The Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), a private university in the eastern part of New York state, has apologized after a student orientation session suggested that students masturbate as a way to prevent sexual assault.
Freshmen students attended the mandatory 90-minute “Alcohol and Chill” presentation to teach students how to prevent instances of sexual misconduct.
One of the presentation’s 77 slides featured an image of Roo, the child kangaroo from the Winnie the Pooh storybook series, and his name turned into an acronym for Rub One Out, a euphemistic idiom for masturbation. The text at the bottom of the slide read: “Self-gratification can prevent sexual assault.”
The presentation was designed by the Student Counseling and Psychological Services Office, Center for Student Conduct and Conflict Mediation, Center for Women and Gender and the office of the Title IX Coordinator.
Darci Lane-Williams, the director of RIT’s Center for Women and Gender said, “At no point did we say that masturbation is a deterrent to rape. We were talking about situations in which someone may want to do something sexually, and their partner withdraws consent and what options they have if they find themselves sexually frustrated once they leave.”
While some students found the slide humorous, others found it offensive.
An 18-year-old female RIT freshman told the Cut:
It made me very scared to say that I have experienced sexual assault. Because now I get the impression that people on campus think it is a joke. I am concerned that if I ran into an issue like that again, or want to talk about my previous experience that it wouldn’t be treated as a serious issue by administrators. It made me very uncomfortable, and I felt like I was being insulted.
RIT President David Munson issued an apology, stating:
We apologize to anyone who was offended by a slide that was included in our new student orientation. While we are committed to having open and frank conversations on these important topics, we pledge to take such sensitivities into account in any future programs.
Many U.S. students do not receive any sort of comprehensive sex education such presentations all the more vital.
Annie E. Clark, co-founder of End Rape on Campus, said:
Students need accurate information that explains that sexual violence is a serious crime; they need to know that if they choose to commit this crime there will be consequences. This solution of masturbation that the school presented is overly simplistic, and not helpful, and not accurate. Sexual violence is a targeted crime that people choose to commit, and to reduce it to something that can be solved by masturbating I think is highly uneducated and very misguided.
The kerfuffle over the slide coincides with U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ recent announcement of intentions to roll back Obama-era Title IX guidelines requiring schools to more aggressively investigate cases of sexual misconduct.