Rape epidemic on College Campuses is on the rise and administrations are scrambling to find a fix for the problem.
Quick Google search for “sexual assault on college campuses” brings up grim headlines:
“1 in 5 college women say they were violated” – Washington Post
“College Sexual Violence complaints Up 1000 Percent in 5 years” – US news and world report.
Those statistics include only the reported cases of violence. These are not just numbers, each one is a person that is now living with trauma.
Recent attempts to fight the problem are introducing consent language. This is a major step in the right direction, but is it enough and is this solution addressing the root of the problem or is it simply a Band-Aid?
“20 million students are now living in a sexual culture that is dominated by fear and policy, and that is confusing.” We know from psychology that any shadow that is suppressed is bound to turn ugly.
Could it be that high rates of rape on campuses is simply a symptom of a much larger underlying cultural phenomenon…?
So what is really going on?
Sexual health expert Sarah Byrden thinks she knows.
“American culture is at once incredibly pornographic and objectified in it’s portrayal of sexuality as well as totally repressed and puritanical. Those two things together collide to create a schizophrenic experience in a human body. This is a problem that is systemic in our entire culture.”
– Sarah Byrden
It’s not some sort of a secret that in the U.S. young people get the majority of their sex education from porn and the media. This is where they are learning what they are supposed to do, look like, act like and sound like. And unfortunately there are not many sources students can turn to for better information.
Education on campuses on the other hand revolves merely around avoiding assault and ultimately around what not to do.
“If the standard is ‘just don’t rape somebody,’ then it’s a really low standard for college campuses and for people as a whole.” – Football player, East coast college.
“There is no one sitting down to actually talk about sex with this kids. No one talks about the RIGHT way to do it. We cannot teach young people consent language without teaching them about their body. If we have never taught kids about their bodies and about what sex actually can be, they do not feel the empowerment and the agency to actually advocate for themselves, to open their mouth, to ask for something different, to redirect situations and to know their own value, that there is something bigger possible inside sexuality than avoiding assault.” – Sarah Byrden
Can we change the situation?
Sarah Byrden believes that we can and is dedicated to initiating a cultural shift we are long overdue for.
She took her 20 years of experience as an educator to create what might be the missing piece in our modern education – The Body of Sex project:
Sarah is an experiential educator, wilderness guide and a Sacred Daoist Sexuality teacher in the MogaDao lineage. She believes that the reason for so much confusion and fear is because no one is willing to talk about what happens after consent, in a real human way. What we are missing in our culture is a real holistic sex education.
“These kids are carrying a tremendous amount of shame and fear around sexuality, they are begging us to talk to them about sex.”
The Body of Sex appears to be an elegant and revolutionary approach to the problem. It integrates the principles of Taoist sacred sexuality with cutting edge medical research, psychology, somatic therapy, trauma management, and decades of experience as an educator to create a program packaged in a format approachable for the average student.
It is impossible to talk about sex without bringing the entire person into the picture: their body, their relationships, their vulnerability, their heart, their potential, their gifts. “Sex is not about mechanics” – says Sarah. She teaches students about their bodies, the rightness of their emotions, the necessity of things like trust, relaxation, communication, pleasure for both parties, discernment, being valued, feeling valued and appreciated, respect, and the way to navigate situations with discrepancy.
I don’t know about you, but I really wish that I received this kind of education a decade ago.
When we give young people education about sex we give them empowerment.
Sarah found through her work that the more information students have the more discerning they become.
After attending her lectures students attitudes towards their bodies, sex and sexuality are completely transformed. Students who do not wish to engage in sex feel supported in their choice and students who want to and are engaging in sex feel supported for their sexual interactions to include their feelings, their communication, their value and their discernment.
Here’s what students who’ve been through the program say –
“That feels like confidence, feels like clarity feels like I can really trust myself in situations”
– Student, Hempshire College.
“Although I am a woman, I literally know NOTHING about [my own anatomy]. Your talk really gave me a refresher on what it means to be a woman – and that is SO EMPOWERING.”
– Middlebury College Student.
And how is this for the guys?
Men also feel confused by the current culture on campus. They are left feeling isolated and defensive, and it doesn’t need to be that way.
“Give me an opportunity to understand what I am doing…to understand what a sexual relationship could possibly be.” – Football player, East coast college.
What I found for myself is that the more we learn about the body and psyche, the more reverence and respect we start to have for both. With this understanding, we start to treat our own heart and bodies with care in sexual situations, and hear the body of the other person. To me this is real consent education.
Sarah’s work is designed to bring men and women together to understand and value each other.
Want to know how she does it?
Body of Sex workshops are free for attendants. They are requested and organized by students themselves with the permission from the college administrations. This puts students in the position of empowerment and in charge of their own education and as a result they feel more open to receiving the information.
“I was deeply inspired by your talk and feel that you have a real, world changing movement building. I think your outlook will provide the much searched for solution to issues of sexual culture on college campuses” – Wesleyan University Student
Sarah has been bootstrapping her project, making it happen on pure enthusiasm alone. So far she toured six different colleges and offered paradigm-shifting workshops for over 300 students. The feedback she received was outstanding, but in order to take this grassroots campaign and turn it into a movement she needs funding.
Right now Sarah and her team are running a campaign on the crowdfunding platform Indiegogo:
“My vision is much greater than just offering workshops and lectures on campuses: My vision is to create an educational platform that will significantly shift and heal the culture of sex and sexuality in America, not only for college students, but for all of us.”
You can learn more about the Body of Sex here.
Share this article if you believe that teaching consent language is not enough.
Share this article if you know someone who is a college student or a parent or think that it is time to shift the culture.
If you want to be a part of the growing movement, please consider supporting Sarah’s Indiegogo campaign. The campaign ends on Friday the 15th and the team is less than 5k away from reaching their adjusted goal! Together we can shift the culture! What better Christmas gift can you give to our younger generations?
You can read more about Sarah and her work including Wilderness retreats and workshops on a subject of Daoist Sacred Sexuality here.
And above all, know that you can be a stand for an empowered and healthy sexual culture. Thank you for taking the time to read!