The Naked Truth

Breaking news: Usher’s hit song “Yeah” makes more sense than originally considered. After quoting the R&B singers lyrics, “we want a lady in the street but a freak in the bed,” the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault (TAASA) is saying Usher knew a thing or two about the underline causes of sexual violence.

Ted Rutherford, a representative of TAASA’s primary prevention team, visited with Tech students on Tuesday to discuss how sexual violence begins and how it can be prevented.

At the front of the room were many large white pieces of butcher paper facing the audience while Rutherford conducted the conversation at the front of the room.

“When you hear the phrase ‘man up’ or ‘be a man’ what do you think is the message behind that?” He asked. “What does it mean to be a man?”

Someone from the audience shouts, “dominant!,” others shout out words like “protector,” ” provider,” “stubborn,” ” handy,” “athletic,” and “smooth.”

After Rutherford had written out more than thirty descriptive phrases and words, he drew a line around the entire outline of written descriptions.

“This box is what society says people should think,” he said. “What if a guy stepped out of the outlined box of words we’ve compiled together?”

Photo taken by Lauren EstlinbaumRutherford asked the audience what phrases or descriptions are usually used by society to make a guy want to go back into the box.

Rutherford turns the large white sheets red as he scribbles words like “mama’s boy” and “whipped.”

“Now,” Rutherford said, “I want us to do the exact same exercise that we just did about men and describe what society thinks a woman’s expectations should be.”

The audience comes up with terms such as polite, housewife, motherly, caretaker, modest, and emotional to name a few.

After Rutherford outlines all of the women’s descriptions, he asks the audience to give him words to make a woman go inside the box.

Derogatory terms such as slut, hoe, high maintenance, bimbo, forever single, and other profanities are used to describe how women would go back into the society box

Rutherford notes there is a trend in the outside area of the men’s box.Photo taken by Lauren Estlinbaum

“The guy insults are representing females, are they not? So, then the take-away is if you’re a guy who doesn’t meet up to those expectations, the way they’re insulted, implies that they’re ‘a little girl,’” he said. “We feminize them.”

Rutherford said this creates the idea that women are less than men. He said it sets up the idea that a man’s world revolves around the idea that they cannot be seen in the same light and characteristics as a woman. Rutherford said men also don’t want to be seen as being gay.

As for the women, he said, society insults women through their sexuality.

“So much of women’s identities are tied up or bound to sex,” Rutherford said. “The values of women in society have been linked to it. It gets back to this idea of what men expect in the world.”

Rutherford said it’s the idea of women being submissive, but it’s almost in service of men in some way. He said this ideal is especially exploited in TV and advertising today.

Some of the examples Rutherford gave include the manliness and sexuality of the characters in Mad Men. He also noted the movie Legally Blonde. When Elle Woods decides to go Harvard, she gets in by her good looks through her application video and Law school itself.

“All this stuff that we have written down is socialization process,” he said. “It’s the way we teach men, women, boys, and girls the ways of society. It’s the message we give explicitly, implicitly in our lives that send that message.

So what does all of this have to do with sexual violence?

Rutherford said not only does society say what should or should not be in our social box, but also, if one does not give into what society says a certain gender should expectations, there is an illuming threat.

He said in order to avoid these consequences, people feel like they have to prove themselves. For example, he said, proving one’s self as a man might be through sexual relations and bragging rights.

“We’ve all heard that no means no,” Rutherford said. “As a guy, I was programmed that when a girl says no, that’s all there is to it. This being said, this puts all of the responsibility on the girls in this case to be the gatekeepers of sex.”

Rutherford said this causes a shift from no means no. He described an example of a girl saying yes to sexual relations because she was scared to say no due to the possibility of being beat up or injured.

This leads to Rutherford’s closing statement.

“Have an honest conversation about it,” he said. “We have to start talking about it. There is a movement that has started. It’s the idea of enthusiastic consent.”

Rutherford said without conversation between partners, there are no answers. And without answers, he said, people may never know how to prevent sexual violence and abuse in the first place.

To learn more about TAASA, check out their website and be sure to watch their most recent campaign video here.

About Lauren Estlinbaum

Entertainment Director    —    Journalism major, Class of 2014
Lauren Estlinbaum grew up in Pearland, Texas, south of Houston (go Texans). She is a journalism major with a minor in apparel design. Lauren would like to work for either a fashion or lifestyle publication post-graduation. As she likes to say, she considers fashion magazines survival guides.

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