More than Molly- Real Talk about Drug Facilitated Sexual Assault

If you’ve been anywhere on the internet lately, you’ve probably heard about Rick Ross’ newly released single U.O.E.N.O., during which he raps “Put molly in her champagne / She ain’t even know it / I took her home and I enjoyed that / She ain’t even know it,” The song has sparked controversy and online petitions calling for companies like Reebok to drop Rick Ross as a spokesperson and radio stations to remove the song from their playlists. I gotta tell you- I’m pretty pumped about this. I’m pumped that the public is outraged with Ross’ lyrics and glorification of drugging a woman with ecstasy (a.k.a. “molly”) in order to have sex with her and that I haven’t found one article citing that the ambiguous woman Ross is referring to should have watched her drink.

Despite my elation about the public conversations being prompted by Ross’ lyrics, our conversations about drug facilitated sexual assault need to go beyond illicit drugs and drink spiking. If we’re going to talk about drug facilitated sexual assault (DFSA), we need to be willing to engage in a conversation about alcohol. Alcohol is by far the most commonly used substance in drug facilitated sexual assaults, whether alcohol is forced upon the victim* or a perpetrator takes advantage of someone who has willingly consumed alcohol.

drunksexUp to 52% of a sample of men who reported committing a sexual assault since the age of 14 had been under the influence of alcohol at the time of the assault(s) (Gidycz, 2007). High risk drinking has been linked to sexual perpetration among first year college students, with heavy drinkers being more likely to report that they have perpetuated a sexual assault (Neal & Fromme, 2007).

What theories are there to explain the frequent concurrence of alcohol and sexual violence perpetration? Researchers speculate that either:
(a) alcohol causes a causal role in sexual violence perpetration
(b) the desire to commit sexually violent acts prompts perpetrators to use alcohol heavily so that their actions are seen as more socially acceptable/excusable since they are intoxicated
(c) various other factors contribute and cause both high risk drinking and sexual violence perpetration (Abbey, 2008; George, Stoner, Norris, Lopez, & Lehman, 2000).

The National Resource Center on Domestic Violence and Pennsylvania Coalition against Domestic Violence explain the relationship between American culture, alcohol use, and sexual violence as one that includes multiple factors.

“American culture glamorizes alcohol consumption and links it to sexual desire, sexual performance, aggression, and other types of disinhibited behavior. This affects people in two ways. First, as noted above, people may decide to drink when they want to be sexual, aggressive, and/ or disinhibited. Alcohol provides them with the “liquid courage” to act in the way they wanted to act. Second, intoxicated individuals are likely to interpret other people’s behavior in a manner that conforms to their expectations. Thus, a smile is more likely to be viewed as a sign of sexual attraction and a mildly negative comment is more likely to be interpreted as grounds for an aggressive response” (Abbey, 2008).

Even with societal pressure and the cognitive effects of alcohol, no matter how drunk a person is it does not excuse committing a sexual assault.

If you’re worried about a friend’s high risk drinking and concerned that their own alcohol use may be influencing their sexual decision making, you can encourage them to make an appointment with an Alcohol and Other Drug Intervention Specialist at Student Wellness. Alcohol and Other Drug Intervention Specialists assist students in exploring the social, academic, and sexual consequences of their drinking and encourage positive changes in drinking behaviors through Tarheel BASICS. Remember, how drunk a person is does not excuse committing a sexual assault.

Look out for Raise the Bar, a Student Wellness initiative launching in April as a part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Raise the Bar is an outreach and training program for local bar establishments offering education on DFSA and training on bystander intervention, providing bar staff the information and  tools to intervene and prevent drug facilitated sexual assault.

