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A new prescription for tackling sexual violence

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How some advocates are looking to dismantle rape culture using public health strategies.

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When Tahir Duckett talks about consent with elementary and middle school boys, he often talks about video games first.

“If I just hop on your Xbox without your consent, what’s your response?” Duckett says he asks the boys. Almost always, the young boys he’s talking to say they’d fight him.

“They recognize something about their consent has been violated,” he says, speaking with ThinkProgress. “We ask them to interrogate how it feels to have your consent violated. Is that anger? Are you hurt? Are you betrayed?”

And usually, that’s exactly how the boys say they feel. The question, then, is why those answers often change when Duckett presents a romantic or sexual situation where someone doesn’t consent.

“A lot of times we’ll talk about it in those types of concepts, and then we’ll shift to maybe saying, ‘OK, you’re going out with someone, your partner for two months, and [they invite] you over to their house, right? And their parents are out of town, have they consented to anything?’” Duckett says. “That’s where you’ll start to get more pushback.”

When presented with this situation, Duckett says the boys sometimes start to say things like, “Well, she knows what she’s doing by going over to his house while his parents are out of town.”

“And then you can dig in, and…talk about what we were just talking about,” Duckett says. “What’s the assumption, can [you] still say no?”

Duckett is the founder and director of ReThink, a group that works with adolescent boys (and, in some cases, older men) to help them rethink cultural norms about toxic masculinity and rape culture. The group has been working in schools in the Washington, D.C. area, holding sessions in which the ReThink team spends several days with adolescent boys talking about rape myths, consent, and toxic masculinity.

In recent weeks, their work has begun to feel prophetic.

Last month, a wave of allegations against movie producer Harvey Weinstein opened the door for a subsequent avalanche of accusations against other powerful men, including James Toback, Mark Halperin, Charlie Rose, Roy Moore, Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), and Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), just to name a few. While a few have been punished or reprimanded, the majority have been able to escape any major consequences.

Additionally, a recent study done by researchers at Columbia University makes clear that the issue isn’t confined to rich and powerful titans of industry. The study found that 22 percent of students surveyed had experienced sexual assault since starting college, with particularly high rates for lesbian, gay, and bisexual students, as well as for gender-nonconforming students and those who had difficulties paying for basic necessities.

In other words, as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said, backtracking after defending Conyers on Meet the Press Sunday, we’ve reached “a watershed moment on this issue.” It’s also prompting questions about what comes next, what avenues are available for justice, and how to cut rape culture’s long, toxic tentacles — which is exactly what ReThink is trying to do, starting at adolescence.

A public health approach

ReThink uses traditional public health strategies — data collection, treating high-risk individuals, changing behavioral norms — to address sexual violence with young boys, working to control the “disease” and change behaviors and beliefs of those who might catch it.

It’s a strategy that the authors of the Columbia study recommend, based on their findings.

“Our findings argue for the potential of a systems-based public health approach — one that recognizes the multiple interrelated factors that produce adverse outcomes, and perhaps particularly emphasizes gender and economic disparities and resulting power dynamics, widespread use of alcohol, attitudes about sexuality, and conversations about sex — to make inroads on an issue that stubbornly persists,” the authors write.

When ReThink visits schools, one public health-style tool they use is the Illinois Rape Myth Acceptance Scale (IRMA). IRMA presents different situations and myths to students, such as, “If girl is raped while she is drunk, she is at least somewhat responsible for letting things get out of hand”, or “A lot of times, girls who say they were raped agreed to have sex and then regret it.” Students are asked to rate the rape myths from strongly agree to strongly disagree.

“If you accept all these rape myths you’re more likely to commit an act of sexual violence,” Duckett says. “When we work with boys, after we do these exercises…[and] consent education, breaking down stereotypes, working on a wide range of healthy masculinity ideas…they reject these rape myths at much higher rates.”

This finding, Duckett says, is both discouraging and encouraging.

“We do pretests and posttests, and the pretests show the extent of the problem,” he says. “This is the kind of stuff that our culture has taught them… It’s everywhere, it’s in the TV that we watch, it’s in the music that we listen to.”

