I see an article in today’s SMH about yet another survey about sexual culture and mores which, of course, is in no way influenced by gender stereotypes.
Sex-education classes are failing to teach young women the skills they need to resist having sex they will later regret, an academic has said…
…Often neglected was the importance of teaching young women negotiation skills so that they could resist pressure from their peer group and partners.
Researchers at the University of Western Australia interviewed 68 girls aged 14 to 19 about the first time they had sex.
Read the whole article. What is missing here? Yup, that would be boys. And men.
I’m so sick of this deeply-entrenched idea that it is the responsibility of women and girls to police the boundaries of sexual behaviour and that, as we’ve seen in the Matthew Johns furore, men and boys are simply aggregations of brainless erectile material that can only be corralled, never asked to take responsibility themselves. As I’ve said elsewhere, and many have said before me, that view isn’t particularly complimentary to boys, is it?
I’m all for teaching girls to be more assertive, naturally. It comes with the territory of feminism. But not where it’s intended merely to compensate for boys’ bad behaviour. Why didn’t this study advocate behaviour modification as a necessary element in sex education for boys? Why can’t sex education address the rape myths and other toxic elements in our culture that keep the same bad things happening year after year?
As the events of the last few weeks have shown us, again, it’s not all about the girls.
(Update: H/T to Lauredhel for the totally-not-blaming-girls image, found on a page displaying the same article in the Independent Weekly.)
Crossposted at the Balcony
Categories: arts & entertainment, gender & feminism, law & order, media, violence
Folks like the person you criticized above seem to think boys don’t have peer pressure to engage in sexual activity to be ‘masculine’, even though they may not feel ready.
I wonder who those anonymous ‘researchers at the University of Western Australia’ were. The way such studies are mined as a source of media commentary is sometimes interesting and often annoying, especially if it means misrepresenting the terms of inquiry by journos with an agenda… I agree that in this case it sounds in this case like a dodgy survey, though…
Word. When I read that I thought, gee what about teaching the boys not to pressure the girls? That the world doesn’t start and end with their penis?
Of course, that is true.
However, this research is specifically about the girls. It is entitled “Perceptions and experiences of first sexual intercourse in Australian adolescent females”, is based on interviews with:
So don’t boys influence sexual behaviour too?
Firstly, I thought the study was quite biased given the respondents were taken from sexual health clinics – many of them may have already experienced negative consequences from sex. And I’m not sure how 68 girls from a specific source is representative of the wider experience of all teenage girls.
Secondly, I’ve been so very frustrated in conversations over the Matthew Johns furore for this exact reason. No-one seems to understand my point that the use of power borders on coercion and at some point men have to be the ones responsible for not using their numbers or physical size to coerce sex.
Hey Helen, good post. I did a quick one on it yesterday as I was discomforted by the way it set girls up as the ones who should ‘resist’ sex – that boys want sex and girls don’t, that it’s a favour that girls do, that they should withhold if they want it to be ‘special’ (and special seems framed quite narrowly) – I’m bugged by the compulsory heterosexuality, the ‘good girl is the one who resists’ idea etc – my take was that girls need to be equipped to learn about their bodies and its various pleasures alone and to also know that *if* they want sex with a boy that that’s ok too, and that if the sex was crap that’s not their fault/because they didn’t ‘resist’ – and that some more frank discussions about what we expect from sex would appear more productive than just giving them skills to resist while leaving all the rest in place.
But in ranting so hard on *that* aspect I didn’t go into this really important question. That even equipping girls with the skills to resist – when as as they want to – is not going to resolve the issue of girls being pressured/coerced/forced into sex if boys are not required to take responsibility for the ethics of their actions.
If I implied that, it wasn’t intended. The point I was trying to make was that the study appears to be aimed at documenting the attitudes and experiences of teenage girls. Presumably from that, you can look at the factors that shape experience and make policy recommendations.
The media release for the study details that,
That is, there are a number of different factors that were identified as leading to negative experiences, including coercion from partners, presumably at least some of whom are male.
I completely agree with the sentiment that men need to take responsibility for their behaviour. I also don’t think that this paper, as a documentation of female sexual experiences, is at all at odds with that, and I certainly don’t think that the paper is advocating female assertiveness to compensate for egregious male behaviours.
What I do think is that it would be very good to look linked sexual behaviours — ie. talk to both partners involved.
Ahh, so once again the media have got it all wrong. How surprising.
Jose Jones, what I meant by “it’s not just about the girls” was “must we always be examining female behaviour in relation to bad male-female interactions”. Even in an all-female sample, surely conclusions might have been drawn about boys’ behaviour needing to change?
Lauredhel has pointed out to me a completely eyerolling photo which was used to illustrate the article in one paper. I’ll put it up soon as I have cooked and eaten this delicious noodle dish which I wish you could smell from wherever you are.
Disagree – it’s continuing a pattern of seeing women and girls as the gatekeeper of sexuality.
Now back to those noodles…
It’s ok, I’ve got it – this was in the Independent Weekly (Fairfax) article:
Oh Lauredhel @ 11 – No FUCKING way!!!! I’m gonna have a fucking aneurysm! Ok. Women as temptation to ‘sin’, women as men’s ‘downfall’ (tricksy tricksy whores – look all ‘raised eyebrow let me tempt you to cast you down – they have ALL the power’). ALSO she’s like 30 plus, so really a shitty illustration even IF all the rest wasn’t misogynist horseshit since it’s SUPPOSED to be about girls/young women and their first sexual experiences whereas this screams ‘Lookout older temptress – out ta getcha’. Which just reinforces for me my beef with ‘resist’ – it all seems to go back to the whole Madonna/Whore dichotomy that society can’t quite seem to get the fuck over when it talks about girls/women.
(Wish I’d known you were going to put it up L, I huffed and puffed thru your very different platform for uploading images – good practice anyway.)
FP, that is the older women who is teaching the younger women to be such temptresses. Der.
Mmmm, those noodles were good.
I’ve never used that system Helen – I just throw it onto flickr and paste in the img HTML…
Maybe we disagree on this, but I would argue that the research is merely a source of evidence that women and girls still are often regarded (by society) as the gatekeepers, rather than continuing that pattern as such. Not that there is a shortage of such evidence.
Like all research this can be presented in a light in which it was not inteneded to be seen, and that misses the point entirely. Case in point, the Independent Weekly.
Okay, the article: typical. But the picture is… ARE YOU KIDDING ME? EVE THE TEMPTRESS? LKDJGLSKDG
So, boys learning “how to resist sex” isn’t important enough to include in the article, but that doesn’t mean *boys* aren’t important. In fact, any kind of sex education for girls is really all about how to get them to stop using their feminine wiles to corrupt them.
That’s about it!
It sounds as if they’re flat out teaching the boys that it’s their JOB to pressure girls for sex.