The Personalist Project

"People commit sexual assault because they feel entitled to other people’s bodies and disregard other people’s right to consent."


This resource link from the University of Michigan repeats the above statement multiple times in their answers to sexual assault misconceptions. They could say it a hundred more times and it wouldn't be too many.


People commit sexual assault because they feel entitled to other people’s bodies and disregard other people’s right to consent.


Not because women dress seductively or men can't control themselves or out of sexual frustration or in response to loose sexual mores or because of the influence of alcohol or sexualized imagery or whatever else.


People commit sexual assault because they feel entitled to other people’s bodies and disregard other people’s right to consent.


Sexual assault comes from the attitude that other people's bodies are objects for use. It comes from treating people as passive objects, not acting subjects.


People commit sexual assault because they feel entitled to other people’s bodies and disregard other people’s right to consent.

Why do people commit sexual assault?

Why do we at the Personalist Project believe so fervently that our world needs an every-day personalism, needs examples and guides for an accessible, applied Christian personalism?

We so quickly fall into the error of treating our bodies as distinct from our selves, as vehicles for pleasure or use. From there, it's a short step to treating other people's bodies as incidental vehicles for pleasure or use, as with the young man who argued quite seriously to me a while ago that pornography use isn't objectification because it is about fantasy, not about the person who allowed their body to be photographed or filmed to create the fantasy--as though the body can be separated from the person and used without harm to the "real" person.


When we objectify the body, we objectify the person.

When we claim that desire or intoxication or sexual imagery or immodest dress or flirtatious behaviour or hormones are "causes" of sexual assault, we objectify assailants just as they objectify victims. Our bodies are us, and we act through and with our bodies as subjects, and our actions reflect us and form us.

When an assailant chooses to take what was not offered to him, his actions are his, body and soul together. He is not an object passively acted on by outside factors. He is an acting self. 

Why do people commit sexual assault? 

Because they believe other people's bodies are objects for use. Because they do not recognise or do not care about the subjectivity and autonomous self-hood of other people. 

Or, in other words: 

People commit sexual assault because they feel entitled to other people’s bodies and disregard other people’s right to consent.

To quote from the late Terry Pratchett, from his novel Carpe Jugulum:

“There’s no grays, only white that’s got grubby. I’m surprised you don’t know that. And sin, young man, is when you treat people as things. Including yourself. That’s what sin is. 

“It’s a lot more complicated than that . . .” 

“No. It ain’t. When people say things are a lot more complicated than that, they means they’re getting worried that they won’t like the truth. People as things, that’s where it starts.” 

“Oh, I’m sure there are worse crimes . . .” 

“But they starts with thinking about people as things...” 

We all, at one point or another, find ourselves tempted to objectify other people--for entertainment, for pleasure, as a target for our frustrations, as a scapegoat, as a caretaker, as a project. We impose our will on others--for their own good, because we know better, to make our lives easier, to attain an ulterior end, to fix a problem or to build ourselves up. 

We seek positions of power, authority, or influence, and vulnerable people, so that we can get the things we want or have an advantage against a world that feels unfeeling and scary. 

We feel entitled, and we disregard others' agency. 

Why do people commit sexual assault? 

It "starts with thinking about people as things." 

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