“To be completely honest we’ve failed a lot of these boys,” Duckett adds. “Very few even comprehensive sex ed programs have serious conversations about consent, what consent looks like and doesn’t look like, how to ask for it, how to listen for it, [and] how to look for it.”

ReThink’s mission, in public health terms, is primary prevention: trying to stop sexual violence. But, Duckett says, there’s still much more that needs to be done.

“I’ll tell you what,” he says, “I believe strongly, if we invested in sexual violence prevention as a public health issue — like we did with drunk driving campaigns, anti-smoking campaigns, teen pregnancy campaigns — if we put that type of money and emphasis into sexual violence prevention work, I strongly believe that we could cut our rates in half in a generation.”

The good news is that Duckett and ReThink aren’t alone in their efforts. Jessica Raven, the executive director of Collective Action for Safe Spaces (CASS), is working to address sexual violence as a public health issue as well.

CASS has a partnership with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) to run awareness campaigns about harassment and assault on public transit; it’s also working on the Safe Bar Collective, which is a program that trains bar staff to recognize sexual harassment and stop it before it turns into assault.

Raven tells ThinkProgress that it’s not enough to call out and take down powerful men in Hollywood. “We have all had these experiences where we witness incidents of harassment,” she says in an interview. “It’s our responsibility to call that out in our friend groups, in our families, in our neighbors.”

Raven says it’s crucial to implement more programs like CASS and ReThink, which work with men to unpack preconceived notions of rape culture and masculinity, as well as safe rehabilitative spaces for aggressors.

“There are really no services for these men to heal,” she says, explaining that it’s vital to “create an environment where they’re able to be open about the changes they’re going to make.”

It’s important to treat the problem like any other disease, Raven adds. “How are we going to address alcoholism without providing rehabilitative services to alcoholics?” she says.

The problem with prisons

While Raven believes in providing more rehabilitative spaces, those spaces shouldn’t be inside prison walls, she says.

Both Duckett and Raven have chosen to focus on public health strategies to address the epidemic of sexual violence rather than the criminal justice system for several important reasons.

“I think we have to be really, really, really careful about our kind of knee-jerk [conclusions]…when it comes to some of these particularly tertiary sort of prevention questions, like increased incarceration, tougher sentencing,” Duckett — a lawyer himself — explains. “There’s not much about our incarceration system that is feminist.”

Prisons, Duckett notes, are one of the major centers of sexual violence in the United States. According to the Bureau of Justice, about 80,000 people are sexually abused in correctional facilities in the United States every year.

The actual number is almost certainly higher than official tallies. Just as a significant majority of rapes and sexual assaults in the United States go unreported, it’s highly likely that the same is true in the prison system. Statistics do suggest that rates of rape and sexual assault are higher among male inmates than female inmates; the same is likely true among African American inmates, who statistically experience higher rates of sexual assault than Caucasian inmates.

“The prison system is and will forever be biased against black bodies and to the extent that we create tougher sentencing laws,” Duckett says, adding that people of color will ultimately be punished much more harshly than their white counterparts.

“Sending someone to prison as we understand it right now, I have a hard time thinking of that as an objectively feminist act,” Duckett argues. “It’s not to say that someone who causes trauma and pain shouldn’t face consequences, but just from a prevention standpoint, I don’t think that prison is the answer there.”

Raven is of the same mindset. “CASS has always had an anti-criminalization position. We don’t see the criminal legal system as a strategy,” she says.

“For starters, we recognize that the communities most affected by gendered and sexual violence are the communities most affected by police violence,” she continues, specifically mentioning women, people of color, gender minorities, and LGBTQ people among those communities. “Prison is punishment, but it’s not accountability, [and] there are no studies that show that prison is increasing safety. The public health approach actually tackles the problems at the root.”

Expanding legal avenues

As ReThink and CASS work toward furthering progress on a public health front, other advocates are looking to expand legal avenues for victims, including abolishing statutes of limitations and expanding affirmative consent laws.

“The abolition of the statute of limitations is a tool,” Jill Stanley, a former prosecutor and district attorney who now focuses on celebrities and the legal system, tells ThinkProgress.

As Stanley explains, “We understand that there are times you can’t recall [an incident]. When you are strong enough or when you have a clear picture of who your assaulter is, we can have evidence.” At that point, Stanley says, no matter how long it’s been since an assault took place, the victim should be able to go to law enforcement.