Raise the Bar Chapel Hill Caps not Bold


*The term victim is used because this post focuses on circumstances surrounding the victimizing experience of DFSA, not the recovery process

  • Abbey, A. (2008, December). Alcohol and Sexual Violence Perpetration. Harrisburg, PA: VAWnet, a project of the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence/Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Retrieved month/day/year, from:
  • George, W.H., Stoner, S.A., Norris, J., Lopez, P.A., & Lehman, G.L. (2000). Alcohol expectancies and sexuality: A self-fulfilling prophecy analysis of dyadic perceptions and behavior. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 61, 168-176.
  • Gidycz, C.A., Warkentin, J.B., Orchowski, L.M. (2007). Predictors of perpetration of verbal, physical, and sexual violence: A prospective analysis of college men. Psychology of Men and Masculinity, 8, 79-94.
  • Neal, D.J., & Fromme, K. (2007). Event-level covariation of alcohol intoxication and behavioral risks during the first year of college. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 75 , 294-306.

Survivorship and Speaking Out

“Healing begins when someone bears witness.”

I love this quote, because it acknowledges both the power of speaking out and the potential healing offered by those who listen. When it comes to being a survivor of interpersonal violence, including sexual assault, relationship violence, or stalking, there are a number of ways to speak out and a number of organizations with folks prepared and willing to “bear witness” to your experience. Even if you’re not interested in filing any charges against your assailant, either through the University’s Grievance Panel Procedures or a report with local police, sharing one’s story can be a powerful mode of healing.

One way allies can support survivors is by respecting survivors’ preferences about how they choose to “speak out”. Not every survivor will want to speak out the same way, and some won’t want to at all. How public an individual is about their experience of IPV does not determine their level of “survivorship” or their right to identify as a survivor. In that same vein, the amount or mode of “speaking out” about one’s assault is not indicative of how much an individual has healed from their experience. Learning that friends or loved ones have experienced interpersonal violence (IPV) can motivate allies to become involved in speaking out against IPV themselves, but it is important to not share a survivor’s story without their permission- even if you leave out names or identifying information.

Here are some ways survivors can “speak out”, anonymously or not.

In person:

OCRCC Shout Out!
Submissions due March 15
The Orange County Rape Crisis Center will host the 11th Annual Shout Out Against Sexual Violence on April 16, 2013. Survivors of sexual violence and those who care about them will have the opportunity to read works and perform pieces surrounding the issues of rape and sexual assault. If you would like to submit a piece to the Shout Out, please email Joey at or call 919-968-4647 for more information. Please indicate whether you will present your piece at the Shout Out, or if you would like a staff member or volunteer to present it on your behalf as an anonymous submission.

Support groups for folks who have experienced relationship violence and sexual violence are available at the Compass Center for Women and Families and the Orange County Rape Crisis Center, respectively.

If you’re a student at UNC Chapel Hill, it’s important to be aware that under the University’s Policy on Prohibited Harassment, including sexual misconduct, and Discrimination, staff and faculty of the university are mandated reporters of incidents of sexual assault. Meaning, if you disclose or chose to share your story with a staff or faculty member they are required by federal law to report the assault to the Deputy Title IX Student Complaint Coordinator at the university. The Deputy Title IX Student Complaint Coordinator may get in touch with you to follow up and make sure that you are provided information about all of the options available for filing a report through the university or the local police.

On paper:

Blind Reporting at UNC- CH
For sexual assaults involving a fellow student at UNC Chapel Hill, a blind report can be filed with the University. This report does not require names and can be turned in anonymously. The only identifying information that is required is the last four digits of your PID. (This is used to ensure that the university does not receive any “double reports”.) You may fill out as much information as you are comfortable providing on the form. You can place a completed form in one of the anonymous reporting boxes available in the Student Rec Center or Rams Head Rec Center, mail or bring it to the Dean of Students office or email it to the Dean of Students Office at

Over the phone:

Orange County Rape Crisis Center (OCRCC)
The OCRCC hosts a 24- hour help line which can be reached by calling 1-866-WE-LISTEN (935-4783). Trained companions and OCRCC staff respond to help-line calls and are great folks to talk things through with, offer options for counseling, or just listen.

Compass Center for Women and Families
The Compass Center offers a 24 Hour Relationship Violence Hotline at 919-929-7122. Trained advocates and Compass Center staff can offer resources and/or a supportive listening ear.


