How do we navigate the sociological landscape of teaching sexual consent?
In the post #metoo movement, we are in uncharted terrain in terms of how we navigate the sociological landscape of teaching sexual consent. Raising boys who are growing into modern men in this era, can be tricky. The question arises, how do we help them shift out of the patriarchal culture of male entitlement and help raise them with a sensitive awareness regarding respect and sexual consent? In the same way that we need to build up our girls to be strong advocates for themselves, we need to help guide our boys to be conscious, sensitive and strong while advocating that women’s right are human rights.
The collective consciousness has made a profound shift due to the voices of women being raised and heard around this country due to the women’s movement and the fall of some male giants like Harvey Weinstein. However, there’s a fear that there is a bit of a witch hunt perpetrated on males simply for being born a male. As with anything, cultures shift like a pendulum, righting themselves hopefully with some kind of advanced awareness and greater understanding. For too long, we have lived in a state of male entitlement regarding women’s bodies. In everything from the prevalence of sexual harassment, control of women’s bodies with reproductive rights to rape and violence toward women.
We must stop and take a hard look at the inequities of our culture in regards to sexual consent.
As recently as 2016 the Brock Turner case gave a clear wake up message for anyone doubting white male privilege. In this case, a judge gave the shockingly lenient sentence of 6 months to a Stanford University swimmer who sexually assaulted an unconscious young woman because he didn’t want to impede upon his promising swimming career and young life. Begging the question of how much consideration was given to the young female victim and how her young life was shattered. In a culture where we’re just waking up to the reality that countless women have been sexually harassed at some point with the flood of #metoo confessions, we have had to stop and take a hard look at the inequities of our culture in regards to sexual consent.
For our boys growing up in this culture, a conversation at an early age is an important start. Teaching self control of their own bodies and aggressions is an important step when they are young. As well as teaching them respect for others and the feelings of others at a young age. Having a family pet to be gentle with or a stuffed toy to love can help foster feelings of empathy and consideration for the feelings of others. But one of the most important tools we can give our young boys when they are young, is a voice and a space for their feelings. The old paradigm of “Man Up,” and “Boys don’t cry,” has proved to be incredibly destructive to the psychological development of boys. As parents, it is our job to offer a safe space to foster a more evolved expression of male emotion.
We must talk to our sons about sexual responsibility and how respecting women is essential.
As our boys enter into middle school age and beyond, how we talk to them about sexual responsibility and respect of women is essential. We must allow them to process rejection and heartbreak and heal through the inevitable pitfalls of young love and blossoming sexual curiosity. Teaching our boys self respect and compassion for others opens them up for a new kind of socio-sexual landscape based on mutual respect, awareness and fair treatment. By bringing their awareness to the continual shifts in thinking, as we step away collectively from a society that has for too long accepted the objectification of women, perhaps this next generation of men will stand with us hand in hand to create a more fair society of sexual consent and mutual respect that benefits us all.