Stanley also points to the expansion of affirmative consent standards as a possible way of strengthening legal avenues for victims. At present, affirmative consent — a “yes means yes” standard rather than “no means no” standard — applies only to certain colleges and universities.

“[Affirmative consent standards] are very narrow,” Stanley says. “It only applies to state-funded colleges in New York and California.”

Some private universities — including each of the Ivy League schools other than Harvard — have adopted the standard, but so far, New York and California are the only states to have enacted laws mandating all state funded universities use the affirmative consent standard.

Stanley notes that the expansion of affirmative consent laws could be especially valuable because victims often don’t have the capacity to consent.

“The bigger issue in all of these laws is that we need capacity to say no,” she says.

While she believes such a standard could be helpful, Stanley doubts changes will come on a national legislative level. “The country is very slow,” she says.

One way she believes affirmative consent could become the standard? By putting it in employment contracts.

Here, California State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D), who co-authored California’s affirmative consent law, agrees.

“That might be a great thing,” Jackson tells ThinkProgress. Like Stanley, she has her doubts, but remains optimistic. “Could we get that passed? We could try!” she says.

Jackson also believes it could be beneficial to pass laws aimed at making educational initiatives — similar to ReThink’s curriculum — the standard for children, starting from a young age.

“What we really need is…education, whether it’s in the workplace or with our youngest children,” Jackson says. “Our culture has frequently rewarded men behaving badly…. We have to change it.”

Complete Article HERE!

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It’s totally OK to like pegging if you’re a straight man – 7 guys tells us why

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If 2017 was the year of eating ass, 2018 will be the year of pegging.

Chances are you’ve already heard of it – but if you haven’t, pegging is, in most cases, a sexual act where a straight man is penetrated by a woman wearing a strap-on dildo. And no, it doesn’t involve a peg leg.

The word ‘pegging’ elicits responses of shock and judgement in many, and it might not be for everyone, but as with all sex, it is simply about pleasure.

Pegging has been around since the dawn of time (anything we do, rest assured, the Romans did it first) but it wasn’t until the 1998 release of sexologist Carol Queen’s sex education video series Bend Over Boyfriend that the act was given more attention.

But despite its recent surge in pop culture, in part thanks to shows like Broad City and movies like Deadpool, the act still remains largely taboo.

Many people still mistakenly think that if a straight man enjoys being penetrated, it makes him gay (it doesn’t) or unmanly (utter bollocks).

Anal pleasure for straight men has always been a taboo, partly due to this misguided, patriarchal idea of emasculation, and partly due to an ‘ew’ factor.

But letting internalised homophobia and gender roles get in the way of mind-blowing orgasms seems a little bit silly, doesn’t it?

After all, the prostate – the walnut-size gland found under a man’s bladder and easily accessible via the anus – is essentially the male g-spot. A magic pleasure button, if you will.

Aside from the intense physical pleasure, one of the best aspects of pegging in a cis, hetero relationship is that it inverts the traditional framework of gender and sexual roles.

According to a 2012 study published in the journal Sex Roles, clinging to traditional gender roles could make us feel less comfortable between the sheets, and research by sexuality educator Dr. Charlie Glickman also shows that straight men who had tried pegging were more in tune with what their female partner needed from them during penetration.

So pegging could not only give men a more intense orgasm, but it could possibly teach them a thing or two on how to pleasure women; basically, a win win.

When you think about it, pegging is still standard heterosexual PIV sex because the bottom line (pun intended) is putting something inside a hole. It simply works the other way around.

Indulging in something that is taboo helps chip away the stigma, which helps people get over their insecurities about what turns them on.

Talking about all kinds of sex, urges and curiosities is the first step towards a fulfilling sex life, and no one should feel ashamed to discuss their sexual preferences.

And because sex should always be a judgement free zone, here, seven straight men share their experience with pegging (anonymously, because society is still a little prudish). To quote Ilana from Broad City: ‘Anal’s on the menu’.

R, 33

My interest for anal play and pegging didn’t develop until my 30s.

During my 20s, I was more interested in having different sexual partners and more ‘traditional’ sex.

However, as my relationships started to become more stable, I found that pegging added an extra dimension to my sex life.

