Forced sexual contact among teens common, says study
A disturbing new study reveals that 9 percent of youths aged 14 to 21 have coerced or forced someone into sexual contact and spells out a more complicated problem than 'no means no' rhetoric can address.
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The study's data (presented in the American Medical Association journal JAMA Pediatrics) is wide-ranging, and it maps onto a broad spectrum of teen contact that ranges from classic, innocent teenage bumbling (a mis-timed or otherwise awkward attempt at a kiss) all the way up to premeditated rape.Skip to next paragraph
James Norton got his professional start at the Monitor as an online news producer, before moving over to edit international news during the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Since leaving the Monitor in 2004, he has worked as a radio producer, author, and food blogger.
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And as such, it seems likely to spark conversations evocative of the early '90s controversy over the Antioch College sexual offense policy, which called for explicit verbal consent for any and all levels of physical intimacy. To recap: The New York Times gently castigated the policy, saying "legislating kisses won't save them from themselves," and the director of Antioch's sexual offense prevention and survivors' advocacy program responded "that we are not trying to reduce the romance, passion or spontaneity of sex; we are trying to reduce the spontaneity of rape."
In short: It's complicated. And in an era where sexting (and all manner of Internet-assisted sexual blackmail and revenge) is a fact of life, and when bullying is constantly discussed and deconstructed, the study will likely add both heat and light to an already intense discussion.
It seems clear, however, that the issue is a serious one, and one that doesn't go away when high schoolers become college students; we need only witness the recent Georgia Tech fraternity e-mail advising members on how to use alcohol to lure "rapebait" at parties. And in as much as "she was drunk, so she consented" is used as an excuse for assault, the study shows that blaming the victim is common enough to be routine:
One in seven perpetrators said they were not at all responsible for what happened. Accordingly, more than 4 in 5 perpetrators said the victim was at least somewhat responsible for what happened.
More data is the starting point. Education, public discussion, and increasingly clear guidelines seem to be among the remedies that may help reduce - but certainly not eliminate - the number young adults crossing the line from "it's complicated" to something coercive and even dangerous.