Los Angeles | In-Person

Are College Campuses Rewriting the Rules of Sex in America?

Vanessa Grigoriadis

A scene from the Clothesline Project at Washington State University during the 'Week Without Violence'. Photo by Alex Milan Tracy/Sipa USA.

America’s college campuses have become crucial testing grounds—and, at times, battlegrounds—as the country grapples with rapidly changing modes and mores of sexual behavior and expression. Fraternities are being scrutinized for promoting a culture of alcohol-fueled male privilege and presumption. Lecture halls and quads ring out with passionate debates about how to set the ground rules for sexual consent. Academic officials are being called to act as judges and arbiters over some of the most intimate aspects of students’ lives. Millennials attending college are trying to navigate a highly sexualized environment that’s both increasingly liberated and increasingly rules-based, where legal protections are widening but certain forms of privilege and abuse remain entrenched. Vanessa Grigoriadis, contributing editor at The New York Times Magazine and author of Blurred Lines: Rethinking Sex, Power, and Consent on Campus, visits Zócalo to explore how ideas about sexuality, as well as the written and unwritten rules of sexual engagement, are being redrafted at America’s institutions of higher learning.

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The Takeaway

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American college campuses, after considerable struggle, are succeeding in drawing a clearer line between consensual and non-consensual sex. But it’s far from clear when the rest of society will follow …