Do you remember the first time you had a sex ed class in school? Your teacher couldn’t hide the look of embarrassment on their face as you and the other children snickered under your breath. There’s nothing funnier than a limp condom draped over a blushing banana. Penises. Vaginas. Periods. Semen. All these foreign concepts flooded your senses and as you got older you were taking notes on STI’s and pregnancy. We were being prepared for the wild and often confusing world of sex. As horny teenagers we stepped into that world with the most important lesson of all withheld from us; mutual consent.
No doubt you’ve heard about the Stanford University rape case. Without mincing my words, it is a despicable turn of events. My heart breaks for that poor woman, and at the same time swells with rage at the thought of the scum who assaulted her. That he and his loved ones claim he didn’t know he raped her honestly makes my blood boil.
My parents did a pretty good job of teaching their sons the difference between right and wrong. Having some good old fashioned Catholic morality (i.e guilt) after 13 years of school did the trick as well. Yet when I hear about this case I think long and hard about those sex ed classes, and for the life of me I can’t remember the issue of rape ever coming up in when I was in school.
Never, in six years of sexual education was the topic of mutual consent or rape communicated. I thought that was strange, so I called by brother Shenuk who finished high school five years after me to see if things changed. After a stunned silence he said that they had never talked about in school. Isn’t that bizarre? That at an all-boys school we weren’t taught about consent? Instead, avoiding STI’s and pregnancy was the goal of these classes. How can we be taught how to put on condoms but not recognise that both parties need to consent to the act first?
I spoke to my housemate Claire to get a female’s persepctive. She told me that at her university orientation (this is in 2001) all the girls were instructed on how not to be raped. Taught by a man no less, because that isn’t awkward at all. Meanwhile all the boys were taught how to slide on a condom and then got a tour of the campus. We’ve all watched in horror as a rapist was sentenced to a meagre six months in prison while his family and friends claim that he is the true victim. But when young women are taught that they need to avoid being raped, rather than teach men and women not to rape other people, is it any surprise that cases like that at Stanford transpire more regularly than we’d all like to admit?
Now don’t get me wrong. By no means am I defending the actions of any rapist by saying they didn’t know any better. I’m very sure many are well aware that they are causing their another pain. However, that young men are taught nothing of consent while young women are taught they need to avoid being raped – as if it’s going to happen regardless – is seriously fucked up.
When I was a teenager starting out at uni I found it strange when female friends asked me to walk with them to their cars after a party, or that they’d text me when they got home. “Why would you text me?” I’d think. In my mind they would get home just fine, but it never occurred to me that they thought they could be attacked.
It’s ridiculous that something like algebra is taught across the board, yet rape doesn’t come up in the classroom. I won’t be so narrow minded to say that there are no monsters out there, but not addressing such an important issue during a person’s formative years is absurd. This is the age when we begin to figure out how we conduct our sexual relationships, how can both young men and women not be made aware of what rape is?
I don’t know if there is such a thing as pure evil in the world, but I do know there is a lot of ignorance, and that breeds far more problems.
If you have your own story about consent and sexual education please comment below!