Sexual Citizens book cover.
Published on: Feb 20, 2020

Columbia University professors Jennifer Hirsch and Shamus Khan will share their research into what college students want out of sexual encounters and how misunderstandings about sexual encounters may potentially translate into sexual assault, at a free, public talk taking place 6:30-7:30 p.m., Monday, March 2, in the HUB-Robeson Center's Freeman Auditorium on Penn State’s University Park campus.

Hirsch, professor of sociomedical sciences at the Mailman School of Public Health, and Khan, professor of sociology and chair of the department of sociology, will discuss their book, “Sexual Citizens, A Landmark Study of Sex, Power, and Assault on Campus, based off of the study, Sexual Health Initiative to Foster Transformation (SHIFT), codirected by Hirsch and Columbia Clinical Psychologist Claude Ann Mellins.

“Hirsch and Kahn will be digging into perceptions of sexual assault on college campuses,” said Michelle Frisco, event coordinator, associate professor of sociology and demography, and associate director of the Population Research Institute at Penn State. “The authors approach sexual assault as a public health problem and explain it by setting out a broader understanding of how sexual encounters are understood and misunderstood by young people in college.

Conducted in the late summer of 2015 through January of 2017, Hirsch and Khan’s research team directed over 150 interviews, as part of the broader SHIFT project, which alsosurveyed more than 1,600 undergraduates about their histories, relationships, experiences with sex, and experiences with assault.

In Sexual Citizens, the authors developed new concepts to help explain the forces in young people’s sexual lives: sexual projects (the various motives college students have for pursuing sex), sexual citizenship (the possession of one’s sexual agency, and the respect for another’s), and sexual geographies (the landscapes, both physical and social, that shape the power dynamics and contexts of sex).

Hirsch and Khan suggest new approaches to help reduce sexual assault on college campuses, offering guidance for students, parents, school administrators, policymakers and the public.The talk is being sponsored by Penn State’s Population Research Institute, the Gender Equity Center at Penn State’s Office of Student Affairs, the Criminal Justice Research Center, the Departments of Sociology and Criminology and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, and the Social Science Research Institute.