Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Rape Culture vs. Sex Ed.

 April was Sexual Assault Awareness Month.  I know, I know…it’s the first of May.  But I couldn't let the month of April melt away without posting something about the rape culture that is permeating our society. 

Some facts:
·         1 in 4 girls and 1 in 7 boys are sexually assaulted before the age of 18
·         1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men will be sexually assaulted at some point in their lives
·         60% of sexual assaults go unreported
·         97% of rapists will never spend a single day in jail

In 2013 a video surfaced out of Saint Mary’s University in Canada:

During the backlash surrounding the viral video, President of Students’ Association, Jared Perry, admitted his own involvement with the gathering, but said he and everyone involved “showed a ton of remorse.”  Just a ton of it!  Afterward, he made a comment I believe is definitive of the culture we live in today:

“It’s one of those things you don’t realize until after the fact.”

It reminds me of the story of Sylvia Likens, an Indiana girl who was tortured and sexually abused until her eventual death in 1965.  What is most startling about Likens’ story isn't that she was sexually abused at the hand of children, but that the children had no idea they were doing anything wrong.  More to the point, they were following their culture.  Similarly, there is something fundamentally wrong with young women essentially painting a “RAPE HERE” sign on their chests, and then settling back to wait.

Earlier this week, a 14-year old Massachusetts boy was arrested and charged as an adult in the attempted murder/rape of his 8-year old cousin.  According to WUSA9 Boston, the boy held the girl hostage with a pair of scissors as he attempted to rape her.  Now, I am in no way suggesting this boy’s actions were anything but abhorrent but--charged as an adult?  Our brains are not even fully developed until our mid-to-late twenties, and there are some experts who say that a child’s developing brain is not dissimilar to a sociopath.  Besides, our ideals about sexuality develop through the culture we live, and sexual socialization begins at home.  So what in this boy’s life made him rationalize this behavior?

I feel like we can’t hold this boy solely accountable for his actions, no more than we can blame the students of Saint Mary’s for submerging themselves in the rape culture permeating every aspect of college life.  We live in a culture which likes to narrowly define our sexual mores.  But sex is not a narrow subject, nor is it always pretty.  There is a dark side to sex, perpetuated by our sexual ignorance, and it is past time we strip away our cultural taboos and have a real conversation.  

Sexual socialization begins at home, so educate your kids.  Not just about the biology, but teach them about pleasure and intimacy, as well as STIs and rape.  It will be an uncomfortable conversation, I have no doubt, but it is better than the sexual misconceptions that often get our youth in to trouble.  And maybe, eventually, we can move past this ideology of sexual assault that has permeated our society for far too long.    

Sexual assault is a somewhat personal matter to me, and one I will more than likely be discussing a lot in future posts.  No one should feel like they need to deal with sexual violence alone.  Below are some links.  If you or anyone you know has ever been a victim of sexual assault, I encourage you to contact someone.  Believe me, there are people out there who can help.

Works Cited:

Kingkade, Tyler. “Saint Mary’s Students’ Pro-Rape Chant Condemned After 5 Years of Use”.
Huff Post College. Huffington Post, 6 September 2013.  Web.  30 April 2014.

“14-Year old charged as adult for raping 8-year old girl.” WUSA9, 26 April 2014. Web. 30 April

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