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Focus group discovers a lack of consensus on what constitutes sex

Want to get a college student’s attention? Pizza and talking about sex is all you need.

This is exactly what a focus group led by Dr. Alison Simons, assistant professor of sociology, offered in March.

“We are going into Sexual Assault Awareness Month,” Simons said. “I had the thought, what exactly is sexual assault? How do we, especially as girls, know whether or not we’ve been sexually assaulted? I wanted to look and see if women and men have the same grasp on what exactly is sexual assault and how they define it.”

The focus group was open to all Wesleyan students. It met every Friday in March in room 106 of the Oneal –Sells Administration Building. All students were given free lunch.

Simons and her students will present research drawn from the focus group next week at University College Day. This week Simons and McKenzie Brown, a junior religion major, will present research at the Southwestern Social Science Association conference in Denver.

Texas Wesleyan will participate in Sexual Assault Awareness Month with Tuesday’s Day of Action, which will include several events on the mall from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. There will be a “Slut Walk” and booths by campus organizations and clubs.

There will also be a “Sole Survivor” display at the library entrance. The shoes will symbolize college students who are sexual assault survivors, according to The shoes will be donated to sexual assault survivors via The Women’s Center and local hospitals.

Wesleyan will host the Rev. Dr. Stephen V. Sprinkle of Texas Wesleyan University’s Brite Divinity School on Thursday. He will discuss sexual violence and injustice beginning at 12:15 p.m. in room 117 on PUMC Chapel.

The focus group had some surprises, Brown said.

“The most surprising overall response from students, in my personal opinion, is the lack of consensus on what constitutes sex,” Brown said. “There are many differing opinions on this, and we’ve seen a wide scope in the groups we’ve been able to hold so far, which goes to show the necessity of engaging in dialogue regarding sex and consent.”

The research is specific to Wesleyan, Simons hopes that it extends to other universities.

“Wesleyan is a unique university,” she said. “We would love it if researchers at other universities also take it on and try to research if the same thing goes on at their universities.”

Brown said that students can apply the things they learn about sexual assault to their own relationships and interactions with others.

“If there was one thing I would personally want students to learn from this study, it would be the importance of not only self-awareness, but awareness of one’s partner when engaging in or talking about engaging in sexual activity.”

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Focus group discovers a lack of consensus on what constitutes sex