I was also very curious about prostate stimulation that is mentioned constantly in many sex articles, so this became something I wanted to try.

C, 21

It’s no different to admitting you having a fetish.

Some people are into feet and others like to be spanked or choked and pegging isn’t any different.

It might be a bit awkward to talk about at first but if you can’t openly talk to your partner then they’re not meant for you.

A, 27

It was my ex girlfriend’s idea, she read about it and brought it up with me.

I was skeptical at first, but even now that we’re not together anymore, it’s something I do with my new partner.

We don’t do it very often but even when we just have regular sex, she’s a lot more assertive, which I think is really hot.

K, 33

I suffer from erectile dysfunction so the allure of pegging was that it took the focus off the penis.

The prostate is basically the male g-spot so it means men who struggle with staying hard can reach orgasm without any penis stimulation at all.

M, 26

Once I realised how good it felt to have your anus stimulated through rimjobs, it kind of snowballed.

My girlfriend and I both started using butt plugs on each other, then we tried vibrators, then dildos.

One day we bought a strap on and never looked back.

M, 24

What I love about it besides the physical sensation, which is awesome, is the power switch.

There’s a lot of trust involved in being pegged, you need to have faith that the woman won’t hurt or judge you and there’s a lot of intimacy in that, which can be very powerful.

There’s also something to be said about someone wanting to please you like that, it makes you feel desired.

T, 26

It just feels really good, there’s not much more to it. If your gal is willing to try I recommend going for it, easy as that.

Complete Article HERE!

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Can’t Talk about Sex

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Every month in Sex at Our Age, award-winning senior sexpert Joan Price answers your questions about everything from loss of desire to solo sex and partner issues. Nothing is out of bounds! To send your questions directly to Joan, email sexpert@seniorplanet.org

By Joan Price

Our marriage needs help. Our sex life is in a slump and we can’t talk about it. We married four months ago, after being together for a year and a half. My husband and I have a great relationship and can talk about everything — except our sex life.

It takes me so long to have an orgasm that he feels like he’s not doing it for me. In the middle of trying to make it happen, he gets angry, stops, and storms out of the room. I’m left lying there, feeling guilty about hurting him. If I could talk to him about it and give him some ideas about what would help me orgasm, I think it would help. But he’s not talking and he won’t listen when I try. We are at each other’s throats over this.

We really do love each other and want this marriage to last the rest of our lives, but we have to fix our bedroom life. Could you please advise me about what I can do to make our marriage great again?

Can’t Talk about Sex

Your slow arousal is not the problem – it’s normal. As we age, we get aroused more slowly. We need to be relaxed and allow time to get warmed up emotionally and physically. There’s no way you can ease into the sensations of sex if you’re tense and worried about not being fast enough and anticipating the moment that your husband will get angry and stop. You are not the problem here. Your husband’s anger is the problem.

You’re probably right that he’s frustrated and feeling inadequate about pleasing you, but he’s creating the opposite of what you both want by storming off and not talking. He needs to understand his own feelings and yours, and how his actions are sabotaging your marriage. I strongly urge you to ask him to get counseling. If he’s stomping off in the middle of sex four months into your marriage, he has problems that won’t be resolved without help.

You’re right that this rip in your marriage can’t be repaired without the two of you talking about your sex life. You’re the one who knows what you need to feel pleasure and reach orgasm. If he won’t let you tell him, how can he learn about your sexual responses? Again, since he’s so angry, I recommend counseling to help you talk to each other. A good couples counselor would help your husband with his anger and insecurity and teach you both communication strategies.

Meanwhile, try these tips to get the conversation started:

  1. Set up a neutral, relaxed time – not during sex – to open the conversation.
  2. Explain to your husband that slow arousal is natural as we age.
  3. Say something like, “I need a lot of warm-up and certain kinds of touch to become aroused. Let me tell you what I need.”
  4. Offer to show him how you pleasure yourself, if you feel comfortable doing that.
  5. Acknowledge that you understand his frustration, but shaming you is counterproductive and wrong, and will only make things worse.
  6. Invite him to join you in sensual activities that are pleasurable without being goal-oriented, such as massage and touching that gives pleasure without aiming for orgasm.
  7. If your sex life now is mostly or exclusively intercourse, engage him in new ways of enjoying sex without penetration. Show him this article and consider watching my webinar “Great Sex without Penetration”
  8. Assure him that you know you both want the intimacy of a loving sexual relationship, and the best way to get past this impasse by seeing a counselor.

