lindsay-facepalm

A Lesson on Citing Sources

I recently had the incredible pleasure of working with Columbine High School in Littleton, CO, offering an assembly and working with some of the classes to think more about what it takes to build a truly inclusive community.

It was inspiring to work with Columbine, as I have never found a community as committed to or as successful in building a community where all people feel safe (a subject about which I hope to write more sometime soon).  This level of inclusiveness has been hard won, with staff and students working hard to ensure that the defining characteristic of their school is not related to the tragedy that occurred there in 1999 but is the commitment born before and renewed after that tragedy to make sure that every person who walks in those doors feels safe to fully be themselves.

No one is more committed to inclusiveness than Principal Frank DeAngelis, the long-time leader who is set to retire in a few months.  Before my assembly, I had the chance to sit with Mr. DeAngelis (Mr. De as the students call him) to talk about Columbine and to get some pointers on best serving the community.  During our talk, he mentioned a few words and phrases that can be triggering to people at Columbine, and he asked that I avoid using those phrases.  I took notes, and scratched out a few phrases from my outline, adding alternatives for me to use in the margins.

My remarks in the assembly were based in the theory of critical mass, empowering students to realize that if they want to change their community for the better, they don’t need to get a majority on board.  Instead, they simply need to get a critical mass working for positive change.

While in the early stages of explaining the idea (which is somewhat abstract and needs some real-world examples), I clicked to my next slide, an example to prove the point.  In that moment, I realized the grave mistake I had made: my slide used one of those triggering phrases that Mr. De had asked I avoid!  I quickly clicked past the example and, flustered, attempted to explain the concept, doing a poor job in the process.

I basically said that the idea, which I noted had been studied by many sociologists, allows a small group of people to inspire powerful change simply by being vocal proponents of new social norms, and I moved on.

After the assembly, a few students asked me to better explain the concept, and I laughed, explaining how I had screwed up with the slides, and further explained the sociological theory.

Well today, a few weeks after visiting Columbine, I got an email from a teacher at the school who was, to put it mildly, unhappy with me and my presentation.  She felt like I had deceived the students into thinking that the concepts of critical mass and tipping points were my own rather than those of researchers like Mark Granovetter, Thomas Schelling, and (most well-known) Malcolm Gladwell.

In short, she accused me of plagiarism.

And you know what? She’s right!

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Source: ReactionGifs

When I taught high school, I always stressed to my students that they had to take great pains to cite their sources, for even accidental omission of a source is, by definition, plagiarism.

Though my omission of the names of the researchers upon whose work my remarks were based was accidental, a result of my flustered, poor explanation of the concept, those omissions are still plagiarism, and that’s not only not cool, but it’s downright unethical and illegal.  Though I did mention vaguely the work of “sociologists” who have studied the idea, that’s not enough.

Thus, I owe an apology to the Columbine community.  No matter my excuse, I should have clearly cited my sources, and for not doing so, I am sorry.

Additionally, I owe that teacher a big thank you! After all, I wouldn’t have realized my mistake without her email, and as a result, she is helping me to continue my journey toward accountability and integrity.  I work hard to ensure that whatever I produce, whether it’s a blog or a presentation or training, is well-grounded in research and clearly cited.  And here, I fell short.

If nothing else, I hope this will act as a model to any of the students who read my blog: always be careful to cite your sources.

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Podcast: Strategies for Sexual Violence Prevention on College Campuses

I normally don’t like to post on Saturdays, as fewer people are likely to see the article/video/rant that I post that week.  But I really wanted to wait this week for something to go public, and it happened to go public on a Saturday.

This week’s Everyday Feminism podcast is a conversation between Sandra Kim, founder of Everyday Feminism, and myself about preventing sexual violence on college campuses.  It is by no means comprehensive, but it’s meant to be the beginning of a conversation on how to do more than simply respond to sexual violence as it takes place on college campuses where 1 in 4 and 1 in 8 men are sexually assaulted.

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With rare exceptions, no one who is throwing a party spends the time, energy, and money so that people will get assaulted. Yet, the grim reality is that at least 1 in 4 college women are survivors of sexual violence, and our institutions are not doing enough to stem this terrible tide.

