Yale Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies
Volume 2, Issue 1
fall 2011
Editor, Geetanjali Singh Chanda
Managing Editor, John-Albert Moseley
Layout Design: Nick Appleby

Theory into Practice: WGSS helps Yale create a more positive sexual climate on campus

Over the past five years, Yale has been in a period of intense self-scrutiny, evaluating and improving its efforts to prevent and respond to sexual misconduct on campus.  WGSS faculty and students are—no surprise!—deeply involved in this work, helping administrators better understand how sexual violence takes shape within broader cultural dynamics of sexuality, gender, race, and other campus hierarchies, and working to craft policies that more effectively address the problem of sexual misconduct.  The lessons drawn from WGSS’s interdisciplinary scholarship are especially clear in Yale College’s dramatic expansion of its educational programming, led by Melanie Boyd (Women’s Studies major from the class of ’90, a lecturer in WGSS since 2007, and now an assistant dean of student affairs).  Boyd has been writing and teaching about sexual violence for years and has been quite critical of mainstream prevention strategies that stress female vulnerability and call upon men as protectors—strategies that reinforce what one theorist calls the “cultural scaffolding of rape.” “It is an astonishing opportunity,” Boyd says, “to be able to craft prevention programming that tries to dismantle that scaffolding.”  Drawing on the creativity and energy of 40 peer educators, several of whom are WGSS majors, Boyd’s team has focused on empowerment rather than fear, working to foster concrete practices that will build a more positive sexual culture for students of all genders and sexual orientations.

Read companion article by Ryan Mendías ’13

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