What Factors Influence Likelihood of College Women’s Hookups?

College hookup (HerCampus)

College hookup (HerCampus)

Much has been made of the college hook-up culture over the last decade. Women (and men) seem to be divided over whether college women should, or shouldn’t, be hooking up as much as they do. Or maybe it’s hooking up more than they do. Either way, everyone has an opinion.

But what actually influences likelihood of college women’s hookups? Luckily, there’s an answer. In 2013, the Miriam Hospital’s Centers for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine at Brown University surveyed 483 college freshmen women and followed up monthly with each one for eight months. The questions encompassed a wide range of behaviors that could be noteworthy:

Specific questions covered the students’ sexual behavior, hookup attitudes and intentions, self-esteem, religious beliefs, parents’ relationship status, alcohol and marijuana use, smoking, impulsivity and sensation-seeking behavior.

The study turned up two important findings. The first was that women who had hooked up prior to college were most likely to continue hooking up during college. This makes sense, as it used previous behavior patterns to predict future behavior patterns.

Another significant finding determined that marijuana usage as an accurate indicator of hookup proclivities. Researcher Robyn L. Fielder believes that this is “the first study to explore marijuana use as a predictor of hooking up.” In context of what the plant is capable of, this makes sense: Marijuana has been linked to “risky sexual behavior, impairing judgment and reducing inhibitions.”

The results were published in the “Archives of Sexual Behavior.”

UVA Rape Story Retracted: Has It Happened Before?

UVA (Brohammas)

UVA (Brohammas)

Last week, “Rolling Stone” released an investigative report on its now-infamous piece “A Rape on Campus.” The report, produced jointly with the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, delved into fact-checking the narrative. Ultimately, the investigation found many fact-checking and methodology errors (overall termed a “systematic failing”), and “Rolling Stone” retracted the piece.

I was interested to see if any other investigative journalism pieces, specifically on rape cases, had been retracted at any time. But I wasn’t able to find any. The closest things I could find were examples of victims later recanting their stories.

This has proven to be a first for the journalism world in that such an expansive feature (on such a timely, hot-button issue, no less) has been so thoroughly demolished by its fabrications. Though the story initially drew awareness to rape victims on college campuses, it ultimately ended up casting more negative light on the publication and journalist who covered it. Let’s hope that future journalists covering sexual assault stories will be scared into performing their due diligence to get all the facts right.


How Many College Sexual Assault Investigations Have Been Suspended?

UVA Campus (Brohammas)

UVA Campus (Brohammas)

Yesterday, the Charlottesville, Virginia police announced that they’re suspending their investigation of the UVA fraternity rape allegations due to lack of evidence. After reviewing records and conducting 70 interviews, investigators were unable to find key witnesses or a statement that the assault occurred.

This leads to the obvious question: How many sexual assault investigations have been suspended?

I was specifically interested in the topic in the context of colleges and universities, and searched for that. I was unable to find any conclusive data, which makes sense, as I don’t think schools would be eager to give those numbers out.

The police did say they’re leaving the investigation open, and that it could resume in the future. But I’m sure there are even fewer statistics on re-opened college sexual assault cases.


Harvard Bans Student-Teacher Relationships

Harvard University (Huffington Post)

Harvard University (Huffington Post)

Last month, Harvard University officially banned all sexual and/or romantic student-teacher relationships. They did so as part of reviewing the school’s Title IX policy, which prohibits sexual discrimination in education.

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences’ committee decided on three points: an undergraduate cannot date a professor, a graduate student cannot date a professor if the professor is supervising the student, and a grad student can’t date an undergrad if that student is working closely with the undergrad.

The university had previously banned relationships between faculty members and students only if they were in the same class. It had also classified any other student-teacher sexual or romantic relationships as “inappropriate.”

But why is Harvard acting now? Susan Svrluga at “The Washington Post” has the answer:

The new policy comes at a time when sex and gender issues — all the ways that people define themselves, their sexuality, their relationships, and how they interact with one another — are relentlessly discussed on college campuses.

Harvard is also in the middle of reviewing, and revising, its Title IX policy. It’s one of 55 schools that had previously gotten attention from the U.S. Department of Education due to its “handling of sexual assault cases.” (And we all know how that goes.)

Another aspect of the ban is that it prevents professors from abusing their power as educators by sleeping with students under their care. The measure ensures that exploitation and student favoritism doesn’t happen as a result. This makes sense, as many courts cases tried in the ’90s found universities liable for sexual assault cases.

