumption on the part of the victim, the perpetrator, or both.  The tight link between alcohol and sexual assault suggests that many sexual assaults that occur on college campuses are ‘party rapes’.”

Argiero, et. al., argue that, what they label “behavior artifacts” form an elemental component of the culture that tolerates and even encourages sexual assaults.  These “artifacts” include “rituals and ceremonies, such as induction and commencement ceremonies, homecoming parades, and athletic events.  These behaviors provide students with interactions unique to their culture that connect them to the institution and help build unity and tradition among the population.”  While not inherently violent or evil, the connection between such ritualistic behavior and rape is indisputable, especially in the social context of university life.  Without casting aspersions on fraternities, the authors agree that the culture surrounding fraternity existence is highly conducive to instances of date rape.  The party atmosphere that permeates college life combined with gender-specific inclinations towards sexual domination invariably, according to scholars, results in rape.  As Armstrong, et. al., argue,

“Residential arrangements intensity students’ desires to party in male-controlled fraternities.  Cultural expectations that partygoers drink heavily and trust party-mates become problematic when combined with expectations that women be nice and defer to men.  Fulfilling the role of the partier produces vulnerability on the part of women, which some men exploit to extract nonconsensual sex.”

In conclusion, the three scholarly articles consulted, as well as others, all portray a culture endemic to university existence that is highly conducive to instances of rape.