I hope that the two of you will be able to overcome this problem by talking together and working with a counselor. I wish you honest and loving communication and mutual sexual pleasure.

Complete Article HERE!

Check out the podcast Joan and I did together. You’ll find it HERE!

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What Does It Mean to Be Pansexual?

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One of the beautiful things about being a person right now is that there are no limits to the ways you can express your sexual preferences. While there’s still a lot of work to do in terms of representation, people who identify with sexualities and genders beyond binaries are finding it easier than ever to find both partners and communities that support their needs. But since inclusivity, though extremely awesome, can also be a bit overwhelming or confusing for some who haven’t heard certain terms in the past, it can be a little hard determining exactly where you fit. So, for the sake of said representation, let’s look at a term that’s gaining more and more traction nowadays: pansexual.

So what does pansexual mean? It’s actually pretty simple: Pansexuality is a sexual identity used to describe those who could be potentially attracted to all people, regardless of gender. Some people who identify as pansexual put it in the most adorable terms possible and say they care about “hearts and not parts.”

The reason pansexuality is defined as a sexual identity, rather than a gender identity, says Becca Mui, Ms.Ed., education manager at GLSEN, is because “it describes people’s feelings of emotional, physical, romantic, and sexual attraction to others, [whereas] gender identities refer to people’s personal conception of themselves, which may include ‘female,’ ‘androgynous,’ ‘transgender,’ “genderqueer,’ ‘nonbinary,’ ‘male’ and many others, or a combination thereof.”

Obviously, there is a bit of overlap (and therefore some confusion) when it comes to different sexual identities. For instance, what’s the difference between bisexual and pansexual, since doesn’t bisexual mean potential attraction to both genders? It does, but they aren’t the same thing. The term bisexual refers to someone who is attracted to male and female people, or people who are on the gender binary. “Someone who is pansexual may be attracted to someone who is transgender, gender nonbinary, or genderqueer,” Kristie Overstreet, Ph.D., a psychotherapist and clinical sexologist, tells Glamour. Pansexuality does not assume there are only two genders, rejects the binary, and embraces all people as individuals.

That’s not to say that identifying as pansexual means you aren’t attracted to people who do identify as male or female (i.e., within the traditional gender binary)—only that gender is not something you take into consideration when it comes to sexual attraction. If you find you’re attracted to all people, or most people, and gender isn’t something that dictates your desire for someone, you might be pansexual!

For some people, pansexual is a way to accept a sexual descriptor while leaving lots of room for interpretation. “[Pansexual] is the most inclusive type of sexuality and is not limited to attraction to men or women,” Alicia Sinclair, a sex coach and founder of B-Vibe, tells Glamour. “They may find their sexual attraction is much broader than the traditional identifications and labels.” Even so, it’s important to remember that labels are entirely self-regulated and are no one’s business but your own. Even if you may technically fit into a “box,” or some of your behaviors may fall under a label, you still may not be comfortable using any one term to describe yourself. For example, someone might be attracted to men and women, but not wish to be called bisexual. They may prefer the term queer, heteroflexible or homoflexible. Or maybe they don’t want any label at all. You don’t have to call yourself something just to make other people comfortable. Any label you choose should be strictly for your own benefit and self-identification.

Though there isn’t a clear stat on how many people identify as pansexual in the world—it’s a relatively new term and has been more widely accepted as a sexual identity only in the last decade or so (and we’re still working on it, tbh)—as more people feel comfortable coming out on a gender and sexuality spectrum, we’ll likely see a push for more comprehensive population statistics. According to the GLSEN 2015 National School Climate survey, 16.1 percent of the student participants identified themselves as pansexual. That’s a pretty significant number, and one that will probably grow as acceptance permeates popular culture.

If you are pansexual, some people want the next step to be explaining their sexual identity to family or friends. When you live in a world that generally expects that there are men and women, gay and straight people, falling outside of those parameters can be jarring for people you love. If you’re looking for some “coming out” ideas, Overstreet suggests writing a letter to family as a way of expressing who you are. “This is a great way to share your identify with them, as well as your feelings related to it, in a safe way,” she says.

