The Realpolitik of Sexual Assault: Cartographies of Gender, Consent, Standpoint and University “Hookup Cultures”

Friday, July 18, 2014: 4:00 PM
Room: 424
Oral Presentation
Jason LAKER , San Jose State University, San Jose, CA
Erica BOAS , Counselor Education, San Jose State University, San Jose, CA
There is significant media attention, especially in North America and the UK, to a so-called “hookup culture” among adolescents, particularly those enrolled in university.  Characterization of young people as indiscriminately promiscuous may be reductionist hyperbole and/or cliché, but in any case the value-laden, gendered, classed and raced threads within such discourse obscure a regime of institutional reification requiring interrogation.

The current technological phenomena of social media, texting, and camera phones bring with them a culture of immediacy, self-disclosure, and voyeurism that add complexity to these issues and their lived experiences. In this era of rapidly developing technologies, the quality of sexual and platonic relationships is also undergoing accelerated changes. Research is challenged to keep pace with new realities associated with experiences and definitions of abstinence, sex, and dating. Moreover, consent and coercion are under-theorized in the literature, interfering with deployment of effective strategies to prevent or respond to instances of gendered sexual violence and non-consensual or coerced sexual encounters.  Political, ethical and moral sensibilities mitigate efforts to nuance, trouble, and frame discourse on this subject, rigidifying a project of patriarchal social reproduction.

This paper offers a theoretical framework for engaging issues of sexual coercion and consent, reconciling laws, policies and practices with RealPolitiks of socio-sexual landscapes, belief systems, behaviors and interactions, employing the case of universities and their students as sites of institutional sociological convergences.  We will report on a grounded theoretical qualitative study incorporating Feminist ethnographic, narrative, phenomenological and phenomenographical methods with a diverse cohort of university students interviewed throughout their first year navigating transitions and complexities in their developmental lives and social environments.  The participants provided courageously candid, detailed and complicated accounts of their experiences.  Findings elucidate and detangle previously conflated and/or obscured details of the phenomena, pointing to hopeful opportunities for fostering social and sexual agential capacities.