On more than one occasion, men have been very keen to declare to me how their future daughter will spend her adolescence locked in the house wearing a chastity belt 'protected' from predatory males; quickly followed by how their son will be free to "do as he likes" and "roam free." It seems as if they are expecting me to clap and commend them for being so protective, so knightly. What these men are so blissfully unaware of, is how their misguided parenting ideologies will significantly contribute to gender inequality, and more than anything create delusional daughters and sons confused about consensual sex, sexism and sexual assault. To shelter one gender, and over expose the other is far from the solution to a safer society. Frankly, we are getting it very wrong.
The sexualisation of today's youth is particularly topical at the moment, with the recent suggestions that the age of consent should be lowered from 16 to 15 years old as well as a petition that has been put into motion demanding for age restrictions on music videos. However, when mass media begins to discuss sexualisation, the debate is almost always centred on the sexualisation of young girls. This is a result of the confusion and delusion around female and male sexuality. Had you, like me, watched The Andrew Marr show on Sunday the 17th of November, you could almost presume that young boys are not sexualised, and this particular programme is not alone in it's gender bias coverage. Perhaps as a society we believe boys cannot be sexualised or the sexualisation of boys is not dangerous or as harmful as it is for girls?
There seems to be this mythical misconception that rape is committed by strangers who attack women and girls when they are alone in the dead of night, however the Official Statistics bulletin produced by the Ministry of Justice, Home Office and the Office for National Statistic published in January 2013 revealed around 90% of victims of the most serious sexual offences knew the perpetrator. This misconception directly influences teenagers misunderstanding of rape and consensual sex. Channel 4 News recently reported the Office of the Children's Commissioner report, which revealed teenager's attitudes towards sex and rape. Blaming the victim was a large part of the revelation and as Deputy Children's Commissioner Sue Berelowitz, told Channel 4 News, on the 25th of November ""Even when sex takes place under forced circumstances, they tend to blame the girl for putting themselves in a position where they ended up having sex. So, they may understand she didn't want it, but they still blame her for someone having sex with her against their will." My observation of the Channel 4 report is that it exposed that teenagers both male and female believe it is the girls responsibility not to be raped or assaulted, not the boys responsibility to not rape. I felt slightly discontented with the presenter's persistence to draw attention to the overtly sexualised Miley Cyrus. Surely, it is naïve, apathetic, and obstructive to suggest a 21 year old American woman is responsible for British youths misunderstanding of sex? However, this seems to be the general presumption made by the press.
The University of Surrey and Middlesex University produced a study, which found that when people were presented with descriptions of women extracted from 'lad's mags' and quotes about women from convicted rapists, they could not distinguish the difference between the two. Society, mass media, and popular culture is becoming increasingly sexualised, however this is not in conjunction with the increase of sex or gender education. Like the men I described at the beginning, I expect this ideology on how to parent daughters and sons is prevalent, and as parents continue to hand their daughters rape alarms and their sons condoms I continue to worry what this means for the youth of today. As rape Crisis reports "the Government statistics released in January 2013 estimated that 85,000 women are raped on average in England and Wales every year, that over 400,000 women are sexually assaulted annually, and that 1 in 5 women (aged 16 - 59) have experienced some form of sexual violence since the age of 16." As writer, media activist and sex educator Carina Kolodny, wrote in her Huffington Post, blog post 'The Conversation You Must Have With Your Sons' on the 9th of June 2013, "It seems that the 'don't get raped' angle is not a successful strategy for curbing this pandemic. In fact, it is counter-productive as it perpetuates a culture where men don't feel the need to take responsibility."
The constant bombardment of messages that disapprove female sexuality and jubilate male sexuality creates confusion about what sex and sexuality really mean. As author of 'The Lolita Effect' M G Durham, wrote "I despise the social double standards that celebrate boys' 'studliness' and condemn girls' desires." Let's start talking about what sex means to both young girls and boys with the objective of ridding ourselves of this inflammatory proverb; boys will be boys.