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What’s the matter with boys being boys? How gender stereotyping promulgates sexual assault

Mat Greer

March 31, 2018

SURVIVOR. Now, I am not talking about the long-running reality television show; I am talking about the 321,500 people who are sexually assaulted each year in the United States alone (Kilpatrick, et al., 2007). As we enter April, many campuses are finishing up planning their programs and initiatives for Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM).

The language we use to communicate about people is important. Some might ask, what is better to say: victim or survivor? “Victim” is often used to describe the person affected by the crime, while “survivor” is often used to describe the person who has gone through the recovery process (RAINN, 2012).

Gender stereotyping is one of the roots promulgating rape culture. Boys are taught to “MAN up,” that “Boys don’t cry,” and “Don’t be a Momma’s boy”. Young men are told to “Be a MAN,” “She owes you,” and “She wants it”. This gender stereotyping for one not only speaks to heteronormative behaviors, but also allows for boys to grow up not understanding what being a man means and leads to a fragile sense of masculinity. When boys do not have understanding of how to become a man, they can be led down a path where coercion, catcalling, and lack of consent is continually normalized.

At IUPUI, we are helping our students become educated and empowered to make the change and recognize hazardous situations. People often think that sexual assault happens by strangers popping out of dark places, but statistics show that almost 90 percent of victims on college campuses know their attacker (Zinzow & Thompson, 2011).

With this knowledge, IUPUI has planned different programming around this topic. We are hosting the Clothes Line Project, Take Back the Night, and helping Alpha Chi Omega Sorority sponsor Denim Day. Specifically within my world of fraternity and sorority life, we are quite aware of the national statistics about members in Greek Letter Organizations: Fraternity men are three times more likely to commit sexual assaults and sorority women are 74% more likely to experience sexual assault than non-affiliated women (Minow & Einolf, 2009; Mohler-Kuo, Dowdall, Koss, & Weschler, 2004). With this knowledge, we know fraternity leaders need to take a stance to prove otherwise. At IUPUI, we have implemented the 20/20 Experience, which is a monthly series that brings critical conversations to our FSL community through interactive programs. April’s 20/20 Experience focuses on dealing with rejection and being more comfortable with receiving a no.

It is important these conversations continue outside of the month of April as well. For example, IUPUI's Interfraternity Council is collaborating on a march that will involve multiple institutions to educate on consent and to take a stance against sexual assault. This will take place in October, extending the conversation well beyond the month of April.

In closing, my challenge is to all student affairs professionals: do something more to educate our students and help all students to feel safe on campus. We can no longer sit idly by as these activities continue to happen on our campuses. Boys can no longer just be boys, when they are men.

For more on how Region IV-E is raising awareness about sexual assault throughout April, join us on Facebook for a live chat on Thursday, April 5 at 12 p.m. CST with Bryan Rush, Campus Safety and Violence Prevention Knowledge Community Representative.

About the Author

Mat Greer is the Coordinator for Fraternity and Sorority Life at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, where he advsies the Panhellenic Council and Interfraternity Council. He earned his Masters of Education in College Student Affairs from Rutgers University and his Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Stockton University. Greer is a proud brother of Kappa Sigma Fraternity and volunteers for the organization in his spare time.


Kilpatrick, D. G., Resnick, H. S., Ruggierio, K. J., Conoscenti, L. M., & McCauley, J. (2007). Drug- facilitated, incapacitated, and forcible rape: a national study (NCJ 219181) Medical University of South Carolina, National Crime Victims Research & Treatment Center; Charleston, SC.

Minow, J. C., & Einolf, C. J. (2009). Sorority participation and sexual assault risk. Violence Against Women, 15 (7), 835-851.

Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, . "Statistics." RAINN Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network. (2009): n. page. Web. Mar. 2018. <>

Zinzow, H.M. & Thompson, M. (2011). Barriers to reporting sexual victimization: Prevalence and correlates among undergraduate women. Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment, and Trauma, 20, 711-725.

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