I just attended my 10 year high school reunion. Aside from being distraught at the thought that 10 years have already passed and wondering where the time has gone, I also started thinking about the role that my high school education has played in my life. Specifically, I was thinking about the education that I received on the subject of sexuality, or should I say the lack of education that I received. As previously mentioned in my other blogs, I attended a Catholic high school. This high school never talked about sex, unless it was in reproductive terms or in the context of heterosexual marriage.
According to Women Against Violence Against Women the rape statistics in Canada are staggering, with 1 in 4 Canadian women being sexually assaulted in her lifetime. I heard this statistic recently repeated at an event I attended, and I began to think about my "education" on the subject.
I remember the day that they showed us the video on rape. It was during a physical education class, and our teacher, simply put the video tape in the machine and pressed play. The movie that proceeded told the story of a young girl (in university) who went out on a date with a popular "jock". After going to a party or a movie, her date felt that she "owed" him and proceed to sexually assault her. Now the point of the movie was to let us girls know that we shouldn't be pressured into sex, that we had the right to say NO, and that if we ever were to find ourselves in this situation, we should not be afraid to tell someone about it. After the movie was done, there was no further discussion, the class bell rang, and we went on with our day.
The reason that this memory sticks out in my mind is because I as a woman have been told over and over again and in many different ways, that I need to protect myself from situations of violence, and that if I should ever find myself in such a situation, I should have enough confidence and strength to tell someone about the incident so that something can be done.
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However, it so happens that my husband went to the same high school as I did, so when this memory came back to me, I asked him if he received the same sort of education, or instruction that sexually assaulting a women was "not okay" or if their was any talk about the possibility that he may find himself as a victim of sexual assault, his answer was no. So why is it that I have had many years of learning how to protect myself, but my husband (who is exactly the same age as me) has had no education whatsoever on the exact same subject? In fact "a survey on date rape found the 60 percent of college-aged males indicated that they would commit sexual assault if they were certain they would not get caught."
Our society expects that young boys will just automatically think that it is wrong to rape a woman. However, what makes us think this? We are always telling boys that physical violence is not appropriate for solving disputes on the playground, so shouldn't we also be telling them that physically and sexually assaulting women is wrong as well? Why are we asking only women to burden the "responsibility" of avoiding sexual assaults by either not dressing a certain way, or visiting certain places, or "leading a man on"?
Part of our challenge as sexuality educators is to cross the gender barrier and talk to our young men and boys about sexual assault. In order to change attitudes about violence against women we must include everyone in the educating process, not just those who we feel are more at risk. Bringing males into the discussion at every age group is imperative if we are going to stop sexual violence.