Project Dinah’s Speak Out Blog
Submissions taken on an ongoing basis
The UNC student group Project Dinah (PD) runs a blog on which anonymous submissions of stories of sexual and interpersonal violence are submitted and posted. Please click the comments link of the post titled “testimonials” to share an anonymous testimonial. A site administrator will post your testimonial after it has been submitted. PD asks that folks who submit stories do not include any personal information that would reveal their or anyone else’s identity.

And it Was Wrong
Submissions taken on an ongoing basis
And it Was Wrong is a grassroots compilation of women’s experiences of sexual assault. Stories are submitted anonymously through the website; a few are posted online periodically. Rachael Goodman-Williams, the founder of the project, provides only one guideline for submissions: that they end with the phrase “and it was wrong.”

Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network’s Online Hotline
If you’re hesitant or hard pressed to find a private place to chat over the phone, RAINN’s online chat offers trained volunteers who are available to chat with you online 24 hours a day.

The Food Police

Every time I order food from a particular take out place, as soon as I hang up the phone I get an incoming call. An automated machine calling on behalf of my bank, reciting “We fear there may be fraudulent charges on your account […] Please contact our identity theft and fraud department immediately at …. “. Sometimes I even get a text with the same information. The most recent time, I received a call, text, and an email which even went so far as to inform me that my account had been put on hold (i.e. my card was useless) until I called them back to go over the most recent charges on my account. Every time this happens I have to call the bank, and listen to a stranger list the most recent purchases on my card- which of course always concludes with a report of the place I ordered food from and the amount charged.
When the very nice stranger on the phone asks me if this is my charge, all I hear them saying is “so- this extremely unhealthy carb full restaurant you ordered from AGAIN…you spent ____….Don’t you live alone? Geez how many people are you planning on feeding?” I feel embarrassed and called out by the universe for my eating choices and frustrated at the fact that I am forced to report them to a stranger. Even so, I have not yet had the guts to tell my bank that they can stop calling every time I order food from this place because yes, it’s always going to be me (I like to eat their food) so while I appreciate your concern and thorough job of protecting my identity, please stop asking me to answer for my food choices.

These interactions with my bank, although unintentionally and indirectly on their part, are a great example of food policing. I’m sure that many folks prone to food policing out there mean the best. Sometimes it’s good to catch ourselves though and ask – what good is food policing really doing?

If you’re concerned about a friend’s health, it will probably be much better received if you express those concerns in the context of health and caring for your friend instead of commenting on if they’re “going to eat all that”, asking them “if they need to eat that” and making comments such as “you sure don’t look like a vegetarian”. Food policing ourselves, i.e. making comments like “oh no, I don’t need anymore, I’m trying to be good” can have a similarly negative effect on those around us. Food policing may sometimes even sound like compliments such as “great job choosing that salad!”.

Unless a friend or partner has come to a plan of healthy eating or exercising on their own or at the suggestion of a doctor and specifically asked for your support, food policing may be more harmful than helpful. Hopefully you’ve been hearing a lot about eating disorders and how they affect college students over the course of this past week. Even if you think information about eating disorders seems a little too extreme to apply to you and your friends, we can all still be mindful of how our own food policing-whether directed at others or at ourselves in the presence of others- is affecting our friends and their body image.

nutrition1If you’re genuinely concerned about a friend’s eating habits, make it a point to talk to them while they’re not in the middle of a meal or about to sit down to start eating. You may consider suggesting they make an appointment at Student Wellness to meet with a Clinical Nutrition Specialist or Nutrition Education Consultant on campus. They’re great folks who can help you, your friend, or a partner go over healthy meal planning and choices for them and their body. If you’d like to host a program on healthy body image or nutrition for your student group or hall, check out the health education and training services available at Student Wellness.