Other schools already have measures in place regarding student-teacher relationships. Yale instituted their own ban in 2010, and the University of Connecticut put one in place in 2013. Arizona State University proposed a tougher measure on student-teacher relationships earlier this year.

It’ll be interesting to see if other schools follow their example in the coming months and/or years, or if this ban will remain an anomaly.


No Shit: Colleges Are Underreporting Sexual Assaults

UVA Rotunda (Wikipedia)

UVA Rotunda (Wikipedia)

This should come as a surprise to absolutely no one: A recent study published in “Psychology, Public Policy and Law” found that colleges underreport sexual assaults on their campuses.

Conducted by the American Psychological Association, University of Kansas researcher Corey Rayburn Yung analyzed data pertaining to on-campus sexual assault reports from 31 colleges and universities. (This data came via the Clery Act, a federal law that mandates how colleges self-report crimes.) He specifically looked at “large schools with on-campus housing and 10K students” that were audited between 2001-2012 by the U.S. Department of Education for meeting federal reporting standards.

Here’s what Yung found:

During the audits, the reported numbers of sexual assaults increased by approximately 44 percent on average from previously reported levels. After the audits ended, the reported number of sexual assaults in following years dropped to pre-audit levels, evidence that some schools provided a more accurate picture of sexual assaults on campus only when they were under federal scrutiny, the study concluded.

(The study notes that individual stats for each school weren’t provided, and some didn’t show a spike in reporting during this period.)

It makes sense that a school would be more vigilant in reporting assaults during a government-mandated audit. But holy shit that’s a huge discrepancy. (To his credit, Yung did say that the study’s initial hypothesis was that colleges were underreporting these numbers, so he wasn’t going into this super-naive.)

But here’s another troubling thing, taken from the study’s abstract:

The data indicate[s] that the audits have no long-term effect on the reported levels of sexual assault, as those crime rates return to previous levels after the audit is completed.

So these schools are only on top of things when the Feds are breathing down their neck. Basically you’re shit out of luck if you’re assaulted on-campus during a non-audit timeframe, college women.

It’s probable that issues influencing the underreporting are the schools wanting to cover up the assaults (obviously), and/or schools might attempt the resolve the cases in a timely manner during the audit.

This sheds light on how higher education institutions see sexual assault: more of a potential blight on their reputations than actual concern for victims. Said Yung:

The study shows that many universities continue to view rape and sexual assault as a public relations issue rather than a safety issue. They don’t want to be seen as a school with really high sexual assault numbers, and they don’t want to go out of their way to report that information to students or the media.

What happens to schools that don’t comply with the sexual assault reporting requirements? They’re fined $35K, which pretty much amounts to a student’s (or half a student’s) yearly tuition.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve long suspected this to be the case. A similar phenomenon occurs with reporting unemployment numbers: A person who doesn’t work is counted as “unemployed” only if they’ve been actively looking for work within that past four weeks. If they haven’t done so, they’re not counted at all. Whenever a new jobs report comes out claiming that the unemployment number has dropped, a lot of people who haven’t been looking get hopeful and begin to look for work again, and then the real unemployment number grows. (And then everyone wonders why it’s bigger than before.)

To solve this problem, Yung calls for greater resources allocated to the issue, more frequent audits and greater fines for delinquent schools. I’d say that that’s a good step in the right direction.

The Numbers Behind Stanford University’s Sexual Assault Problem

Stanford University (Stanford)

Stanford University (Stanford)

Last week, Stanford University swimmer Brock Allen Turner was charged with raping an intoxicated and unconscious woman in January. Allen was discovered by two men, who then chased after him. The men tackled and held Allen to prevent him from escaping, while a third man called the police.

Since then, Allen has “voluntarily withdrawn” from the university (more likely, it was either that or face expulsion), and won’t be allowed to re-enroll. His profile has also been removed from the nationally-ranked swim team’s website. Stanford will also conduct its own investigation of the crime.

This is notable for a few reasons. Rapes on college campuses have made headlines recently, notably the “Rolling Stone” UVA article, and subsequent fraternity scandal. But this is the first time we’ve recently seen a school take a hard line against rape. The university made a swift and decisive action, leaving no room for public outcry.

