Our Guidelines in the Media

Summary: In this lesson students will each receive an example of sex or sexual assault portrayed in the media.  Through research and rhetorical analysis the students will decide what messages this sends about sex and sexual assault.  This helps prepare students for a future short writing assignment (“Our Guidelines on Campus”) in which they have to find their own portrayal of sex in the media and analyze it similarly.  As a part of that future writing assignment students will complete a survey about their example in which they list the messages conveyed. By using messages that appear on the survey, this lesson helps students understand what the survey is asking and helps them contribute more accurately to our data-created picture of campus.


Learning Objectives:

  1. Students will practice rhetorically analyzing the messages about sex and consent in the media.
  2. Students will use their information literacy skills to research and contextualize the media example they are given.
  3. By giving a short informal presentation on their media example, students practice their delivery, organization and teamwork skills.


Class Materials:

  1. Students will need laptops for this lesson
  2. Identifying Messages media examples and worksheet
  3. Discussion questions printed or projected
  4. Class Guidelines printed or project


Student Assignments:

  1. 2-Week Curriculum: assign for next lesson: Laws My Be Ineffective article by Clifton B. Parker


Outline for Class Activity:



  • Introduction (5 min): Remind students of the guidelines they created in the last lesson, and that those lessons are not only standards for behavior, but therefore also a set of messages or values that could be reflected in people’s attitudes and in the media.  They are going to spend the day looking at examples and deciding what messages they send about sexual assault based on their guidelines.




  • Small Group Activity Part 1 (5-10 min): Give each group an example of sex portrayed in the media.  On the Campus Culture Project blog is a packet with examples, though feel free to use your own as well.  Give one example to each group and ask them to rhetorically analyze it using the Identifying Messages sheet.


    1. Does this example reflect the values we’ve set forth in our Guidelines? Give each group member time to look at the example individually and mark their Identifying Messages sheet.  Then discussed what you marked as a group. If people disagree, share your reasoning, but you do not have to come to a consensus. Make a note of the disagreement to ask the class about later.
    2. How is the example sending these messages?  What visuals and text give you the clues to arrive at that message?
    3. Who do you think is the intended audience for this example?  How do you know? How might the messages be different for different groups?


As groups continue to work, circulate around to prompt students to deeper investigations or to reinvigorate conversations that are slowing down.



  • Small Group Activity Part 2 (10 min): Once most groups are wrapping up the first round of questions, ask them to get out their laptops.  They will spend the next ten minutes or so putting their example in context. As before circulate around the room to help students and help along slowing conversations.


    1. Where did this example come from? Who made it?  When did they make it? What were their primary goals in creating this rhetorical artifact?  How do their primary goals relate to the unintended messages you see in the example? Do the messages help/hurt the primary goals?
    2. What does your research tell you about the intended audience for this example?  Does it change anything you wrote question C above?
    3. In what other ways does this information help you understand this example better?
    4. Create a short informal presentation to give to the class about your example. Write at least two questions you’d like to pose to the class, things that you weren’t sure about and wanted to open up to a larger discussion.



  • Informal Presentations and Discussions (20 min): Allow each group to present and lead a short discussion about each example.




  • Wrap Up (5 min): Now that the students have practiced using their guidelines to analyze sample rhetorical artifacts, they will use this same process to evaluate the campus around them.  In what ways does our campus reflect our guidelines? In what ways does it not? In the next unit of the Campus Culture Project they will learn how to take these guidelines and use them to change campus culture and keep their peers safe.