Beyond Bullying

Identity based and sexual harassment are not often talked about, even though we may often see them in our classes, workplace, and community. Identity based and sexual harassment belong on the continuum of interpersonal violence and actively uphold identity-based systems of oppression such as racism, ableism, sizeism, heterosexism, cysgenderism,  anti-Semitism, sexism, classism, etc. Microagressions are quips and comments that often have unintentionally harmful effects on folks who are pinpointed by them and help to maintain the oppression of marginalized peoples or groups in our society.

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Harassment, in contrast, is

(a) intentional,

(b) repeated, and

(c) involves a (perceived or real) power disparity between the enactor and the target.

The power disparity between folks enacting harassment and those who are targets could be due to their role in the environment (i.e. professor and student, supervisor and employee, etc.) or larger institutional and societal forces that create power imbalances based on identities. The identities attacked by identity based harassment can be actual or perceived, and chosen by the target as an identity with which they associate or given to them by society or their upbringing.

Time out: what’s the difference between identity-based harassment based on sex identity and sexual harassment, you ask? Identity based harassment could target an individual based on their sex (i.e. male, female, intersex), while sexual harassment targets someone based on their alleged, perceived, potential, or actual sexual behaviors or proposed sexual acts.

So, what can you do if you’re experiencing identity based or sexual harassment? There are multiple offices on campus prepared to help folks in the UNC Chapel Hill community who are experiencing identity-based and sexual harassment, providing everything from education and prevention, to emotional support, to university reporting options. Check out a list of these resources here.

Want to learn more about what you can do to prevent identity-based and sexual harassment? Check out the new One ACT program Beyond Bullying, a skills based workshop for students to build on the bystander intervention skills practiced in One ACT and focus on the prevention of identity based and sexual harassment, which will be hosted for the first time on February 28th at 6:00pm in Dey 202.

Make sure to check out One ACT’s cube in the union on oppressive and harmful identity based language and take the opportunity to talk to your friends about why it matters.

Fighting Fair & Healthy Communication in Relationships

Real talk. Couples argue. Even if you really like each other 98% of the time, every couple gets into a snafu or disagreement every now and then. How can you survive the fights and keep your relationship happy and healthy overall?

Here are a few things to avoid:

Criticism. While no partner is perfect, it’s important to keep in mind the difference between a complaint and a criticism. A complaint addresses a specific action of a partner(s). A criticism is more global — it incorporates or implies a negative judgment about a person’s character or personality.

Contempt. Contempt can be communicated through sarcasm, name-calling, eye-rolling, sneering, mockery, and hostile humor. Contempt is harmful to a relationship because it is virtually impossible to resolve a problem when your partner is getting the message that their partner is disgusted with them.

Defensiveness. When a disagreement escalates and becomes negative and critical, it’s not surprising that someone may feel attacked and thus become defensive. While this is a natural response, becoming defensive keeps a person from taking responsibility for your part in the conflict and essentially blames one partner as solely responsible.

Stonewalling. In relationships where criticism and contempt lead to defensiveness, which leads to more contempt and more defensiveness, eventually one partner tunes out. This stonewalling involves acting as though they could not care less about what the other is saying or feeling, and often looks like refusing to engage in conflict resolution or touch conversations altogether.


And some healthy communication tips for tough conversations:

Validate and affirm the importance of the relationship and your partner to you.  Express your hope that you can have an authentic, respectful conversation. Agree on whether you’re okay with taking a break from the conversation if you or your partner get frustrated or feel overwhelmed.

Stay focused on the main theme(s) you want to discuss.

Make sure that your verbal and non-verbal communications are in alignment.  Body language, facial expressions, eye contact, and body posture can have a huge impact on the meaning of words. The tone of our voice and the volume you speak in can all change the meaning of your message as well.

Use “I” statements, feeling statements, and be direct. Passive aggressiveness is not effective and can only escalate situations. “I” statements ensure that you are keeping the conversation focused and remaining honest to your own experiences.

Use active listening skills. Use eye contact and avoid texting, being on your computer, or interrupting during an important conversation or argument. Keep an open mind and try to understand your partner’s experience rather than judge it or get defensive.

