At a recent University of Oregon Board of Trustees meeting that in part discussed the issue of sexual assault on campus, board member Ginevra Ralph suggested that the school should analyze what kind of statement the UO cheerleaders make with “overt sexual dancing” in their routines. 

Think Out Loud visited the topic on Thursday with UO professor Jennifer Freyd, who’s been studying the school’s cheerleading program off and on for the past eight years. She’s also examining sexual assaults on the campus.

“We know from observing this behavior, there’s a lot of overt sexuality,” said Freyd. “For most people that I have talked to … it’s not at all the case that they’re prudes. It’s about the type of sexuality.”

OPB received dozens of comments on Ralph’s statement. The comments have been edited for clarity and length:

“No, men should stop raping. It enrages me that it’s even insinuated that women could ‘curb’ sexual assault if they’d only change the way they dress.”
—Marcie Stout, Facebook

“This would not help reduce sexual assaults. The notion that when it comes to sports, the place for women is in sexually charged outfits cheering on the men is a gender equity issue that is only tangentially related to rape and sexual assault. Besides, it is not like cheerleaders are the only women wearing sexy outfits. … a person who attempts to subvert a woman’s consent (through drugs, alcohol, or force) or feels it is appropriate to coerce a woman into sex will do that to any woman he targets, not because a cheerleader routine has innuendos.”
—Derek Lindbloom, Facebook

“… In general, young boys are rewarded for aggression, at least in football, and the concept of having cheerleaders who are primarily female, ‘cheer them on’ does play into that male aggression paradigm. It should not be ignored. Yes, teach boys and young men not to rape. Yes, the perpetrators are to blame and not the victims. Yes, it’s not about sex; it’s about aggression and power. Let’s not ignore the bigger picture, however.”
—Commenter Matt Meskill

“All I can say about people using terms like ‘sexually explicit’ and ‘overt sexuality’ is that filth is in the eye of the behavior. Yes, being attractive is one of the usual qualifications for being a cheerleader. … The problem is not the fault of the women doing a highly skilled, very athletic routine. … My question for Ginevra Ralph is: Why do you feel sexually attracted to these young women, and why are you so uncomfortable with that feeling?”
—Commenter elho

“The answer is NO. This question itself is what needs to be stopped to ‘curb campus sexual assault.’ This question implies that rape is primarily about sex when in fact it is primarily about having power over someone because the rapist feels entitled to do so. This question blames survivors of assault for ‘being too sexy.’ … The best way to ‘curb campus sexual assault?’ Ignore the cheerleaders and focus on the people who are actually assaulting others instead. It isn’t that hard.”
—Commenter sjf

“Teach men not to sexually assault women. No dancing or clothing is responsible for rape. Violent men are responsible for rape.”
—Commenter Char

“Really disappointed with the guest on OPB’s Think Out Loud today. She was discussing whether cheerleaders performing sexually suggestive dances contribute to ‘rape culture’ on campus. Yep, it is 2015 and we are still talking about how women dress and act as contributing to being raped. Infuriating. … We need to do more educating of young men about how it’s never, ever, OK to have sex with anyone who is not saying ‘Yes, let’s have sex.’ Why is this so difficult?”
—Commenter Amanda

“What in the living world is this doing on OPB? Shame goes to you for promoting this idiocy. Whether or not provocative clothing or dancing on the part of a very few women has an influence on incidence of rape on campus, we do not even begin solving this problem by tackling cheerleaders.”
—Commenter Kevin Laxton