Originally published: 04.06.17
Sex is too intimate to compromise.
‘I’d already decided that teen sex was no fun, especially for girls. Too many of my friends told me about the sex they’d had and it sounded horrible. It sounded fast – insanely fast- and unpleasant. And unsatisfying. To make things worse, it seemed that as soon as it went from making out for about a minute to having sex, the boys turned into emotional zombies who got as far away from the girls as possible’.
This quote, from a new book Love, Sex and No Regrets for Today’s Teens, describes the experiences of girls I meet everywhere. Fast, expressionless, meaningless, non-intimate, care-less sex which makes them feel like a masturbatory aid. Boys who know how to give a girl a pounding but not how to make love. Girls desiring authentic intimate connection but finding de-personalisation and emotional disconnection instead.
Boys are learning about sex from porn. Most boys have seen it by 15. They are learning lies about women, what they are good for, what they want. Porn conditioned boys have no idea.
With porn the dominant model, a radical and potent new approach is needed, one that cuts through the distorted ideas porn gives about bodies, relationships and sexuality. With what girls are reporting about being harmed physically and psychologically by porn conditioned boys, in this article on for the ABC network Religion and Ethics points out what is on offer now in regard to sex ed is not working.
A big problem is that much of sex ed is about mechanics (putting condoms on bananas, for example), about STI’s (the ‘disease’ model of sexuality as it has been called) and reproduction. Young people need to know more than where the vas deferens is located. What is lacking is a deeper, broader approach which addresses meaning, values, character, the nature of human relationships and authentic intimacy and connection.
The young people I address ask questions like ‘How do I say no without hurting his feelings?’ and ‘How can we be better men’? We need a comprehensive, respect-based program which enables girls to be empowered to reject premature or unwanted sexual activity, which fosters in them strong sense of dignity, self-worth and confidence, which helps them desire something better: how to shun the cruel boys and the players: learning that being able to say ‘no’ is a sign of self-respect. A program which taps into the good at the heart of young boys well before porn gets a hold and messes them up, which offers healthy representations of masculinity, and which enables them to aspire to be the best men they can be.
Melinda Tankard Reist: I write on sexualisation, objectification, pornification, violence against women, pornography and trafficking and women’s health issues. I am author/ed of four books, most recently Getting Real: Challenging the sexualisation of girls and Big Porn Inc: Exposing the harms of the global pornography industry (both Spinifex Press titles). I am co- founder of Collective Shout: for a world free of sexploitation. Facebook Twitter: @meltankardreist