Paraphrase and ask questions. Use very brief statements to summarize or reflect what the other person has said. This practice allows an opportunity to clarify any misunderstandings within the conversation before they grow into their own argument altogether.

Be supportive. Even if you disagree, both partners should support each others’ right to share their feelings and thoughts as well.

Make specific requests for behavior changes you need. Perhaps you need to change some of your own behaviors or perhaps you would like to see a change in the behavior of your partner(s). Maybe you would like a change in how you do something as a couple. Look for a compromise. Keep in mind its important in a new relationship to balance trying new things and communicating what you want.

Afterward, do something fun! After a conflict has been resolved or a tough conversation concluded, it can be helpful to do something fun or enjoyable with your partner(s) to end your time together on a positive note.  Although it may feel awkward after you’ve just had a tense conversation, spending some fun time together can remind each other what you like about each other and why sticking it out through tough times and working through disagreements is worth it.

Communication tips taken from Sustaining Healthy Relationships in LGBTQ Communities curriculum.


Enjoyed this post and think more information on healthy relationships would be helpful for you or you and your boo? Check out Sustaining Healthy Relationships, an online workshop created by Carolina students, for Carolina students.

If you’re afraid to communicate your needs or express a disagreement with your partner(s) for fear of what they might do, your relationship may be struggling with more than some problematic communication patterns. Check out the resources at which can help you sort through whether your relationship may be abusive and offer you options of what you can do if it is.

Keeping Your Mind and Heart Healthy: Mental Illness and Dating Relationships Part 2

Although dating relationships in which one partner has a mental illness are not often spoken about, we know that such relationships can’t be all that unusual since one in four young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 have a diagnosable mental illness[i] and more than 25% of college students have been diagnosed or treated by a professional for a mental health condition within the past year[ii]. Given that dating and relationships are a huge part of college and mental illnesses affect folks in various but impactful ways, it’s not surprising there are some specific considerations for dating when you have a mental illness.

Here are some tips for folks with mental illness navigating the dating world!

  • On Disclosure
    Remember that you are more than your illness and that it does not define you. Give your partner a chance to get to know other parts of you before disclosing your illness. Check out this article on Strength of Us for more on disclosure of mental illness in relationships.
  • Self-Advocacy
    Once you choose to disclose, don’t assume your partner will understand everything about your illness, how it affects you, or how you’re handling it. You can advocate for yourself by being open with your partner about how they can support you and seeking out professional help when you need it.
  • Self-Care
    Taking care of yourself and adhering to any treatment regime a professional has laid out for you is not only good for you, but can also be good for your relationship. Being your best self on your own is important for anyone, whether or not they have a mental illness, before entering a relationship. Check out the counseling and medication management available for students at UNC’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) and these self-care tips from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
  • Don’t Settle
    Having a mental illness does not make you less of a person or any less worthy of a happy, fulfilling relationship than anyone else. Don’t settle for an unhealthy or unhappy relationship because you think your illness lessens your value as a partner and what you have to offer.

If the relationship ends, know that a tough breakup may exacerbate the symptoms of your illness. You can help buffer this by asking for help when you need it, reaching out for resources, and keeping in mind that although breakups can be hurtful and difficult to transition, it will get better.

I see love.

Check out this article by Arthur Gallant about his experience as an adult with Bipolar Disorder in the dating world. If you have a mental illness and are thinking about exploring online dating, you may want to check out one of the numerous online dating sites specifically for folks with chronic physical or mental illness.

For information on how abusive relationships specifically impact folks with mental illness, check out this mental illness and relationship abuse fact sheet from Safe Place, in Austin, TX.


