The challenge, then, is to make men want sex that’s less like a battle and more like an unusually satisfying UN meeting, where everybody understands the proceedings and gets a vote. That’s admittedly a long way off: despite recent media scrutiny, fraternities are still caught displaying signs that say things like No Means Yes, Yes Means Anal.
Kimmel says it’s not surprising that inebriation figures into so many sexual-assault cases. Many students arrive at college after having been “helicopter parented,” he argues, with their access to alcohol and sex strictly policed until the day they leave home. They’re then plunked into an environment full of unfamiliar rituals, bravado, enough booze to put the Russian army into a coma, and more sexually available people than they’ll ever encounter again.
Compare this with the experience of many European teens. When Amy Schalet, a sociology professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, interviewed American and Dutch parents, she found that the Dutch parents were far more likely to sanction their children’s first sexual encounters. Kimmel argues that we could stand to be a bit more like the Dutch. “If you grow up in the Netherlands, you get good sex education. The first time you have sex, it’s usually in your parents’ house,” he says, “when your parents are there.” In his view, what teenagers need is better and more equitable sex. “This is not about ‘Don’t have sex,’ ” he says. “I want you to have good sex. How good could the sex possibly be if you’re like, Can I get away with touching her here without her saying no?”
Nationally, several initiatives are already attempting to address rape on campus. Some schools have taken aim at fraternities—whose members are, according to some studies, more likely than other students to commit rape—by forcing the organizations to become coed or to disband entirely. Campaigns like Rutgers’s Scream Theater, Central Michigan University’s No Zebras, and the University of New Hampshire’s Know Your Power encourage students to be vigilant bystanders, preventing potential assaults by personally intervening. California law now requires “affirmative consent” for all college sexual activity.
Kimmel believes that the most-effective approaches will subtly change the power dynamics around sex. For instance, he thinks colleges might try allowing only sororities—not fraternities—to hold alcohol-fueled soirees. “That would mean that there would be women at the door, and they would decide if you were ‘gentlemanly’ enough and trustworthy enough to come into the party,” he says.
He also argues that antirape efforts need to speak more directly to men than they have in the past. For one thing, he says, it helps if a big man on campus is the one leading a rape-prevention crusade. One of the founding members of the long-running Harvard Men Against Rape group, for example, was a popular football player, and Jonathan Kalin was a well-liked basketball star at Colby. Deploying humor doesn’t hurt, either. Kimmel praises a campaign that has put splash guards proclaiming “You hold the power to stop rape in your hand” in urinals at various universities.