Identifying on the sexuality spectrum may lead to some awkward moments in public. Though it can be disheartening, it happens to plenty of people. “Be prepared that some people may comment or ask inappropriate questions about your identity or your behavior,” Overstreet says. “Remember to keep your boundaries in place and don’t feel that you have to answer any questions that are inappropriate.”

Remember that you have agency, that your sexual identity is totally valid, and that how you choose to label yourself is nobody’s business but your own. We’ll say it again for the seats in the back: Any label you choose is strictly for your own benefit and self-identification.

You got this.

Complete Article HERE!

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Lessons In Love For Generation Snapchat

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Tatiana Curran, right, and her boyfriend Jake Cowen-Whitman say their three-year relationship is an anomaly amongst their peers. But they readily concede that even they have serious issues around intimacy.

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Along with explicit sexual education classes, some schools are beginning to offer more G-rated lessons on love. Experts say the so-called “iGen” is woefully unprepared to have healthy, caring romantic relationships and young people need more guidance. So schools are adding classes that are less about the “plumbing” of relationships, and more about the passion.

At Beaver Country Day School, a private school near Boston, Matthew Lippman has taught whole courses on love and relationships. He loves teaching about love so much, he finds ways to delve into it every chance he gets.

In his American Literature class recently, he launched into a discussion about love songs.

“This is my favorite” he announces as he blasts “Despacito” by Luis Fonsi. The students howl.

“Are you kidding me?!”

“It’s so dirty!” the students say.

“Just kidding!” Lippman laughs. But now that he’s got their attention, he starts drilling them on what the song says about love — and lust.

Senior Tatiana Curran wades in cautiously. “It’s sexual,” she says. “But that doesn’t mean it’s love … y’know what I mean?”

“I understand,” Lippman reassures her, gently buttressing what may be a subtle distinction to some.

Lippman then introduces the class to what really is one of his favorites: “The First Time Ever I Saw Your

Matthew Lippman loves teaching about love so much he finds ways to slide in a lesson comparing contemporary and decades-old love songs during an African-American Literature class.

Face” by Roberta Flack. The song starts to unfurl so slowly, you can literally see these millennials getting antsy. Several seem relieved when Lippman finally stops the song, and starts pressing them on its underlying message.

“It’s showing that love takes time, that it’s not something that you rush into,” offers Joddy Nwankwo, noting how incongruous that is in today’s culture of high-speed everything and blithe hook-ups.

“A lot of (students) have short attention spans,” says Aiden Geary. “People don’t have a lot of long term relationships because we want everything like now, and then once we have it we’re bored with it.”

Curran and her boyfriend Jake Cowen-Whitman, who’ve been together for three years, are something of an exception. “I was asked literally the other day … ‘Aren’t you bored?'” Curran laughs.

But as one of those “iGen” teens who tend to text more than talk, even Curran readily cops to having some serious issues with intimacy.

“I get really uncomfortable, when it comes to like really romantic things,” she says. “Like I hate eye contact. It took me almost two years to actually fully make eye contact with Jake for a full sentence.”

The struggle to be present

“I think that’s the biggest piece to all of this,” says Lippman. “So much of this intimacy thing is being present, and that is hard for them.”

For sure, not all of them. Some young people are persevering and managing to forge meaningful, intimate relationships. And in some ways, technology can actually enable some difficult conversations. Some teens text things they wouldn’t have said at all if they had to do it face-to-face.

But, Lippman says, a significant number of young people are clearly struggling to make those real connections, and classes like his dovetail with a trend toward whole-child education.

He doesn’t pretend that one class can be a cure, but his lessons do seem to be resonating with his students.

“Walking into the class, I felt like I knew a good amount about love,” says Jade Bacherman. “But now I’m realizing that there’s a lot more to learn.”

“I don’t think we’re prepared to know what a healthy relationship looks like,” says Lisa Winshall. While kids get instruction on things like consent and sexual violence, she says they desperately need more coaching “on a much deeper level [about] what really taking care of someone else means.”

