Copyright: Maksim Harshchankou/123RF Stock Photo
In case you’ve been living under a rock, Gillette recently released a new commercial that is largely a commentary on masculinity and modern manhood. When I first watched the short film, I felt tears well up. I felt a sense of relief. It felt like a sign of momentum for a movement that I am invested in. A year ago, I wrote an article warning the hopeful that ‘if men stay silent, this movement will end’. So I see this ad as a sign of men breaking the silence…a sign of progress.
As it goes, all social progress is met with some backlash. But backlash to this campaign? I was truly shocked. Why would anyone interpret this as an attackon manhood, men, or even masculinity? The boys are not playing with Barbies. The men are not staying home baking while their wives control them. This commercial features men being quite masculine. The men in the Gillette ad are using their power, strength, and assertiveness to call other men out who are being disrespectful or worse. It is encouraging the many men who step up instead of turn a blind eye to violence and bullying. This action takes courage, leadership, and decisiveness….all masculine qualities that we love! In academia, we call this active bystander behavior, which is one of the only factors that have been shown to reduce instances of sexual assault and harassment.
‘Sexting’ is typically referred to as sending a nude photo through a phone. There is nothing new about sharing a nude photo with a beloved. You just used to have to go to a seedy photography shop to get your film developed, or use a Polaroid and hand it over. The chances of lots of people seeing the photo were low. Remember needing to spring for double prints? Now, within seconds, thousands of people can see your nude photo depending on which app or website it gets uploaded to. Stats on the prevalence of sexting among teens are unclear, because studies range between 9%-60% (1, 2) of teens reporting that they have ever shared a nude image of themselves. So it’s difficult to tell how common sexting actually is. In order for us to address sexting in a realistic way with teens, we must first understand the sexual culture they live in that normalizes sexting.
There is something eerily disturbing about committing crimes, photographing them, and then sharing those photos on a social media site. An investigation into a Penn State fraternity, Kappa Delta Rho, is underway as police allegedly uncovered images of drug deals and nude (some unconscious) women that were posted on the fraternity’s Facebook group page. The entitlement and lack of empathy from these actions should make us all cringe.
It seems clear that the Greek system is a breeding ground for questionable behavior and needs to be reformed. Don’t get me wrong, there are many positive contributions from fraternities that benefit the universities and outlying communities that support them. However, that doesn’t negate the criminal behavior that also occurs more frequently among fraternities: underage drinking, drug use, vandalism, harassment, sexual assault, and now, revenge porn. We know that at least 1 in 5 women have experienced rape by the age of 25 (1), which is a daunting to say the least. So why have we turned and looked the other way after studies reveal that sexual assault is a common occurrence among many fraternities (2, 3, 4)? Are we really just fine with chalking it all up to “boys will be boys”?
What is posting nude images of women without their consent about?
There is nothing new, unique, or even creative about Fifty Shades of Grey. It’s just the latest installment of pop culture messages that teach girls and young women that truly hot and irresistible love includes some element of violence and danger.
These messages start when you’re little with Beauty and the Beast. As a girl, you learn to be nice and patient with an abusive partner, and as long as you remain so, he will change his behavior and transform into a Prince. It doesn’t matter that he’s throwing things at you, locking you up in a room, not letting you eat without him, not letting you get to your father…he will change…you just need to tame him. But Beauty and the Beast isn’t real….
Many researchers who try to understand sexual development from a public health perspective have two choices for framing their research agenda: prevention of risk behaviors or promotion of positive behaviors. I’m interested in combining the two. I aim to understand how young people both prevent pregnancy, STIs, sexual assault, and teen dating violence as well as promote positive body image, pleasurable and satisfying relationships, and sexual agency to make the sexual choices they want to make on their own terms. More than half of all individuals are sexually active by age 18 (1), which suggests we should be more focused on sexual behavior as normative and therefore in need of understanding, instead of in need of preventing. Sexual health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination, and violence (2).
About this Blog:
I'm here to help us discuss sexuality, gender, and media by integrating information from academic and mainstream sources. I hope this resource produces more sexually competent people who raise sexually competent kids.