We Tell Girls to "Look Out For Each Other" At Parties. Boys Should Be Looking Out For Each Other, Too.
In a perfect world, a girl could pass out completely naked on a fraternity floor and no one would touch her.
However, we do not live in a perfect world. We live in a world where girls and women have always been told not to go anywhere alone; not to go outside at night; and to keep an eye on each other at parties.
But considering how rape accusations have the power to royally fuck up a boy's or man's life, why aren't we also telling them that they should look out for each other?
Why is it always, "Keep an eye on your girlfriends, and make sure if she's too drunk to consent, she doesn't leave with some strange dude?"
It SHOULD be, "Keep an eye on your guy friends, and make sure if he's trying to leave with a girl who's too drunk, you intervene."
After all, we know that alcohol is involved in huge percentage of college sexual assaults. There are those on the far left who would freak out at me for acknowledging this simple truth. But, look. I'm not saying, "Women need to drink less so men don't rape them."
I am saying that to solve this problem, we need to fully understand the problem. Alcohol is involved in most sexual assaults, because alcohol is a double-edged sword. It affects girls and women more quickly than men, due to differences in our biology, meaning girls become incapacitated more quickly than boys. BUT it also reduces boy's and men's ability to accurately assess a situation — as well as his partner's willingness, enthusiasm, and ability to consent.
Maybe you believe — maybe you know in your heart — that your son would never rape. Maybe you're right that he would never rape on purpose, but if his understanding of consent is limited while sober, but now alcohol has impaired his ability to gauge his partner's enthusiasm and intoxication level, he could still end up violating a girl in a horrifying way that lands him in legal or disciplinary trouble.
Several psychology studies show that, even sober, men tend to assume women are flirting much more often than they actually are. Basically any instance of a woman smiling and making eye contact (what women would call "basic human courtesy and politeness") is considered a sign of sexual interest.
This problem is undoubtedly compounded in boys who have been streaming exploitative, raunchy, violent, and degrading porn since they were 10. Before they've even held hands with a girl — and often before they've even begun feeling sexual attraction toward them — they've seen an endless variety of actresses seducing random, gross, fat old dudes, and screaming in ecstasy when anally penetrated.
Men shouldn't rape, obviously. But we're talking about a generation that, due to streaming porn and stunted communication skills, has completely lost touch with reality. Psychology research shows that many boys and young men have a very narrow definition of rape. To them, if you didn't hold her down and violently force her, it wasn't rape. If she consented, then withdrew consent, but you didn't stop, they think it's not rape. If she said no, but you did it anyway, and she didn't scream and try to gouge out your eyes, it wasn't rape.
(See also: The Comical Hypocrisy of Men Who Say Women "Shouldn't Have Put Themselves in That Situation.")
The problem is compounded even further by the introduction of alcohol. Men always think women are flirting, even when they're not — and the problem gets even worse when they're drinking.
We know that rape can destroy women's lives.
But rape allegations can also mess up men's lives. Obviously, men should avoid raping for the sake of not raping because women are human beings who deserve not to be raped. But bad choices can have serious consequences, and that is exactly why we need to teach boys and young men to look out for each other the way we tell girls and young women to look out for each other.
Of course, it's not a perfect solution. Just as men are likely to assume every woman they ever talk to is showing signs of sexual interest.... male observers are likely to think women are showing sexual interest in men they're talking to, too.
Here's an example.
The other night, I was out at an open mic. While I was performing, one of the men in the audience got so drunk he started puking. Later, I ran into him at a different bar. He reeked of vomit and pukebourbon. He was still very sloppy drunk. We spoke for a few minutes, and then I left.
The guy's friend later told me he was surprised we didn't hook up.
I was just like.... "Ew! How could you POSSIBLY think that? Because I spoke briefly with him, the same way I spoke briefly with several other men I knew socially?! Would YOU make out with someone who literally just finished puking? Actually — you probably would. But I could barely stand the smell just from talking to him across a table."
And not to be like, OMG I'm SO HOT, but I am very physically attractive (#ChooseBeautiful). This pukey drunk guy, even sober, is only okay. It was legitimately bizarre to me that an "objective" outside observer could possibly think there was any way a hot, sober girl was going to go home with a pukey, average-looking drunk.
All of this is to say, even if we do tell guys they need to look out for each other at parties, it's still not a perfect solution, because I don't think most guys — even adults — are very good at honestly, accurately assessing a situation, whether as actors or observers.
Which is why, even if we tell boys they need to look out for each other at parties, parents still need to talk to their kids about sex — and not just how babies are formed and how to use a condom.
Parents need to talk to their kids about porn. Pretending it doesn't exist because it's awkward to talk about is only going to set kids of both genders up for confusion, dissatisfaction, tremendous sexual violation, prolapsed rectums, and even legal trouble.
A lot of parents mistakenly think their sons and daughters don't want to talk about porn — but author Peggy Orenstein found, over the course of hundreds of interviews she conducted for her latest book, Boys & Sex: Young Men on Hookups, Love, Porn, Consent, and Navigating the New Masculinity found that
Yes. Boys REALLY WISH their parents would talk to them about porn, sex, intimacy, and consent.
That shit is confusing, disturbing, and misleading, even for adults, not to mention LITERAL CHILDREN.
You may think your sons "wouldn't" or "shouldn't" watch porn, but Orenstein found that the vast majority of boys do use porn (sometimes, so often that they are desensitized and impotent in actual sexual encounters with actual girls and women)...
AND that most of them first encountered at an an unexpectedly young age.
AND that most first encounters weren't even intentional.
Whoever your son is, and whatever you think he intentionally would or should do, he will encounter porn with regularity.
As a responsible parent, you need to figure out a time and a way to talk about it. (Boys & Sex provides some really useful tips.)
Additionally, parents need to talk about consent: when and how it can be given; how sometimes girls and women freeze up when they feel intimidated or scared, and that does not constitute consent; how only a small percentage of rapes are violent, hold-her-down-and-rape-her rapes, and he rest are more like "gray rapes" that involved alcohol, drugs, coercion, and pressure, rather than violence.
Parents of sons need to discuss these things with the urgency and seriousness parents of daughters use to teach girls to always guard their drink so no one roofies them.
Parents of sons need to teach their sons to watch out for their guy friends the same way parents of daughters tell girls to watch out for their girl friends.
About the Author
Eva is a content specialist with a passion for play, travel... and a little bit of girl power. Read more >
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