On Wednesday, April 8, Keith Edwards spoke about sexual violence on college campuses. Edwards, an educator on sexual violence prevention and men’s identity, began by defining sexual violence on college campuses as a concept that includes sexual harassment, assault and rape. Edwards stressed that sexual violence happens to people of all identities, but overwhelmingly, the perpetrators of this violence are men.
Through displaying posters that he had created, Edwards sparked discussion amongst the audience about sexual violence. One poster read “Men can stop rape.” Another read, “She fears you.”
“We all know rape happens,” Edwards said. “We have all known that for a long time. But we don’t talk about men raping. We talk about the number of women on campus who have been raped. We talk about the number of women who have survived rape across the country. We talk about the percentage of women that have been raped. But we don’t talk about who’s doing it… On college campuses the perpetrators are overwhelmingly men on these campuses. We know that but we pretend that we don’t.”
Edwards focused on the frustration that some men feel for getting profiled as rapists for simply being a man. “Is it possible that because some men rape we all get labeled by that?,” said Edwards. “And that may suck. But if we pay attention to that, that might help us change this discussion.”
Edwards then focused on the discussion that typically surrounds sexual violence on campuses, and how this conversation needs to be improved. “On most college campuses the conversation is, ‘don’t wear that,’ ‘don’t walk alone at night,’ ‘watch your drink,’ ‘go with your friends,’ ‘go home with your friends,’” said Edwards.
Edwards challenged the listeners to change this conversation on college campuses. Instead of accepting rape as an inevitability, he encouraged us to take a reactive and proactive approach to rape, and treat rape as something that can be prevented.
Edwards then spoke about a situation that he has frequently encountered: while walking across campus at night, he will see a young woman walking alone in the opposite direction, and, upon seeing him, she will show signs of fear, such as calling a friend, positioning her keys to use as a weapon, or walking on the other side of the street. Edwards considered about how these interactions make him feel, as he does not want women to fear him because he is a man.
“I am mad at the men who rape,” said Edwards. “Because some men are sexually violent, my humanity is diminished. My anger is directed at the men who make [a woman’s fear of being raped] rational, logical and informed….Men’s violence against women diminishes my life as a man.”
Edwards concluded by focusing on education about the difference between rape and sex. He said that sexual violence is perpetrated by the miseducation that our culture perpetrates. Edwards explained that the key difference between sex and rape is informed consent, which requires, “at every step of the way unambiguous affirmed consent freely given.” Edwards continued, “Rape is not just the presence of a no, it is the absence of a yes.”