Here is something I heard on NPR recently, and it ought to scare the heck out of parents: A large percentage of male college freshmen get the majority of their sexual “instruction” from pornography or from their peers.
Stop to consider this for a moment, particularly in light of the recent news stories about rapes that have taken place on college campuses. Young men are being indoctrinated into the ideas that other young men (who are at the height of their male identity devlopment and wanting to appear as knowledgeable, experienced men when it comes to the ladies) put forth as their expert opinion of how to interact with women. This may be fueled by misogynist fantasies portrayed in porn. The message being laid down is often that women “want it”, women like to be forced, women are the sexual “handmaidens” of men — and the unfortunate bottom line, that NO doesn’t necessarily mean no.
Our young men are being handed a load of destructive misinformation. Acting upon this, with the added desire to come across as manly men to their male peers; and there is a perfect storm brewing for a whole range of sexual misconduct, up to and including rape.
The campaign against this needs to begin before the college years. Young men (and women) need to be told about the above misinformation pipeline and its horrible wrongness. Correct information about boundaries and respect needs to be given. Young women need to be reinforced in their right to say NO, and young men need to learn that this is their right. Also, women need to be continually reminded not to put themselves in danger, including what to look for as red flags in their dates. Young men need to be helped to understand that all of that portrayed in porn and bragged about by their peers is not reality and has nothing to do with being a real man.
This can start in Family Life Education in schools before college, and certainly parents need to take the subject on. Other organizations that have the opportunity to speak to youth should also consider it. This also means that kids need to be able to feel comfortable asking questions and be able to expect honest answers. Abstinence has a place, and makes sense. However, we must also face the reality that many of our sons and daughters will be sexually active before marriage, and talk openly with them. These opportunities may even provide a springboard to include the benefits of abstinence. However you do it; please take this seriously. If you are uncomfortable talking about sex with your kids (or your college age young adults), please find some adult that you both trust to fill in for you or to whom you may refer your child. It is the only way to keep ahead of this serious problem.
Life is tough enough without adding this dangerous concoction of information to the challenges our children must navigate as they move in to adulthood.