Unfortunately, this stuff happens and sometimes it is called revenge porn (1). Even though revenge porn website enthusiasts swear their motivation is nothing but an opportunity 'to look at real naked women’, in reality, the act of uploading a nude picture to punish a woman for leaving you or to boast about you %#$*ing her, is less of an act of sexual expression and more similar to the criminal behavior of stalking and harassment (2). In general, we know that at least 1 in 5 women have experienced sexual assault (3), with many women experiencing sexual assault within their first two months of stepping foot on a college campus. This means many of you reading this right now have a son who has sexually assaulted someone and 1 in 5 of you have a daughter who will experience sexual assault before she graduates from college.
What can parents do to help prevent revenge porn and sexual assault in college-bound kids?
- Talk about consent early and often. You can have these conversations with toddlers! Children of all ages can understand that no one touches them and they don’t touch someone else without asking first. Teens can be taught to tell a partner, “I really want to kiss you right now.” And wait for a reply before actually kissing, and so on.
- Talk about gender, race, and power early and often. Your white, heterosexual, son needs to know that his experience of the world is that ofprivilege. He needs to know that it will be more difficult for him to keep his behavior in check because he doesn’t have the cultural cues (that he will be called a slut, that he will be arrested or shot by police, that he will be bullied) that other genders, races, and sexualities experience that make them think about their behavior before they engage in it for better or for worse.
- Talk about sexual behavior early and often. It’s important to acknowledge that sex is normal and everyone experiences it differently. Your communicating about sex will teach your kids that it is ok to talk with a partner about sex, which increases the chance that they will have a consensual experience and perhaps even successfully use a condom.
- Talk about porn, sexting, and the brain. Boys and girls are getting their sex-ed from porn. As you can imagine, that is not good. The way the brain reacts to porn is different than the way the brain reacts to sex. Porn is a powerful physiological enforcer. Which is likely why many college men don’t find anything wrong with revenge porn. Maybe they’re masturbating to too much revenge porn and it changed the way they think about it? Hard to say.
Questions to ask yourself about the college your kid attends/will attend
- What is the school’s policy on sexual assault? It is difficult to prosecute cases of sexual assault through the traditional legal system. However, most universities have policies that would expel the perpetrator, especially if the victim gets a rape kit and contacts a victim advocate immediately. Even though he might not see time in jail, he at least won’t be on campus anymore. Talk to the university’s Title IX officer for more information.
- Do the fraternities have their own housing? Do the sororities have their own housing? What jurisdiction does the University have over the Greek system? Obviously, because of male privilege, men are the powerful ones at parties. However, if women have their own parties, it can be a much safer environment for them as they can leverage more on their own turf. For example, Penn State sororities do not have their own houses. So all Penn State Greek parties have to occur at frat houses by default.
- Does the university mandate sexual assault and binge drinking education? Is that education evidence-based (actually works)? Some research shows that education can transform the behavior of these groups and provide knowledge of how to be a bystander. So far, Green Dot has the most promising outcomes for sexual violence prevention.
Questions to ask your kids before they head to college
- What would you do if someone was taking someone else into a room and that person was clearly intoxicated? Correct answer: I would say, “Nah, dude. She’s way too drunk. You don’t want to go there.” And then I would help her find her friends, or call her a cab.
- What would you do if one of your friends shared a nude photo of someone? What if that nude photo was of your sister or your friend? If your reactions were different, why? Correct answer: I would delete the photo and tell the distributor “that is messed up”.
- How would you know that a potential partner is able and willing to consent to sexual behavior? Correct answer: They would be sober, and able to say “I really want to have sex with you right now. I really want to kiss you right now.” If someone is drunk and flirting, that doesn’t mean a thing.
- What do you think would happen to you if you had sex with someone who was blacked out? Correct answer: I could get suspended or expelled from school, my sports teams, or even see some jail time.
- When is it OK to take a picture of someone else? Correct answer: When they have their clothes ON.
- Walker, K., & Sleath, E. (2017). A systematic review of the current knowledge regarding revenge pornography and non-consensual sharing of sexually explicit media. Aggression and Violent Behavior.
- Davis, K. E., Ace, A., & Andra, M. (2000). Stalking perpetrators and psychological maltreatment of partners: Anger-jealousy, attachment insecurity, need for control, and break-up context. Violence and Victims, 15, 407-425.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2016.