It’s exactly what Harvard Graduate school of Education Senior Lecturer Rick Weissbourd has found. His recent research shows young people are struggling with how to conceive of romantic relationships, let alone how to actually navigate them. “It’s a deep underlying anxiety,” he says, “so they’re looking for wisdom.” And it’s not enough to just give them “disaster prevention” kinds of sex ed classes, that only deal with pregnancy, STD’s and sexual violence, he adds.

“I think we are failing epically to have basic conversations with young people about the subtle, tender generous, demanding work about learning how to love,” he says. According to his data, about 70 percent of young people crave those conversations.

For them, the motivation may be a more fulfilling love life. But Weissbourd says the societal stakes are high; healthier relationships, he says, will pay dividends on all kinds of social ills, from sexual harassment and domestic abuse, to depression and alcoholism.

Relationships beyond Snapchat

Another school that’s trying to answer the call is The Urban school, a private high school in San Francisco. Health teacher Shafia Zaloom says she too was alarmed by teens’ social struggles and their belief that they “can build relationships over Snapchat or Instagram.” So she started a kind of “Dating 101” curriculum that covers things as basic as how to ask someone out. In one recent class, students brainstormed out loud.

“Like ‘Do you want to, like, go see a movie some time?'” suggests Sophomore Somerset Miles Dwyer with a nervous giggle.

“Yeah,” Zaloom nods, but then reminds the student to add “with me” at the end of the question, “to clarify things, because it’s not like ‘Oh, come hang out with us’ and chill with the group.” When you say “with me,” she explains, “that communicates more clearly your intentions that you want to be spending time together and getting to know each other.”

Zaloom’s course also tutors the kids on everything from how to break up to how to take things to the next level.

In one lesson they critique Hollywood love scenes. “That’s totally unrealistic,” says Miles Dwyer, as multiple romantic kisses and dreamy declarations of love unfold seamlessly, over a dramatic musical soundtrack . It all unleashes a slew of confessions about how much more awkward their own encounters usually are, and how insecure that makes them.

“On TV, the awkwardness isn’t there,” says Dominic Lauber. So when things don’t go as smoothly “in your real life, it feels like you’re doing something wrong,” he says. “So it could just feel like something you’d want to avoid. Kids nod and snap their fingers in agreement.

“Yeah, that’s definitely a fear,” says Abby Tuttle. “It’s all about vulnerability.”

Pushing through awkwardness

Boston College Professor Kerry Cronin says the insecurity and aversion to taking risks persist, so even the older students she sees on campus, still struggle with basic dating protocol. “You know they’re really just sort of numskulls about basic social steps,” she says. “They really aren’t sure how to handle themselves.”

It’s exactly why she now gives students a homework assignment — in an introductory Philosophy and Theology course — to actually ask someone out, in person.

“It’s mostly about pushing thru awkwardness,” Cronin says, “and finding out that even if you get rejected isn’t going to kill you. Because [this generation is] terrified of failure. And resilience is a major issue.”

Data is hard to come by, but anecdotally, private schools seem more apt than public schools to expand the usual “reading writing and ‘rithmatic” to also include romance.

“Our teachers are already burdened enough,” says Ashley Beaver, a public school substitute teacher and mom in San Diego. She says educating kids about love should come from parents, not schools, especially given how schools have handled sex ed.

“I mean they talked to middle schoolers about flavored condoms,'” she says. “It’s just too much too soon. So, no, I just don’t trust the institution to do it correctly.”

Indeed, G-rated discussions are not likely to be any less controversial in schools than the old-school X-rated ones says Jonathan Zimmerman of University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education. He agrees that the instruction is critically needed, but he says “we shouldn’t pretend that we have anything like agreement on these subjects.”

“Frankly, it’s a lot easier to get consensus on the sperm and the egg than it is on lust vs. love,” he says. “These are issues of values and ethics and culture, and in a country that is so irreducibly multicultural, we should expect there to be profound controversy and disagreement about this approach.”

Ideally, Harvard’s Weissbourd says, the lessons should come from school and home. And while many parents may think their kids don’t want to hear it from mom or dad, Weissbourd’s research shows they actually do.

As Professor Cronin put it, this generation was raised by helicopter parents — they expect to be coached on everything.

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