[i] Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (n.d.). Mental health: What a difference student awareness makes. Retrieved from

[ii] American College Health Association (2012). American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment II: Reference Group Executive Summary Spring 2012. Retrieved from

Keeping Your Mind and Heart Healthy: Mental Illness & Dating Relationships Part 1

Any relationship can feel strains when one of the partners has a bad day. For folks struggling with mental illness, letting their partner know they’re having a bad day is made significantly more difficult due to the stigma of their struggles and the complexity of disclosure of a mental illness to an intimate partner. Mental illnesses affecting college students vary and may include disorders related to anxiety (e.g. generalized anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, etc.), mood (e.g. depression, bipolar disorder, etc.), or eating (e.g. bulimia or anorexia nervosa).

mental-illness-sketch-2Before we get into the reality of dating relationships wherein one or both partners has a mental illness, I’d like to toss out some myths about folks with mental illness. Contrary to what recent media coverage of the Sandy Hook tragedy may be implying, having a mental illness does not make you a violent and/or dangerous person. Studies actually show that folks with mental illness are more likely to be victims of violence than to perpetrate it[iii], and are even more likely to be victims of violent crime than those without a mental illness[iv]. While mental illness may be portrayed in television and movies as something that leads folks to an inevitable life spent in hospitals or prisons, folks with mental illness often lead typical lives going to college, working, and dating, just like anyone else.

Here are some tips for folks navigating that (it turns out, not so unique) situation!

Let’s start with some tips for partners of folks with mental illness:

  • Use Person-First Language and Behavior
    Your partner is a person, individual, and a bunch of wonderful things other than their illness. Don’t refer to them in a way that categorizes them as a disorder, and instead reflect in your language what you know to be true: that your partner is a devoted fan of How I Met Your Mother, a hardworking Russian Language and English Lit double major, a lover of sweet frog and Carolina basketball, a supportive friend, and a super-hot and hilarious individual, who happens to have a mental illness.  e.g. Your partner is not “anorexic”, your partner is “a person with anorexia”.
  • Respect Your Partner’s Privacy
    Mental health is a really private thing for most folks, so even if your partner is open about their struggles to others, don’t take it upon yourself to share their story or press for details or feel entitled to know everything about the origin, onset, or current treatment of their illness.
  • Be Flexible
    Be understanding and patient with your partner surrounding things that may be particularly difficult for them as a result of their illness. Depending on their particular struggles, this may involve not eating out for dates, hanging out in small groups rather than going to huge parties when you spend time together, avoiding certain sexual activities, or various other things. How do you find out how you can support your partner and not unknowingly agitate their symptoms? Communicate with your partner and ask, instead of assuming.
  • Play Fair
    Don’t throw a diagnosis into an argument where it doesn’t belong, or use your partner’s illness as an excuse to treat them unfairly.
  • Remember Self-Care, and Seek Out Support for Yourself
    Although you may care very much about your partner and it may be understandably frustrating to watch someone you care about struggle with a mental illness, it is not your job as their partner to “fix it”. You can however, be a resource for your partner. Just as you would recommend the Learning Center for a friend who is struggling with classes, you can let your partner know about the resources available at CAPS at UNC Campus Health. You may want to seek out support for yourself, by joining UNC’s campus chapter of NAMI or perusing NAMI’s website for local support groups available for partners and family members of people with a mental illness.

If you’re interested in learning more about mental illness and college students, check out National Alliance on Mental Illness’ 2011 survey report College Students Speak.

[iii] Appleby, L., Mortensen, P. B., Dunn, G., & Hiroeh, U. (2001). Death by homicide, suicide, and other unnatural causes in people with mental illness: a population-based study. The Lancet, 358, 2110-2112.

[iv] Hiday, V. A. (2006). Putting Community Risk in Perspective: a Look at Correlations, Causes and Controls. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, 29, 316-331.

50 Shades of Curious: Beginning a BDSM Conversation with Your Partner

BDSM is an acronym for bondage, discipline, and sadomasochism. BDSM activities can range from light slapping, to bondage, to intense use of sex toys and other tools. Despite what popular media may like us to believe, there are no significant differences in rates of psychopathology, depression, anxiety, OCD, and psychological sadism and masochism between folks who practice BDSM sex play and those who don’t (Connoly 2006). In essence, folks who practice BDSM are not violent, they aren’t “crazy”, and their BDSM practices don’t leave them psychological troubled. According to the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, approximately 18-20% of folks have been blindfolded during sex, 30-32% of folks have tied someone up or been tied up during sex, and 38-50% of folks have been spanked during sexual activity.

