ROCHESTER, N.Y. — A university that during a student orientation session showed a slide that appeared to suggest masturbation as a deterrent to sexual assault has apologized.
The Rochester Institute of Technology’s slide featured the Winnie the Pooh character Roo, using the kangaroo character’s name as an acronym about masturbation. A screenshot of the slide was shared via social media and included closed-captioning at the bottom that read: “Self-gratification can prevent sexual assault.”
Roo was short for “rub one out.”
Critics said the slide made light of rape and blasted the idea that masturbation could curb someone’s urge to commit sexual assault. University officials said the screenshot was taken out of context and the discussion addressed options available should a potential sexual partner withdraw consent.
“The overarching goal was to increase awareness and promote discussion about the ways we together can prevent instances of sexual misconduct on our campus,” Sandra Johnson, senior vice-president for student affairs, said in a statement shortly after the late-August presentation.
She said the controversy over the slide, one of 77 shown, “serves to underscore the complexity involved in addressing this issue.”
University officials declined to discuss the episode Thursday, referring The Associated Press to comments published in The Chronicle of Higher Education attributed to Darci Lane-Williams, director of RIT’s Center for Women and Gender.
“At no point did we say that masturbation is a deterrent to rape,” Lane-Williams said. “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.”
The session called “Alcohol and Chill” was part of a five-day student orientation program, RIT said, and was meant to promote “awareness, prevention, bystander education and risk reduction.”
“In our experience, telling students what ‘not to do’ without talking about specific situations that are difficult to navigate is irresponsible; we addressed the subject from a place and context that students could understand,” Johnson said.
The statement was followed several days later by an apology from RIT President David Munson to anyone who was offended by the slide, which he said was part of mandatory educational programming on personal responsibility and sexual behaviour.
A 2015 New York state law aimed at reducing campus sexual assaults requires colleges to educate students and staff about affirmative consent.