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This College Thinks Telling Kids To Masturbate Will Prevent Sexual Assault, For Some Reason

Over the past few years, there has been a huge push for colleges and universities to work toward finding solutions to prevent sexual violence on campus. For what appears to be their idea of a solution, RIT told students to masturbate to prevent sexual assault during a freshman orientation seminar last week.

Nearly 3,000 incoming freshmen at the Rochester Institute of Technology attended a presentation on preventing sexual assault called “Alcohol and Chill.” During the presentation, students were introduced to the acronym “ROO,” or “rub one out.” According to six RIT students who spoke to New York Magazine, audience members were told that a sexual encounter was like a traffic light, and if someone withdrew consent during an encounter (aka, they gave you a red light), you should stop what you were doing to go home and ROO. Accompanying the ROO acronym was a photo of Roo, the kangaroo from Winnie the Pooh, whose cartoony face smiled sheepishly at the crowd as the presenter said, “Self gratification can prevent sexual assault.”

This image was shared on social media minutes after it was displayed in the presentation. RIT students quickly turned ROO into a meme, and it became a bit of a class-wide inside joke about when one should set aside time to ROO, according to New York Magazine. Word spread about the joke that ROO had become, and the administration received backlash from alumni.

On August 25, Sandra S. Johnson, Senior Vice President of Student Affairs, issued a statement about how the presentation was an attempt to “address the subject from a place and context that students could understand.” “The overarching goal was to increase awareness and promote discussion about the ways we together can prevent instances of sexual misconduct on our campus,” she wrote. “Unfortunately, one slide, out of 77, taken out of context, has sparked controversy, mainly on social media surrounding the entire program.”

Five days later, David Munson, the president of RIT, issued an apology for the presentation:

It is essential that universities engage in conversations with our students on personal responsibility and sexual behavior. In fact, it is so important that we are mandated to develop and implement educational programs on these subjects, which we include in our new student orientation.

We apologize to anyone who was offended by a slide that was included in our new student orientation. While we are committed to having open and frank conversations on these important topics, we pledge to take such sensitivities into account in any future programs.

An anonymous 18-year-old female RIT freshman told New York Magazine that the presentation made her “very scared” to admit that she's experienced sexual assault. “Now I get the impression that people on campus think it is a joke. I am concerned that if I ran into an issue like that again, or want to talk about my previous experience that it wouldn't be treated as a serious issue by administrators. It made me very uncomfortable, and I felt like I was being insulted,” she said.

The presentation also simplified and made light of the very complex issue that is sexual assault. Annie E. Clark, the co-founder of End Rape on Campus, told New York Magazine in part, “This solution of masturbation that the school presented is overly simplistic, and not helpful, and not accurate. Sexual violence is a targeted crime that people choose to commit, and to reduce it to something that can be solved by masturbating I think is highly uneducated and very misguided.”

College-aged women are between three and four times more likely to be sexually assaulted. While nobody said finding solutions to ending sexual violence on college campuses was going to be easy, administrators should really be taking extra care to ensure that their solutions are comprehensive and not susceptible to stupid, immature jokes.

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Alexia LaFata

Digital Editor

Alexia LaFata is a Senior Editor. She's a proud New Jersey native and Boston College graduate. When she's not writing, she's watching documentaries, practicing her Cher impression, or eating pasta. Stalk her at alexialafata.com.
Alexia LaFata is a Senior Editor. She's a proud New Jersey native and Boston College graduate. When she's not writing, she's watching documentaries, practicing her Cher impression, or eating pasta. Stalk her at alexialafata.com.

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