Should We Teach Middle School Boys About Rape?
Laurie Halse Anderson is worried that young boys don’t understand what rape is- and that this ignorance can ruin lives later on. The author of one of the most widely read Young Adult novels about rape thinks its time to make sure that from a young age, boys understand in crystal clear terms what is and isn’t okay.
Halse Anderson’s YA novel Speak originally came out in 1999, and has sold over three million copies domestically to date. The story is told by Melinda, a young high school student who is raped at a party by an older boy. She finds herself unable to express her crisis in words, causing her to be ostracized be her peers until she can cope and explain to them what happened.
Speak has become required reading at schools across the country, and Halse Anderson visits many to talk with students. But as she told The Atlantic Wire, she was disturbed to find that many boys were confused as to “why [Melinda] was so upset”:
“I heard that so many times. The first couple dozen times I sort of freaked, and then I got down from my judgmental podium and started to ask questions. It became clear that teen boys don’t understand what rape is.”
She goes on to say that many people still believe rape is only committed by “a stranger in the bushes with a gun.” (In reality, two-thirds of rapists are known to their victims.)
Additionally, it is difficult for parents and teachers to see young boys as potential rapists- it is just assumed that when the time comes, boys will make good decisions. But as Halse Anderson’s discussions show, many young men are genuinely surprised to learn that they must receive explicit consent before sex- not just the absence of a “no.”
The author is even open to the idea of more YA novels written from a rapist’s point of view.
As with many issues of sexuality, waiting until teens are sexual active to discuss this could be too late. Not only do young men and women need these lessons before the situations arise- but as another expert interviewed for the article points out, this lesson must be introduced early to be ingrained with young people’s innate sense of right and wrong.
What do you think? How and when should young people be introduced to ideas that will prevent rape?
[via The Atlantic Wire]