Saturday, January 25, 2020

Jennifer S. Hirsch and Shamus Khan

Jennifer S. Hirsch and Shamus Khan are authors of Sexual Citizens: A Landmark Study of Sex, Power, and Assault on Campus.

From the transcript of their NPR interview with Ailsa Chang:

CHANG: So you both come up with terms in this book that help give language and context for what students experience. For example, there's this phrase you guys keep using - it's called sexual projects; people pursue sexual projects. Tell us what you mean by that.

HIRSCH: Sexual projects directs people's attention to what sex is for, which initially, you might think is the kind of question that only a social scientist, right?

CHANG: (Laughter).

HIRSCH: That it's obvious what sex is for. But actually, it's not obvious. Young people, like all people, have sex for a lot of different reasons, and lifting up the diversity of those reasons helps us see how they get into situations in which they're vulnerable to being assaulted or to assaulting other people.

CHANG: Well, give us an array of some of the reasons you've heard, some of the sexual projects you've heard in your research.

KHAN: So the most obvious one is pleasure. But there are many other things that people are doing when they're having sex. For example, a lot of young people are in relationships, and so in that context, sex is for perpetuating a relationship. We heard from one young man who told us a story of just how important it was for him, as a young gay man, to be in a relationship and how not being part of a hookup culture was something that he really valued.

CHANG: Yeah.

KHAN: And he told us this story about how his boyfriend came home one evening and, in his words, basically raped me. And for him, though, he thought of this as just something that was worth tolerating because his sexual project was a sexual project of being in a relationship.

CHANG: Wow. The center of this book, the center of really any conversation about sexual assault, focuses on the idea of consent. Consent can get lost in the mix, you say, because people with, you know, different so-called sexual projects can misunderstand each other. And you write that assault can happen when there's, quote, "a failure of empathy and imagination." What did you mean by that?

KHAN: So much of what we think about when we think about assault is...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue