Ernest Owens
The Ernest Opinion

Credit: Ernest Owens / The Daily Pennsylvanian

Before reaching the age of 18, 60 percent of black girls will have experienced sexual abuse at the hands of black men.

I was disgusted and outraged when I read this in a report done by Black Women’s Blueprint.

Even though the sample size examined was not very large, the implications of this study are immensely sound. My personal observations suggest that women are also highly objectified in our media. I am not here to preach to the converted, but perhaps the problem persists because some people are still not listening.

Hypersexual images and ad statements that degrade women pervade our campus on flyers and banners on Locust Walk and beyond. One ad I came across even dared to have a woman’s rear end completely exposed.

The line has been officially crossed. As a university that advocates for gender equality and the welfare of its students, we should not encourage or endorse campus organizations that objectify women.

“Sex sells … shock value is what draws people to the parties,” said an anonymous member of Kappa Alpha Psi, the black fraternity that recently hosted “Cuffing Season,” a party that raised funds for charity.

People often make the excuse that promoting their event with sexual images guarantees maximum revenue, but I beg to challenge this narrow mindset. The justification for exploiting a woman’s body in order to raise money for charity is perhaps one of the most socially counterproductive things that I have ever heard in my life.

The social cost of such behavior grossly outweights the financial gain. The American Psychological Association supports this by stating that “ample evidence testing these theories indicates that sexualization [of women] has negative effects in a variety of domains, including cognitive functioning, physical and mental health, sexuality and attitudes and beliefs.”

Other studies have also shown the correlation between the objectification of women in media and instances of sexual assault and harassment. For College junior Becky Duncan, the co-programming chair of the Penn Consortium of Undergraduate Women, campus advertisements with explicit images can cause problems, “especially in party settings where alcohol and other drugs are readily available and people’s judgments are further inhibited.”

“It makes me feel unsafe among both male and female peers who normalize these mainstream messages and perpetuate these ideals that lead to the objectification of women and ultimately lead to violence,” she added.

It is neither logical nor ethical to profit from dehumanizing another person. The objectification of women on images across campus creates an uncomfortable situation for many students and faculty. These people should not be forced to avoid settings such as Locust Walk simply because they do not condone what is being forced into their hands. We should fix the problem instead of turning the guilt and responsibility on the victim.

Pennsylvania law prevents sororities from having official parties. As a result, women on campus often attend fraternity parties to stay social. This is where the problem arises. Male-dominated organizations design flyers and women have little input in what appears on them.

This creates a vicious cycle, which was affirmed by an anonymous Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity member who recently promoted his fraternity’s charity party, “Naughty” with an image of a scantily-clad woman with an exposed rear end. When asked about the material used to promote his fraternity’s party last Friday, he said, “that’s the way it is.”

But I am taking a stand today to declare that this is not going to be the case anymore.

I call upon all campus leaders, students, faculty and staff to re-evaluate the Student Activity Council funding that goes to certain organizations to use racy and explicit images in their promotions.

After all, “Penn students are burgeoning leaders and will have the capacity to effect great change in our society’s cultural and social norms around gender-based violence but that has to start right here on campus,” said Nina Harris, the violence prevention educator for the Penn Women’s Center. “It is all of our responsibility to deface the stereotypes and social stigma that the media around us has produced.”

We know better, so we should do better. For this truth lies within our University’s own motto, leges sine moribus vanae — laws without morals are in vain.

Ernest Owens, an Undergraduate Assembly representative, is a College sophomore from Chicago. His email address is The Ernest Opinion appears every Friday.

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