Jonathan Kalin visited Plattsburgh State Tuesday, April 5, to discuss ideas of masculinity, gender violence and sexual assault prevention with members of fraternity and sorority life.
Kalin, the founder of Party with Consent, an education movement designed to get people to talk about sexual violence, hosted several 30-minute workshops presenting fraternities with a slideshow on how to have difficult conversations with other fraternity members and how to challenge cultural ideals of masculinity.
Following the workshops, Kalin gave a large-scale presentation to both fraternities and sororities in the Warren Ballrooms. April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and the event was organized by PSUC’s Alpha Sigma Phi chapter and Title IX Coordinator Butterfly Blaise to help promote the cause.
“It was something I felt the campus strongly needed at the time because of the increase in Title IX cases,” Alpha Sigma Phi Vice President Chris Burek said.
Kalin, who developed the Party with Consent program while he studied at Colby College, said he decided to act after he noticed he was one of few male students on his campus actively speaking about consent and sexual assault. He developed the title of the organization as a play on words from “party with sluts” T-shirts and hats he had seen while in school.
“Affirmative consent is a knowing, voluntary, and mutual decision among all participants to engage in sexual activity. Consent can be given by words or actions, as long as those words or actions create clear permission regarding willingness to engage in sexual activity,” according to PSUC’s sexual violence policy. “Silence or lack of resistance, in and of itself, does not demonstrate consent. The definition of consent does not vary based upon a participant’s sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.”
Kalin said part of tackling the issues of masculinity and consent starts with authentic conversations involving accountability and responsibility. He also said the idea of “being a man” is a social construct, as anyone can be a man in any way they choose.
Delta Sigma Phi President Jacob Pasa said he learned better methods of communication concerning tough conversations with his brothers during the fraternity workshops.
He said that while his fraternity does a “fairly good job at keeping each other in check,” when it comes to these discussions, the “smaller things tend to slip.”
Pasa said the fraternity aims to eliminate the use of degrading language toward women, even in private, as part of being “better men.”
Delta Sigma Phi Secretary William Hodge said he could relate to Kalin’s message as Kalin learned most of his knowledge on masculinity from sports, media and his mother.
Kalin’s father passed away when Kalin was 12 years old. He credits his mother for teaching him how to be “tough.”
Hodge said growing up in a mostly female family, similarly to Kalin, taught him how to properly treat women, although he found it difficult to find a positive male role model.
During the presentation, Kalin encouraged students to participate in different gender deconstruction activities. He asked students to help him draw “The Man Box,” which he learned from domestic and gender violence prevention activist Tony Porter.
He asked the audience to shout out what they considered to be “manly” traits. Some people yelled out things such as, “tall,” “plays the field” and “he has a nice car.”
Kalin drew a box around these qualities and several others. He then asked the audience to discuss what they considered to be the least “manly” traits. Some said things such as, “quiet,” “short” and “vulnerable.” Kalin wrote these words down around the outside of the box.
The purpose of the exercise was to show how these gender-constructed terms restrict men and create “toxic forms of masculinity.”
Kalin said it is important to deconstruct the box in order to encompass all of the traits that portray what a man could but does not necessarily have to be.
At the end of the presentation, Kalin asked the fraternities what they have been taught in order to protect themselves from sexual assault. Several men said they had never been taught anything about protecting themselves.
Kalin then asked the sororities what they had been taught about protection. Some sorority members answered with methods such as parking in well-lit areas, staying in groups and carrying pepper spray.
He pointed out that men can also be sexually assaulted and that instead of blaming the victim, it is important to educate students to prevent sexual assault from happening.
Kalin ended his presentation with a quote from rapper T-Pain: “Don’t do it ‘cause it’s cool. Do it because you’re cool.”
He encouraged students to speak out against sexual assault because they believe it is the right thing to do.
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