Here to discuss this phenomenon and offer advice on how to begin the change is Jamie Utt, sexual violence prevention educator and Contributing Writer at Everyday Feminism. In this podcast episode, Jamie will distinguish between preventative and responsive approaches, discuss the recent rise in sexual violence on college campuses, and will paint a picture of what a sex-positive campus might look like.

Based on our articles How We Can Address Sexual Violence on Campuses and Booze, Booty Shaking, and Backroom Hookups: Making College Party Culture Sex-Positive, Jamie offers tips for students and educators alike!

Click here to read the transcript.

In this episode, we will discuss:

  • Statistics and research regarding sexual violence on college campuses.
  • The different approaches to sexual violence response, prevention and education on college campuses.
  • How to implement the different approaches to sexual violence.
  • Common questions to consider when dealing with sexual violence education on college campuses.
  • Resources for sexual violence response and prevention.

Resources

Listen to the podcast at Everyday Feminism.

Why Saying “Men Are Slaves To Their Sex Drive” Is Insulting To Men

Everyday FeminismThis week’s Change From Within post comes via Everyday Feminism:

I love my friend Nathan, but we disagree about pretty much everything.  Whether about economics or politics, religion or vegetarianism, we argue.

It’s a part of our friendship, and it’s (almost) always respectful and ends with a hug.  I love that we can disagree so much and still laugh and enjoy one another’s company.

But sometimes it gets pretty heated, like when we talk about the nature of men and women.

We fundamentally disagree about the role of biology versus socialization, nature versus nurture, in influencing the ways that men and women tend to act.

In one of the chapters from his “blogsperience,” Confessions of a Diarrhetic: Lessons of Love, Life, and the Ocean, he puts it this way:

“Women are better at commitment than men. This is because each of the sexes has a different job when it comes to the genetic imperative. Men are wired to spread their seed. We want to grow as strong and wealthy as possible so that we can have a large harem and the tribe will survive . . . So [today] men cheat. I’m not excusing it; I’m explaining it. We want to spread our seed as often as we can. This is one of the many reasons men are so drawn to pornography, you can have a new girl every time you fire up your computer!”  (Even if you disagree with him, consider giving Nathan’s “blogspierence” a read or listen. It’s definitely a captivating story).

He goes on to explain that this is why straight men and straight women can never truly be friends.

The guy is always trying to sleep with the girl while the girl thinks it’s just a friendship.  And he’s not the only dude to make this argument:

And you know what?  These guys are absolutely right.

So long as we continue to live by and construct our relationships around oppressive, patriarchal understandings of sex and gender, straight men and straight women cannot be friends, and for that matter, gay men can’t be friends with any other men. 

If men believe that they have no control over their “biological imperative” to “spread their seed,” then every friendship with a potential “mate” will be defined by a constant game where the man is endlessly jockeying for position to sleep with his “friend.”

The problem with this line of thinking, though, is that it presumes that men are not, in fact, human.

After all, whether you believe it’s divine endowment or an evolutionary outcome, pretty much every human being is capable of rational thought and will power.

This separates us from the “natural world” because, in essence, we have the ability to rationalize our way beyond simple biological urges and will ourselves to act differently.

True, there are probably lots of ways that gender norms are influenced by our hormone levels or our evolutionary biology.

But to say that we are simply slaves to these fundamental drives is to say that our power of cognition is no more powerful than, say, that of my friend’s dog who humps everything.

I find this line whole “men are slaves to their sexual desire” bit to be an insulting trope.  And the men who are reading this should too!

After all, if we as straight men are incapable of being true, genuine friends with women, it simply reinforces some pathetic stereotypes about men.

Sexual Attraction Is Nuanced

Read the rest at Everyday Feminism…

Want the Best Sex of Your Life? Just Ask!!

Originally published at The Good Men Project.

“Sex just isn’t fun any more.”

“What!?” I exclaimed.

“I dunno. I just feel like its gotten to the point where if I want to sleep with someone, I should get a notarized, written statement of their consent. It’s just gotten crazy!”

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I cannot tell you how many times I have had this conversation. As a sexual violence prevention educator, one thing is very clear to me: we suck at talking about sex.

