Teaching Campus Rape Culture

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Recent events have starkly highlighted the disturbing prevalence of rape culture on college campuses. I would hope that this might be an issue of particular importance to students.  Here are some ways you might teach this topic.


Offensive banners promoting rape culture get ODU fraternity suspended. Source: wtkr.com

Sabrina Rubin Erdely, “Kiki Kannibal: The Girl Who Played With Fire.”  The case of Kiki Kannibal offers a broad grounding to the ways in which rape culture operates, with a particular context on online identities and social media.  By following Kiki’s story, students can see the complex ways that various levels of violence effect young adults generally and women especially.

Mara Hvistendahl, “Missing: 163 Million Women.”  Hvistendahl’s essay looks at the serious global consequences resulting from different cultures’ preference for male children.  I would want to use it in this context to give students a global perspective on the way women are devalued and also to help them think about some of the real consequences that come from that.

Rebekah Nathan, “Community and Diversity.”  For sure this sequence would demand Nathan.  Her essay about her experience as a first year student at the college where she is in fact a professor reveals serious fractures between colleges’ ideals of community and diversity and the reality of student life.  Though Nathan focuses more on race than gender, I still think it would be vital in helping students further dissect the gap between projected ideals and lived realities.

Kenji Yoshino, “Preface” and “The New Civil Rights.” Yoshino offers two useful lines of analysis for looking at campus rape culture.  The first, covering, can help students think about the ways in which the identity and behavior of women is necessarily limited. The second, civil rights, might offer students strategies for changing rape culture while also underscoring some of the problems that come from trying to generate any social change.

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About the Author
Barclay Barrios is an Associate Professor of English and Director of Writing Programs at Florida Atlantic University, where he teaches freshman composition and graduate courses in composition methodology and theory, rhetorics of the world wide web, and composing digital identities. He was Director of Instructional Technology at Rutgers University and currently serves on the board of Pedagogy. Barrios is a frequent presenter at professional conferences, and the author of Emerging.