Specifically for Stanford, this is a pretty bold move. According to the “SF Gate,” the school has been one of the schools called out for their sexual assault policies (as in, they’re not stringent enough). Stanford Law professor Michele Landis Dauber prepared a report on sexual assaults at the school, and found the following:

Between 1997 and 2009, just four of 175 reported sexual assaults were formally adjudicated at Stanford, with two of the alleged attackers held responsible.

Doing the math, only 2.29% of reported sexual assaults were tried over a period of 12 years. (And, with what we know about the reporting of sexual assaults, it’s probable that the sheer number of them that occurred was much higher.) The alleged attackers were only held responsible 50% of the time. Pretty shameful.

Dauber noted that the numbers have improved since the report: The university has been “more welcoming” to victims and followed through on investigations (which could mean following through on more investigations, and/or following through more closely). But of course, there’s always room for improvement.

Let’s hope that Stanford’s actions incite other colleges to make the right decisions when, not if, they’re faced with similar situations.

UVA Sexual Assault: Rape Punishments on College Campuses

UVA Rotunda (Hoo Stories)

UVA Rotunda (Hoo Stories)

On Nov. 19, “Rolling Stone” published a harrowing article on a UVA student’s 2012 gang rape, and its eventual social and political fallout and complications around the campus. The article goes into depth in detailing UVA’s culture of avoiding the topic of sexual assault, and terming any assaults mere “bad experiences.”

The article cites UVA’s honor code culture that also functions to keep sexual assault quiet. It points out that 183 students have been expelled for violating the honor code since 1998, but there have been no expulsions resulting from reporting sexual assault (which is arguably more prevalent, from anecdotal data).

This isn’t just a UVA issue. Last year, Yale allowed five students guilty of “nonconsensual sex” to continue their education at the Ivy institution without suspension or expulsion. (The sixth one was suspended and future probation.) Instead, they were given punishments ranging from sensitivity training to a reprimand.

The “Rolling Stone” article notes that one in five women will be sexually assaulted during their time in college, but only 12% will report an assault to the police. So it’s clear that the actual numbers are much higher than those being reported. Hopefully, this UVA case will spur on more open discussions on sexual assault, particularly on college campuses, and urge universities to hand out heavier punishments for assailants.

How Female Orgasms Influence Mate Choice



Happy Friday! Here’s something to fun to keep mind as you head out for the weekend:

A new study claims that female orgasms influence beneficial mate choice: The more orgasms a woman has was directly correlated to her partner’s income, confidence and attractiveness. But it’s not all about quantity. Orgasm intensity was related to sexual satisfaction in terms of intercourse frequency and “how attracted they were to their partners.” Makes sense, right? (“Salon” breaks it down into less-scientific terms.)

The study analyzed “heterosexual female college students in committee relationships,” but doesn’t go into detail about these subjects. What was their average age? How long had the couples been together, on average? How times a week were the couples having sex on average?

Sounds like an excellent way to make a positive mate choice to me.

Brown University Date Rape Drug GHB: How Common Is It?

Brown University's Robinson Hall, 2009

Brown University’s Robinson Hall, 2009

A female student at a Brown University fraternity party held on Oct. 17 has tested positive for a date-rape drug.

The student drank an alcoholic punch which contained GHB (gamma hydroxybutrate), which was found during a later test. One other student drank the punch, and those results are still pending.

The Australian Drug Foundation notes that symptoms such as drowsiness, lowered inhibitions and memory lapses become present 15-20 minutes after taking the drug, and can continue for 3-4 hours. It’s also easy to overdose since there aren’t much difference in dosage between an overdose and a safe amount.

This continues a story in which the aforementioned female student reported that she was sexually assaulted at the Phi Kappa Psi party.

How common is GHB’s use as a date-rape drug?

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any hard numbers solely on GHB for colleges. A 2009 Monitoring the Future study found that .7% of eighth-graders and 1.1% of 12th-graders reported using the drug in the past year. GHB use peaked in 2000 when 1.2% of eighth-graders in 2000 and 2% of 12th-graders in 2004 reporting using it within the past year.

Drug abuse treatment website Serenity Lane reports that since there have been 15K+ overdoses and 72 deaths related to GHB. But this doesn’t tell us the age-spread, so it’s impossible to tell which, if any, age group this affected most.

Every resource I looked at listed GHB as a date-rape drug alongside rohypnol and ketamine. In fact, Brown’s own Health Services website devotes a page to GHB. It’s clear that its use is still a large issue.