Have your kids been following the election? What have you said to them about Trump’s “locker room” talk?
Our culture has really confused people about what sexual assault is, even though it’s really a very simple concept. How did this happen, and what can be done about it?
I think a lot of it has to do with women being portrayed as sex objects by the media. We absorb those messages even though we hardly talk about them. In the last few decades, seeing women flaunt their bodies became a new normal. The revealing clothes or the sexy pose isn’t a true expression of how she’s feeling; instead it’s in service of something else: selling a magazine, a record, or a movie. What was thought of as “liberation” actually brought new chains. Girls and women feel pressure to be “hot” at all times, not for their own sake but so that others will enjoy looking at them.
As soft porn became normal in advertising, hard core porn became the dominant pornography. We retained the attitude that looking at porn is harmless and that most boys and men will consume porn, but this is different porn with different effects. Today’s porn isn’t sweet seduction – it’s “body punishing,” to quote Cordelia Anderson (here’s my interview with her), who has studied pornography for 40 years. Men and boys are watching women and girls be violently abused, and the successful actress makes that abuse look like she enjoys it. This porn is harmful, especially for teens.
Women seem to have bought into this fantasy too. We’re more concerned with how we look than how we feel, and too few of us are taking responsibility for the cultural standard we’re helping to create.
Take Ellie Goulding’s hit, Love Me Like You Do. It plays on the radio, as the theme song to Fifty Shades of Grey – it’s everywhere. The title seems innocuous enough but have you listened to the chorus? You’ve sung along with it, I’m sure, but have you realized what you’re saying?!?
Yeah, I’ll let you set the pace
Cause I’m not thinking straight
My head spinning around I can’t see clear no more
What are you waiting for?
My God, Ellie, what are you saying?!? Are you intentionally encouraging rape? Ceding power and submitting (“I’ll let you set the pace”) and continuing despite “not thinking straight,” is the opposite of enthusiastic consent. And then to follow that with “what are you waiting for?”, as if it’s shameful to not take advantage of the situation! All sung as if this is what she really deeply desires?!? Good lord, this is exactly the problem, and we absorb these messages without really thinking about them.
What we actually need is some very clear, straight talk about sexual assault and media messages. That means, you have to talk about it. You’re so used to ignoring it, but your kids are seeing it and absorbing it and are very very confused. Whether it’s the Yale frat boys chanting “no means yes and yes means anal” and laughing it off or Brock Allen Turner, this generation of boys and men need our help thinking critically about consent and sexual assault and media messages.
So, back to Trump, here’s a video that I encourage you to share with your kids. You could say, “hey, check this out” and then play it for them. Then ask, “What do you think?” See if you get a good conversation started. Write back and tell me how it goes!
In support of you,