Knowing that so many folks engage in BDSM, and that it doesn’t have to include being locked up in a basement dungeon…are you thinking you may be interested?

talk first, then play
talk first, then play

Communication is the first step to exploring BDSM with a partner. Be clear about what you want, what you’re open to exploring, and what your limits are. It’s also important to keep in mind that your sex partner(s) may be exploring BDSM for the first time, or they may have previous experience.

Just as you would like your sex partner to do for you, it’s important to:

  • be respectful of your partner’s limits
  • be willing to explore their desires
  • not criticize, ridicule, or poke fun at their sex play interests
  • uphold agreements and privacy

There are helpful worksheets  and checklists you can print out to get the conversation started, which list a range of light to intense BDSM activities and provide space for you and your partner to voice whether you think each sounds super-hot, is something you’re up for discussing, or is something that is off-limits.

ready to explore?
ready to explore?

The urge to engage in or explore consensual BDSM may be confusing for some folks, especially those who identify as feminists, whose ancestors have historically been enslaved or beaten, or folks who have experienced sexual assault or relationship abuse in the past. For more dialogue on the reconciliation between BDSM play and feminism, check out feminist sex and relationship columnist Jessica Wakeman’s articles First Time for Everything and Slap Happy and Sylvia Fox’s article Reconciling Feminism with an Interest in BDSM which can be purchased online or in print.

thumb.phpBeing a survivor of interpersonal violence who is interested in BDSM does not necessarily mean you have not healed from your experience.  Abuse and assault are not about sex, they’re about power and control. BDSM is about the consensual play of dominant and submissive sexual relationships and mutual arousal resulting from these activities.  Just as a survivor of interpersonal violence can maintain or regain interest in sex after being assaulted or abused, they can also regain or become interested in consensual BDSM.

Here are some red flags that a BSDM sex partner may in fact be abusive:

  • Ignoring safe words
  • Not respecting your limits, negotiations, agreements, or contracts
  • Pushing you into a D/S relationship too quickly
  • Belittling your ideas or suggestions for sex play
  • ONLY interacting with you in a kinky or sexual manner as if they are always role-playing
  • Threatening or coercing you into engaging in submission or BDSM activities outside of your comfort zone

Check out the books The Loving Dominant (Warren & Warren, 2008) and The Ultimate Guide to Kink: BDSM, Role Play and the Erotic Edge (Taramino, 2012) if you’re interested in learning more about BDSM practices and the BDSM community.

If you’re concerned you or someone you know may be being coerced, pressured, or forced into engaging in sexual activities they’re not ready for or aren’t interested in, check out the information and resources at or the Orange County Rape Crisis Center.

Connoly, P. (2006). Psychological functioning of bondage/domination/sado-masochism practitioners. Journal of Psychology and Human Sexuality, 18(1).

Relationship Violence Awareness Month

October is Relationship Violence Awareness Month (RVAM), and UNC’s schedule of powerful events is in full swing, including The Carolina Men Care Campaign, which begins today October 9th  and continues through October 16th. The Carolina Men Care Campaign focuses on male-identified allies and partners of those who have experienced or are experiencing relationship violence. In addition to hosting events as a part of RVAM, the Carolina Men Care Campaign will be tabling in the Pit all week to provide resources and information on ways male-identified folks can prevent relationship violence and be allies for survivors.

You can learn more about relationship violence by attending campus events, or encourage a friend who you know has been affected by relationship violence to seek help and support by attending one of the month’s events.

