Not all college guys just want to hook up

Daniel Yellin says many young men in college take sexual consent seriously and respect women's right to their own decisions.

Story highlights

  • Daniel Yellin. An article depicted UPenn culture of female students casually "hooking up"
  • He says article portrayed male students as taking advantage of drunk women, bragging about it
  • He says characterization is unfair; college takes consent seriously
  • Yellin: Many young men wouldn't dream of mistreating women; they respect women's decisions

Last month, the New York Times published an article in its Sunday Styles section with the headline "Sex on Campus: She Can Play That Game, Too." It focused on what it called the casual hookup culture at my school, the University of Pennsylvania, where I am a junior. It found that many students see relationships from a purely economic standpoint, subjecting partners to a cost-benefit analysis that ultimately puts sex above romance.

The piece sparked a furious response from students and alumni over its depiction of Penn women, including articles in Cosmopolitan, the Huffington Post and the Daily Pennsylvanian, our student paper.

They criticized the article's sweeping generalizations about young women's sexuality and its blasé conclusions about the men on campus. A section inaptly titled "The Default Is Yes" claims that, when alcohol is involved, guys cross the line. The author, Kate Taylor, describes an environment in which men take advantage of young, drunk women and then brag about it to their friends, suggesting that this behavior is the norm in an alcohol-driven "frat" culture.

Daniel Yellin

But not one male student was quoted in the article.

I understand that men were not the focus of the piece, but when an article header is titled "The Default Is Yes," the men of Penn must stand up for themselves.

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Here's the reality: Not only does Penn have more than 30 fraternities representing a multitude of interests, but the members of these groups span the full range of ethnic, racial and sexual spectrums. Furthermore, as a collective student body, we take consent very seriously.

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Groups like One in Four, an all-male peer-education group that, according to its Facebook page, "focuses on sexual assault awareness and rape prevention," includes students from both Greek and non-Greek organizations. This past year, Penn hosted a Sex Week to initiate a dialogue on campus about sexuality. Take Back the Night, an international movement and rally opposing violence against women and sexual assault, was the centerpiece of the event.

The incidents presented in the article -- a guy "scoring" while his partner is unconscious and a young woman forced into oral sex -- are undeniably awful. If 10 to 16 forcible sex offenses were reported annually between 2009 and 2011, then we know there must have been many others that went unreported.

These numbers were enough to spur the formation of a faculty-led commission to address alcohol and drug related sexual violence, but it is an issue that goes beyond policy changes. The students at Penn, not just this commission, are well aware that there is a problem, but it is a problem that we are committed to solving.

There are men who speak out against violence; there are men who want monogamous relationships; there are men in fraternities who walk girls back to their dorms and make sure that they are OK, never even thinking of taking advantage of the situation.

The default answer is not yes, because there is a host of college students who admire the women with whom they go to school and refuse to blame sexual violence on alcohol. These women are future world leaders and innovators who might not feel like they have time for a relationship at this stage of their lives, and we respect them even more for making that decision.

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