We need to talk to our children about consent
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We need to talk to our children about consent

AFTER the revelations of Harvey Weinstein’s spate of sexual assaults on the women of Hollywood, and the countless other accusations that have emerged against men of power in its wake, some people are finally waking up to the realities of sexual harassment and its pervasive nature in our society.

The MeToo hashtag that appeared in the days following the statements – and continues to swamp social media – left many men reeling at the extent of the problem. Sadly for women, this movement just reaffirmed what they already knew.

The problem is pandemic. It snakes and weasels its way into every industry. While this latest incident has highlighted the problem in all its warped lecherous glory, I wonder what will actually change once the #IHearYou hashtag – men’s response to #MeToo – dies down and we all move on to the next scandal.

The men of today most certainly need to do some soul searching, as uncomfortable as that may feel, but we can also collectively take steps to stem the spread of sexual violence and entitlement long before it gets to this disturbing point.

Before the message of casual misogyny is ingrained, we need to take steps to actively teach the next generation of young men a healthier narrative and stop just crossing our fingers in the hope they will be better, as if the outcome is beyond our control.

We should be teaching not just consent, but respect for girls as fellow human beings, in every classroom, in every school, in every country in the world.

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You have to wonder if we would have the boldfaced Weinstein-esque predation of women by men in power, the spate of college sexual assaults, the sickening levels of rape in communities across the globe if jovial catcalling, “playful” ass-grabbing, and macho “locker room talk” were not the status quo, but behaviour that was instead shamed rather than celebrated.

Sorry, my mistake, you don’t need to wonder! The results are in and they are overwhelmingly positive. Places that teach consent and respect to boys as young as primary school are seeing rates of rape and abuse drop by extraordinary levels.

Take the case in Nairobi, Kenya and the incredible work of No Means No Worldwide. Classes teaching both the boys about respect, and the girls self-defence, have seen the number of rapes drop by 50 percent. They have seen boys step in when they see abuses happen. And just as importantly, the attitudes of these young men have shifted dramatically.

I know that some people don’t feel it’s appropriate to address these topics at such a young age. For those who feel uncomfortable having these discussions with your children – screw you! This isn’t about you. This is much bigger than any of us and people shouldn’t have to suffer because we’re not willing to have a frank discussion with our children.

This is a pandemic of overwhelming proportion and it will not be beaten by a hashtag.

We owe it to the next generation of both boys and girls, so everyone can grow up feeling safe, respected and without having to perpetuate the toxic myth of the macho bravado.

There’s a hugely long way to go but we at least have to try, in the hope that women will no longer have to fight off the “nice guy” who still just doesn’t get it, or worse still, the violent predator who doesn’t even try.

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It is really no wonder the Weinsteins of the world still exist when this generation of men have sadly been fed a slow drip of toxic misogyny from birth. If we wait until they’re 16 to talk about it, then it will already be too late.

The power of the #MeToo movement may have given men the impetus to do some real self-reflection and consider the construct that surrounds this behaviour. It is a mammoth and daunting task to start chipping away at something so ingrained in our psyches and societies, but it is a task that must be done.

Let’s make sure the next generation doesn’t have to face these demons too. Let’s give them the tools to dismantle this dangerous construct once and for all.

** This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of Asian Correspondent