ALLISON HAVEY, CO-FOUNDER OF THE RAP PROJECT
The RAP Project, or Raising Awareness & Prevention, speaks to pupils from many different backgrounds, be it socio-economic, religious, & international. Deana Puccio, Co-Founder, myself, & other presenters passionately pitch our presentations so they are inclusive of all students, regardless of sexuality, gender, religion, background. Our power point presentations are informed by student feedback, RAP surveys, academic studies & current affairs. It’s the best job in the world. Yet, at times, our small team draws a breath & attempts to make sense of it all.
Recently an event led me to personally feel confused, incensed & angry. Last week a friend’s 16-year old daughter went to see a film with a guy the same age as her. They were friends of friends and although they had never met she thought he seemed cool. He invited her to see a film. They saw the movie, enjoyed it, & said ‘Goodnight.’ Nothing intimate occurred.
When the teenage girl arrived home, her phone beeped. She received the following text from her date: “I just want you to know I find you so hot and sexy. I had a ‘stiffy’ the whole time during the film.” My friend’s daughter was shocked, disappointed and repulsed. She ghosted him. That very same day, I shared this story with a cool divorcee friend of mine who is a mother of three and 50. She described how she had recently been on a Dating APP & made contact with a promising, funny, 50 year old guy: friendly, handsome, polite, & the CFO of a company. They chatted online for a week. They set up a date to meet for a drink the following weekend. She then described to me, before they even met for that drink, that she had awoken one weekday morning to a close up ‘dick pic’ from the CFO saying he had been thinking of her. Turned off, she immediately blocked him. It’s one thing to think a horny teenage boy is naive, but when a mature man of 50 does something similar, we have to ask: “What’s in the drinking water?” Why would anyone, male or female, describe their stiffy or send a dick pic without knowing someone? Do they think it is a turn on? Is hard core pornography & its sexualised language desensitizing people & leading viewers to think that this behaviour is in some way, seductive?
Remember the terms ‘Discretion’? ‘Seduction’? Two mutually respecting, consenting adults are free to exchange anything they like, be it hypersexualised language, images bodily fluids, fantasies, etc. But if two people are still unknown to each other, does this behaviour qualify as peer on peer sexual harassment? Is it aggressive?
We believe this behaviour is sexually aggressive. To us, sending dic-pics and sexually aggressive messages qualifies as sexual harassment. So, let’s dissect. The RAP Project is fortunate to have access to tens of thousands of teenagers. When I describe these anecdotes during presentations, 98% of the students cower & redden in disbelief and shock. But the other 2% express the following sentiments including: “Freedom of Speech!” “Good on him! At least he tried!”.
Not even 24 hours later of having learned of these two incidents, Donald Trump was making headlines around the world by describing his turnaround on bombing Iran with the phrase “We were cocked and loaded.” Does that also qualify as volatile, sexually aggressive language?
What’s going on? Is it the proliferation of hardcore porn, which, according to author Gail Dines, Child Net, NYTimes Magazine & countless others, is desensitising some people who believe this sexually aggressive language & or visuals are Sexy? Potent? Powerful? Exciting?
It is my belief that since the swearing in ceremony of Donald Trump in January 2017, there are parallels of a known sexual assailant residing in the White House & the rising popularity of insidious sexist, misogynist trends in our politics, media, culture which are damaging intimate relationships & promoting toxic masculinity in some quarters.
Hey, many men & women love sex! Love porn! Rock on! This is not the issue. The issue is the desensitisation of certain people who think it is ‘OK’ to talk about their ‘Stiffy’ or send pictures of their ‘Hard-Ons’ without considering asking how the recipient might feel, respond or reject. Here’s an option or two: “I find you very attractive.” “I think you are sexy.”
We at The RAP Project do not assume we can influence young people to share our point of view. But on this National RSE Day, RAP wants every student, teacher, parent & politician to be educated & well versed on the definitions of Discretion. Seduction, Mutual Respect., Mutual Consent, Mutual Pleasure. Many young people, not all, are confused. If everyone teaching RE & RSE brings the above subjects to the fore, together we might just make a difference.