Efforts to stop sexual violence against girls often focus on what girls can do to protect themselves.
But what’s being said to boys?
Author Rosalind Wiseman and associate Charlie Kuhn have been addressing this subject in presentations around the country to schools and youth organizations.
Wiseman is author of “Masterminds & Wingmen: Helping Our Boys Cope with Schoolyard Power, Locker-Room Tests, Girlfriends, and the New Rules of Boy World,” published in 2013.
She also wrote the best-selling “Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and the New Realities of Girl World” — the basis for the movie “Mean Girls.”
Wiseman and Kuhn’s workshops are on subjects ranging from ethical leadership to social competence to media literacy, Kuhn said, but they address sexual consent in a broader discussion of how kids deal with their friends, he said.
It’s not enough to just tell boys that, when it comes to sex, “no means no,” Kuhn said. More needs to be said about navigating complicated situations.
Sometimes girls aren’t able to say no — whether from being intoxicated or frightened.
“If a girl is not able to say no [when she doesn’t want to have sex] that might be because she doesn’t know how,” Kuhn said.
More than a decade ago, Wiseman developed a curriculum for adolescents called “Owning Up: Empowering Adolescents to Confront Social Cruelty, Bullying and Injustice.”
In a 2001 evaluation, two-thirds of boys surveyed after being presented with the material said they gained greater knowledge of sexual harassment Forty-four percent said their understanding of sexual consent improved. Sixty-one percent of girls surveyed said their knowledge of abusive relationships increased.
The curriculum is currently being revised and updated, Kuhn said.
Wiseman has also published a guide for boys called “The Guide: Managing Douchebags. Recruiting Wingmen, and Attracting Who You Want.”
It is available free online to make it easy for adolescent boys to access, Kuhn said.
The guide helps boys interpret situations and offers specific ways a boy can act if confronted with the abuse of an intoxicated girl, for example. Possible responses include both direct and indirect action to stop the situation.
In her writing, Wiseman seeks to use the language of teens, employing both slang and profanity.
Wiseman and Kuhn were interviewed recently on National Public Radio on how parents can talk to their sons about sexual consent.
Things are missing in many discussions of sex, Kuhn said. “What we don’t teach is how to ask for consent in a comfortable way,” he said.