RVAM Event Schedule

October 1st-31st Durham Women’s Shelter Drive

October 1st-31st Healthy Relationships Campus and Media Campaign

October 15th-31st The Courage Project

October 9th at 5PM Partners of Survivors Workshop

October 10th at 5:30PM Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes film screening

October 11th at 7:00pm
Healthy Relationships: How Parents Can Talk to Kids (In Spanish)

October 12th Chapel Hill Underground Party

October 13th at 5:00pm Domestic Violence Awareness 5k

October 13th Poetry Slam

October 15th at 6:30PM Men Against Relationship Violence: What it Means to be a Male Ally

October 16th at 7PM Dr. Jackson Katz

October 17th at 6:30pm The Art of Healing

October 23rd at 4:30pm Legitimate Rape? Current Scholarship and the Debate over Consent and Choice

October 23rd at 6PM Communicating with Children about Relationship Violence workshop

October 26th at 7PM Halloween Fun Run

October 28th Domestic Violence Walk

October 30th at 5:30PM The Naked Truth: How Media Shapes Us

October 30th at 7:00pm Film Screening: “Sisters in Law”

     To learn more about what organizations and campuses around the country are going for RVAM, check out the No More Campaign and the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence for other national and international public awareness and advocacy campaigns and for resources for those who have experienced relationship violence.

Breast (Cancer?) Awareness

While we have sadly become accustomed to marketing and advertisements using sex to sell us our clothes, cars, beauty products, alcohol, and the 27 workout DVDs they tell us we need after drinking all that alcohol and to fit into those clothes, using sex to advertise and fundraise for a deadly disease strikes me as more than a bit odd. Facebook “campaigns” using sexual innuendos in statuses, Save the Tatas, the controversial “Save the Boobs” commercial, and I Love Boobies bracelets* beg the question: are they raising awareness of the women who struggle with breast cancer and promoting breast cancer prevention, or are they simply raising awareness of breasts?

Now don’t get me wrong, I love breasts, and I certainly feel a tie between my own personal set and my femininity and sexuality. But I also love and care about the women who face breast cancer with grace and courage. Why isn’t there a breast cancer awareness campaign with the tagline, “I ❤ my mom” or my sister, aunt, friend, wife, girlfriend, partner, daughter, etc.? I am not arguing that breasts or the female body should be censored or not used in awareness campaigns for breast cancer, but is it too much to ask that they be shown attached to a whole female? I for one have never seen a campaign for prostate cancer awareness using a picture of a male where his prostate is the focus and his face is cut out as though he isn’t even a full person. This is the case despite the fact that the prostate is a sexual organ and breast and prostate cancer are diagnosed at about the same rate per year (National Cancer Institute)*. Do we really want breast cancer awareness to look this similar to sexualized merchandise advertising that objectifies women?

To be honest, I think it’s pretty obvious why there aren’t any equivalent “I heart scrotums” bracelets and campaigns. It feels like these “I heart boobies” campaigns are specifically meant to draw heterosexual male-identified folks into the fight against breast cancer. What does it say about these campaigns’ perceptions of men if they think the only effective way to get men’s attention about breast cancer is to sexualize it so much so that the focus is on breasts as a sexual object and not the woman to whom those breasts are a part? These campaigns seem to say, “Hey (het) men! You should care about breast cancer because it could affect your sex life!” I’d like to believe (and do) that men are far more intelligent and human than a puppy whose head quickly turns, drooling, at the mention of sex and who is otherwise generally uninterested.

I hope that this October throughout Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we can find some ways to raise awareness of breast cancer, promote early detection and screening, garner support for both research and for people fighting breast cancer, and get male-identified folks involved in conversations and contributions without resorting to the tired old themes of over-sexualizing and objectifying female bodies in the media.

Here’s a breast self-exam sheet you can print off and hang in your bedroom or bathroom (if it’s laminated)!  The Women’s Health Clinic at UNC’s Campus Health also offers breast examinations as a part of their Well Woman’s Examination.

If you’re interested in learning more about the objectification and over-sexualization of women’s bodies in the media, and how these issues tie in to violence against women, check out the films Killing Us Softly (4) and Miss Representation and the student-facilitated media literacy workshop, “The Naked Truth: How the Media Shapes Us” which will be offered on October 30th from 6:00-7:30 in the Genome Science Building, room G010,  sponsored and hosted by the Carolina Women’s Center as a part of Relationship Violence Awareness Month.

*Taken from