By Samantha Krier
Parents tend to try to protect their female children from sexual assault by any means possible, which mostly means limiting their freedom. The same attitude does not tend to apply to male children because many parents feel that male children are stronger and will not be overtaken by female children. Further, they feel as if males will welcome any attention from females, and could not be raped or assaulted in the first place. This creates a double standard in the way that male and female children are raised. This double standard causes differences in the way that males and females are viewed, which cause societal issues in the way that genders are treated. This is especially true if someone is not a Cisgender male or female, in which they might be treated badly because they do not identify as the typical male or female.
This double standard continues into adulthood, where parents are still afraid for their daughters’ safety, but they do not worry so much about their sons’ safety when it comes to sexual assault. I know that when I went to college, I was given so many pink security accessories that I had nowhere to put them all. I had a pink, heart-shaped keychain accessory that when pressed, sounded an ear-shattering alarm. I had pink pepper spray that I had to take off my keychain because I was afraid it would go off in my purse. I had a little black Kubaton, which was a stick that you put on your keychain to use if you got attacked in a parking lot. All of these accessories were gifts from my parents for when I went to college. This isn’t unusual. Girls get pepper spray while boys get condoms.
This is because women are at a higher risk for sexual assault when on college campuses. 11.2% of all students experience it during their time at college. This why women are given rape whistles. Men, on the other hand, are given condoms because this is the time when they are expected to have more sex. Parents understand these two ideas, but they do not seem to link them together. They understand that their daughters are at higher risk of being assaulted, but not that their sons are at higher risk of being a perpetrator. Parents will try to protect their daughters from sexual assault by every method except teaching their children consent, self-control, and empathy. If parents taught their children these things, they could save someone else’s child from sexual assault, which in turn would save their own children.
This cognitive dissonance occurs when parents buy their daughters rape whistles and playfully give their sons condoms. Parents know that rape is statistically higher in college, but they only protect their daughters. They firstly do not understand that the statistic is for both children, but they also do not think that their sons would rape someone. I understand, because most parents know and raise their children from when they were small and innocent and they stay that way in parents’ minds. No parent ever wants to hear that their child committed a crime or hurt someone. No parent wants to believe that. Most of all, no parent wants to think that they were the reason their child hurt someone.
The #MeToo movement is just starting to shed light on how widespread sexual assault and sexual harassment are, and it is a topic that is finally getting some attention. Men and women are now able to tell their stories without being drowned out by those who support the perpetrator. The Harvey Weinstein conviction was a huge win for this movement, and was a step in the right direction in making sure perpetrators get justice. I feel that in past generations parents did not really understand why their children committed crimes like this. The link between these behaviors and how they were raised was unknown or ignored. Consent has only been a popular topic online recently, as many men and women did not understand it. Many people did not understand the difference between a consensual sexual encounter and sexual assault, which is terrifying.
Because consent is a new topic, many parents of college-aged adults or older did not have the chance to teach their kids about it. They may not have thought they needed to teach the concept, so their kids never learned it. Parents that are raising children now need to make consent a part of the sex talk. Make it a huge part of the sex talk. (We also need to expand sex education to make it comprehensive in order to take into account all parts of the spectrum and all -or most- situations, but that’s a whole other post.) The way that we can reduce these horrible statistics is to educate our children and other adults on topics like these. The future generation will be better for it and treat each other more considerately.