Recently I wrote in the RedEye about a North Dakota study that found 30% of young men would rape if they weren’t caught…and if you didn’t call it rape. It as a scary study but one that was not to surprising to me. We try to teach young people about consent in such a mechanical disconnected way I don’t see how anyone can actually relate it to their lives.
If we want to decrease sexual assault on college campuses, we need to work with our young men to help them unyoke masculinity and sex. Rape culture isn’t a woman’s issue—it is really a hypermasculinity issue.
Beyond teaching our young men that their gender identity is not tied to the amount of sex they can coerce, we also need to change how we teach kids about sex. The University of North Dakota study also found that men who intended to use force to get sex also tended to score high on sexual callousness, meaning they were detached during sex and saw sex as a depersonalized act instead of something intimate.
In a way it makes sense. We teach sex in a disconnected, dispassionate way. We talk about reproductive organs and put condoms on bananas. We create strict lines and boundaries on chalkboards that nowhere resemble what actual sex looks like.
We don’t teach our kids how to talk to their partner during sex, how to listen to their bodies or their partners’ bodies, how to ask for sex, how to say “slow down” during sex, how to stop in the middle of sex, how to start again. We don’t teach them about the maybes of sex, the negotiations, the connection or the intimacy. We teach sex as mechanical, a matter of logistics, not what it actually is—a highly emotional, complex act between two (or three or four) people.
We need to teach our young people that sex can be this fun, healthy, silly, sexy thing. It isn’t as big as we make it to be. It isn’t unspeakable. The more we break the silence about good sex, the easier it will be to stamp out the bad.