Most students at Binghamton University can say they’ve been to State Street on the weekends, eager to blow off steam after a stressful week. Although it’s a hassle to wait for the bus among the sea of other students trying to get to Downtown Binghamton, it is always worth it to go out and forget about stress. However, the atmosphere on State Street is completely different than the one on campus, and women are often subject to unwanted advances from our male counterparts.
Most women who have been to State Street can attest to being approached by a guy, whether in the bars, waiting for a cab or even mingling with friends outside. Men, when mixed with alcohol and a sense of confidence, tend to acquire a false sense of entitlement to women’s bodies. It is unacceptable that men will say things like “Fuck you!” or “You’re just a slut anyway” when they are rejected. Men are never entitled to women’s bodies, and many fail to recognize this.
Although this is a universal problem, its occurrence on State Street is more alarming. Since the majority of people on State Street are BU students, this becomes an on-campus issue as well. There is a looming fear of sexual assault, as its occurrence on college campuses is rising at an alarming rate. We have all heard of people like Brock Turner, the former Stanford University student who only served three months in prison for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman. Although many of our male counterparts might not realize it, this is a valid fear for women, and unwanted advances on State Street simply make this fear stronger.
In 2014, BU was placed on a list of 55 universities and colleges to be investigated for their handling of sexual assault reports. Although the University was ultimately removed from the list, it is troubling to know that there were complaints against Title IX compliance. This is not to say that the University was guilty of noncompliance, since it was removed from the list. However, there is little transparency in cases of sexual assault that BU faces. BU students, especially female students, should not have to live with the looming fear of sexual assault when interacting with men on State Street.
Nonconsensual advances toward women Downtown are not only scary and often traumatizing, but they also perpetuate rape culture, in which sexual violence against women is normalized and excused. Additionally, it is often the case that men will not leave when a woman says she is uninterested. Women often have to say they have a boyfriend or enlist the help of another male to get out of the situation. It is unacceptable that men will often only respond to threats involving other men, not when women say they are not interested. This is another aspect of rape culture — undermining women and our freedom.
This is not to say that all men make unwanted advances toward women while Downtown, nor does this mean that all advances are unwanted. Many people do indeed go to State Street to meet new people, potentially looking for a hookup. When interactions between people are safe and consensual, this is not the problem. We have the privilege of going to State Street to let loose and blow off steam, and there are certainly many situations in which people can meet and have a positive interaction.
Going to State Street is a large part of the culture of BU students. I know that our culture and values at this University are not based on causing harm to one another; thus, these occurrences on State Street, and in general, must be put to a stop. This is not something that can be stopped by one person or one gender — it will take the efforts of all students to eradicate this issue. If you see something, it is imperative to say something. Bystanders cannot remain silent and complacent in these situations. We are all members of the same community and we always need to look out for one another. Instead of teaching women not to wear revealing clothing or not to drink too much, even though they have the freedom to do so, men must be taught to respect women’s wishes. No one is entitled to anyone else’s body simply because there is alcohol involved.
Emily Kaufman is a sophomore majoring in English