Research seminar: February 18, 2020


Sexual Citizens: A Landmark Study of Sex, Power and Assault on Campus

February 18, 2020

Shamus Khan, PhD
Professor and Chair
Sociology Department
Columbia University

Despite the enormous recent attention to campus sexual assault, the public conversation has been dominated by either psychological (sociopathic predators) or legal (questions of adjudication and due process) perspectives. "Sexual Citizens: A landmark study of sex, power and assault on campus" radically reframes campus sexual assault as a public health problem — a perspective that is obvious to public health insiders, but not one that has shaped policy or institutional responses in the way that it needs to.

"Sexual Citizens" is based on years of research interviewing and observing college life — with students of different races, genders, sexual orientations and socioeconomic backgrounds. This study reveals the social ecosystem that makes sexual assault so predictable, explaining how physical spaces, alcohol, peer groups and cultural norms influence young people’s experiences and interpretations of both sex and sexual assault. Empathetic, insightful and far-ranging, "Sexual Citizens" transforms our understanding of sexual assault and offers a roadmap for how to address it.

In addition to "Sexual Citizens," Shamus Khan is the co-author of several other books, including "Approaches to ethnography" and "Privilege: The making of an adolescent elite at St. Paul’s School," and has written regularly about sociology in the popular press, such as The New Yorker, The New York Times and The Washington Post. He was awarded his PhD at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.