Student editorial: New documentary explores today's 'hookup culture'

Posted at 4:40 PM, Feb 28, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-28 17:40:18-05


Emmy-award winning screenwriter and Baylor University Professor Sarah Jane Murray, as executive producer, will join fellow filmmakers in screening their documentary Liberated: The New Sexual Revolution at the Hippodrome on Wednesday evening.

Liberated documents the casual sex culture among college students, something that has become commonplace in the media. Murray and the creators of the film have found that through the media, messages about what it means to be a man or woman have inadvertently entered the conscience of young people, specifically the 18-30-year-old group the film targets. The crew, backed by Christian production company Exodus Cry, filmed what they saw while on Florida and Mexico beaches during spring break. They returned with footage riddled with graphic content.

“You have to listen to what the reality of the camera is revealing when you show up,” Murray said. “They decided to go back again the next spring break and they found that this normalization of sexual violation was everywhere. And we were so shocked.”

In light of the recent sexual harassment allegations on Baylor’s campus, Liberated highlights a subject relevant to the Waco community. According to a survey completed by the Baylor Title IX department in 2016, sixty percent of students who reported their harassment said they were violated on campus.

Elizabeth Wellinghoff, Training and Prevention Specialist at the Title IX office, notes that reports of assault following spring break are commonplace, mirroring reports at other secular universities. This issue is not out of sight out of mind; it is happening right here.

Now more than ever, discussions about sexual harassment and violence are becoming more common nationwide and at Baylor.

“There is just this awareness and removing of a stigma towards those that have experience with sexual violence,” Wellinghoff said. “They’re starting to come out with a strong voice and saying we deserve more justice and more of a voice, and we’re not gonna be quiet anymore.”

With its recent addition to Netflix, the film has become much more accessible. As a platform typically enjoyed by young people, Murray believes more students will opt into the conversation about sex culture that Liberated has contributed to.

“This is not an uncommon thing in today’s world,” Murray said. “I lament that it's not an uncommon thing, but a lot of students who have seen the film...[have said] ‘I’m so glad we can talk about this.’”

Faculty member Sinda Vanderpool, Vice Provost for Academic Enrollment Management and mother of a Baylor student, hopes the screening will further the discussion among students and members of the community.

“As a Christian university, we need to be discussing why and how our culture has gotten here and figuring out how to create a culture that values human connection as God intended,” she said.

The event Wednesday will feature a panel, giving audience members a chance to discuss the documentary with its creators. While the event may not be for everyone, considering it includes graphic images some may find disturbing, Murray hopes it will spark critical thinking and discussion among the college-aged demographic. She strongly believes that the needle is shifting, and Baylor students can lead the charge in denormalizing casual sexual behavior.

The film will tour nationwide, at both secular and religious universities. Murray looks forward to the change Liberated will generate in all communities.

“I think that’s an important conversation for general culture to have at the moment, and for Christians to have at the moment because the reality is, it's pretty prevalent. And people are not happy with it being prevalent,” she said. “But if we don’t start conversations about how to change the culture, then we are inadvertently allowing it to continue.”

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