Cross-border behavior in associations: ‘The closed culture does not help’

When they had to do research for a paper, Ann-Awen Quenet, Jeanne Gachet, Renee Verhoeven, Emma Leeuwenhoek, Julie Dewaerheijd and Ellen Burghardt knew right away that they wanted to talk about sexually transgressive behavior. “Three of us are Dutch, and they got the idea to do a survey about the student unions,” says Ann-Awen.

As international, Ann-Awen, Julie and Jeanne did not know the associations. Julie: “I thought, okay, that does not sound very exciting. I did not think we would find anything interesting. But God, I was so wrong! “

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Not immediate action

What they saw in their research is that members who have sexually transgressive experiences often downplay that experience. They usually do not do so immediately either, for example by making a review. “They do not want to be known as someone who has been through something bad,” Ellen says. Still, it becomes a different story once their girlfriends have experienced it. “Then they become more confident, they feel they have to stand up for their friends.”

While the associations have a formal complaint procedure for cross-border behavior, the female members prefer not to have the matter dealt with through the official channel. This for fear of their reputation. “They have a hard time being vulnerable and they do not want to put anyone else at risk. In addition, they do not want to be known as a reason why a fellow student, for example, has been expelled by the association, ”Ellen explains.

Instead, they use gossip to exclude or warn people. “You notice that they prefer to shop behind closed doors, which is fascinating. As if they are thinking: I will fix it myself, because no one else is doing it ».

Reacts grinning

Almost all student associations have confidential advisers that members can turn to for inappropriate behavior. “Not all of the students we interviewed knew about this, and most did not take advantage of it,” Ann-Awen said. “It shows, among other things, that sexually transgressive behavior is not properly discussed in the associations. That the possibilities for calling for help have not been clearly communicated. ”

In addition, there is some dialogue about this between male and female members. “When women talk about sexually abusive behavior, male members usually respond with a smile. It’s not taken seriously, guys make fun of it and change the subject,” says Julie. “So female members avoid such a conversation because they are not taken seriously.”

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Alcohol culture

The closed culture in the associations does not help either, says Julie. “According to our respondents, very cross-border behavior takes place during ambiguity or club rituals. And it is emphasized to them that history must remain in the association. “

Often, female members try to excuse sexual harassment by blaming alcohol. “They say: he did not mean it, he did it because he was drunk. Or it happened because I was drunk, so it was not entirely his fault, “Ann-Awen said.

female perspective

For this study, the twelve female members of four Rotterdam student associations were interviewed. At the beginning of each interview, they asked respondents what constitutes sexually transgressive behavior. “What was interesting was that they have the same definition, which is all behavior that goes beyond your boundaries, from the way they are viewed or sexually explicit comments to abuse or sex without consent,” he says. Ellen.

They only interviewed women because they wanted to bring out the female perspective. “Although we were also interested in the stories of male members, we feared that the boys would provide more socially desirable answers,” Ellen says. “We wanted to break away from the male perspective and focus on the female experience.”

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Easier than expected

Was it difficult to find female members who would talk about this? Julie: “It was not as difficult as I thought. As soon as we found one person, we got several contacts through her. That’s how it started to roll. In addition, we are also students ourselves, so we met many fellow students who join an association while they were leaving. ”

Ann-Awen adds: “Probably the survey and the interviews went smoothly because we are also women and peers. Because we understand each other, they felt more free and safe to share their story.”

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Part of the Thesis

Sexually transgressive behavior among students

Two out of three students state in a study from Erasmus Magazine that they sometimes …

  1. Want to know exactly what sexually transgressive experiences we measured in this study? Then read this statement.

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