Sexual Violence Scenarios for Class Discussions

I share the following 17 situations in hopes they’ll be a resource for students, educators, and others. I developed them based on years of research, including reading academic works, blogs, news stories, and talking with hundreds of students. All of them are based on actual events, actual laws, actual technology, etc. None of them are hypothetical. If you have questions about any of these, please let me know. If you use these in class or in some other way, I’d love to hear how it goes! Thanks!

Dr. Andrew Joseph Pegoda 


Sexual Violence Discussion

  1. Your hookup pulls out their cell phone and requests that you complete a contract on this new app they have detailing what you agree to do in y’alls sexual encounter. How do you respond? What does such an app respond to? What issues does such contract create? What might more effective solutions look like?
  2. Your 16-year-old daughter is dating the 15-year-old girl next door. They begin sexting and exchange explicit pictures of themselves. They are both arrested, charged with making, distributing, and viewing child pornography. They are also made to register as sex offenders for ten years. What dynamics are at play? Is this fair? How does this de-sexualize people before being defined as adults (i.e., people have sexual thoughts and sexual, physiological responses before the age of consent)? Could such lead to revenge porn?
  3. Before getting married and having children, you and your partner make long-term plans. You will stay at home. Your partner will be financially responsible for the family. What dynamics prevent your consent for sex from being unmediated? What are the implications that we can never 100% say “yes.” That there are unconscious factors contributing to the “yes” (and to the “no”)? How else is consent a “flimsy” concept?
  4. Last night you took off all of your clothes and motioned for your significant other to join you in the bedroom. He started kissing you and got on top of you. Where you giving consent for sex or just for bonding time or for something totally different? Did he assume your actions gave implicit consent? (How is this different from explicit consent? What are the risks of implicit consent?) According to some university policies, he would be guilty of sexual violence. Why, and is this fair? From another perspective, we need to remember the social construction of sexuality: some people with different cultural mores/backgrounds are nude much more casually.
  5. You have Asperger’s. Some suggest that your triad partners, your soulmates, are taking advantage of you and suggest your disability makes you incapable of consent. How do you respond? How does society desexualize disabled people? What kind of disabilities limit a person’s ability to consent, and who decides?
  6. You and a friend go clubbing and both wear more makeup than usual and wear minimal clothing because it makes you feel alive. Your friend is assaulted. At the hospital, the nurse suggests that your friend wouldn’t have been a victim if appropriately dressed. How do such “respectability politics” harm? How do the consequences of respectability politics change depending on which friend is imagined (consider race, gender, adultification bias, etc.)?
  7. Your sister comes to you and says she was raped by another woman. Upon her request, you take her to the police station. The officer says that her rape doesn’t “count” since penetration with a penis didn’t occur. Since the officer started the report but didn’t finish it, your sister’s rape counts as a “false rape.” How do you respond? How does such perpetuate the IWSC(HAT)P?
  8. Your significant other (a tall, masculine, hairy man) and you are at his house. Y’all have been together for three weeks. He is hosting a small party with friends. You are tired, so stay in bed with the lights out. He comes in and sees how you’re doing periodically. You fall asleep. You briefly wake up and notice a hairy arm wrapped around you and recognize the cologne as being his. He is awake, faced away from you, and starts touching you. You touch him. The two of you have sex. As you are going back to sleep, you notice the person is not your significant other. Have you been raped? Such “rape by fraud” is not illegal in a variety of jurisdictions. How does this complicate definitions of rape? What might other such “rape by fraud” (or “rape by deception”) situations look like?
  9. Your nephew is 7. He loves Disney movies. He comments about how he wants to be a prince and save women. At daycare, there is a girl he has a crush on. One day she is taking a nap and he goes over and kisses her on the mouth. The teachers scold him and call the parents. When asked why he did what he did, he says that’s what happens in the movies. Who is guilty in this case of sexual assault?
  10. You begin a new relationship. Your partner listens to you when you have issues and supports you, stops doing things you tell them make you uncomfortable, compromises, never puts you down, supports your ambitions, uses rational and calm tones during disagreements, apologizes, and aids your growth as a person. How do such “relationship green flags” stand in sharp contrast to sexual and psychological violence? What might other “green flags” look like?
  11. bell hooks says, “Abused children have been taught that love can coexist with abuse. This shapes our adult perceptions of love. As we would cling to the notion that those who hurt us as children loved us, we rationalize being hurt by other adults by insisting that they love us.” How can her words help us understand violence? According to data, 25-35% of all children (male and female) are victims of rape – can bell hooks’s words help us to understand the long-term challenges they face?
  12. Sex and Harm in the Age of Consent says consent should be understood with a number of factors, including age, sexual experience, sexual knowledge, and power dynamics. A simple “yes” or “no” is inadequate. (Because what does “yes” mean? Does a vocalized “yes,” really mean “yes”?) This perspective would say that someone who turns 17 at midnight or that someone 30 without sexual experience could not give unlimited consent for exploring extreme forms of sexual activities (and any consent from them should not be accepted). What implications does this more complicated definition of consent have? What value does this view have?
  13. “Rape is kinda like the weather. If it’s inevitable, relax and enjoy it” (TX, Clayton Williams). “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to shut that thing down” (MO, Todd Akin). “Rape victims should make the best of a bad situation” (PA, Rick Santorum). “Even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that is something that God intended to happen” (IN, Richard Mourdock). “In the emergency room they have what’s called rape kits, where a woman can get cleaned out” (TX, Jodie Laubenberg). How do politicians’ comments disregard victims/survivors of rape? How do they ignore male victims? How do they embody the IWSC(HAT)P?
  14. Simcha Fisher writes, “When a woman says, ‘This man raped me a long time ago,’ we say, ‘But that was in the past. He can’t change the past.’ When a girl says, ‘This boy raped me last night,’ we say, ‘But his future! We can’t wreck his future.’ And there she stands, suspended between his past and his future.” How does society treat rape? What solutions might be ideal or might be possible?
  15. A 15-year-old’s mother begins dating a new guy. He begins flirting with and touching the daughter inappropriately. When the daughter tells her mother, she gets angry and accuses her daughter of trying to steal her boyfriend by wearing tank tops and shorts. What is happening here? What consequences follow when people with authority victim blame and try to say the problem is one of clothing? What might the mother have been hiding? How will her behaviors hurt the daughter?
  16. A young man in college has a reputation for being persistent in asking female students for sex, dating or not. He never threatens those who say “no” but is tireless in such pursuits. Sexual encounters occur often between the young man and some of his classmates, including other men, who say that their encounters were non-consensual because they wouldn’t have participated had he accepted the initial “no.” How does a lack of threats and a lack of a power differentiation complicate the idea of consensual or non-consensual sex? Could his partners have just continued saying “no”? Does persistence count as a form of violence? Why might he be so persistent? Could there even be a problem with asking so, so many people in the same “social circle”?
  17. You neighbor and their new partner both get drunk at the bar across the street. The two of them decide to have sex upon returning to their apartment. How does such impairment preclude consent? How might they be guilty of raping each other? How might it get more complicated if they later decide to “consensually” use illegal drugs as part of a sexual encounter?

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