I mean, for most of us, our only real models for learning about sexual communication are porn and television. Yet sex is a huge part of most people’s lives. Many of us learn along the way (usually from a patient partner) how to communicate well in sex, but with as many as 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men experiencing sexual violence in their lifetime, it’s clear we need to completely revamp how we talk about sex.

When I was a teenager, I probably had 10 wildly embarrassing sex talks with my dad. They basically went like this:

“Jamie, being Catholic, we would obviously prefer that you wait until marriage. But as an OB and family physician, I know all too well the consequences of sex outside of marriage, so if you’re going to have sex, please be safe. If you need me to buy you condoms, I will. Just be careful.”

That’s it. About ten years after my first chat with my dad, I asked him, “In all of those awkward sex talks we had, why didn’t we ever talk about consent?”

His response? “I guess I didn’t think of it.” Nowhere was there even a hint that consent is an important part of sex. And certainly not the idea that we should be equally or more intentional about than traditional understandings of “safer sex.”

But I don’t blame my dad. No one ever taught him how to have that conversation.

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In her treatise on love and relationships, All About Love: New Visions, bell hooks notes,

Our nation is…driven by sexual obsession. There is no aspect of sexuality that is not studied, talked about, or demonstrated. How-to classes exist for every dimension of sexuality, even masturbation. Yet schools for love do not exist. Everyone assumes that we will know how to love instinctively (xxviii).

Her remarks about love are dead on, but despite the robust conversation about sex in the United States, there is one area of sexuality for which there are still too few schools: consent.

Too often, the conversation about consent (if it happens at all) goes like this:

Women , make sure you communicate what you want with a simple “Yes” or a “No.” If he doesn’t respect that, kick him in the balls.

Men, listen to what women tell you. No Means No!

While well-intentioned, thinking about consent in this way frankly sucks. First, it presumes heterosexuality (because sexual violence never happens in Queer relationships, right?). It also presumes that the only people that need to communicate their needs and desires are women and that women are the only people who might experience unwanted sexual advances or contact. It says little of asking, only of listening. It assumes the only answers are yes and no. Plus, it’s BLAND and it’s BORING!

And when something so important to our sexual relationships is only taught in bland, boring ways, is it any wonder that the rates of sexual violence are so damn high?

I mean, the vast majority of sexual violence happens between two people who know each other, often between people who have or have had a sexual relationship. Sexual violence is not exclusively a problem of serial-rapists, roofied drinks, or someone jumping out of the bushes—though those things happen and must be addressed. Many of those committing sexual violence don’t set out or intend to commit the act, and many are so out of communication with their partner that they don’t even realize they’ve done anything wrong!

Clearly, sexual violence is a problem of communication.

If we hope to prevent the sexual violence that affects so many of those we love, we have to change the conversation. While consent should be about preventing sexual violence, it is about so much more. It is also about creating healthy, fulfilling sexual relationships!

I want my consent to be fun, freaky, sexy, silly, seductive, creative, captivating! I want it all, and I want it healthy and mutual! What’s wonderful, though, is that it can be ALL of these things and more. Studies have shown that healthy, open communication leads to better sex. And who doesn’t want better sex?

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What’s in a Name? White Silencing and Name Identity

I had originally planned a Halloween post for today, but this morning I messed up, and it’s been hanging with me enough that I decided I should write about it.

One of my mentors once told me that, as a person of privilege, if I wanted to be involved in struggles for social justice, I had to recognize that I was going to “mess up . . . a lot.”  She said, “Knowing this, you have to be prepared to apologize earnestly, humble yourself, and move forward, attempting to do better and live more accountably.”

Well, this morning I made an ass of myself.  I recently reached out to some consultants in the DC area to see if they could help a non-profit that I regularly work with.  As far as I know, all of the consultants are people of Color.  Well, in the initial email, I messed up one of their names, taking a name that is not “normative White” and making it, well, as “normative White” as you can get.

The woman politely corrected me in an email, and I responded apologetically.  But get this: I responded in a hurry, and I DID IT AGAIN!

Now, I know how a lot of White folks are going to respond to this.  “It’s a simple mistake!  It’s easy to accidentally mess up someone’s name.  I do it all the time!  Why do you have to make everything about race and social justice, Jamie?!?

Well, I agree that it’s a simple mistake, but it happens quite often for not-so-simple reasons.

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