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In the adult world, it’s known as blaming the victim; in teenage culture, it’s called slut-shaming. With a gulf of confusion among teens separating “yes” and “no,” consent and resistance, it’s often hard to tell the difference between sex and sexual assault, and so teens often start slut-shaming when learning that a classmate has been raped.
According to Ashley Massey, a sophomore at Santa Teresa High in San Jose, California, The impact of sex – especially forced sex – is lost on teenagers. ‘Sex has become a part of our culture, much like smoking was back when our parents were younger,’ she said. Lisie Sabbag, a high school senior who wrote about “rape culture” in a powerful issue of her school’s magazine, added that teens may know about the mechanics of sex and sexual health, but they don’t really learn about how it impacts emotional wellness. She noted, ‘nobody really talks about how it affects us in our day-to-day lives.’
Sabbag continued, ‘Teens see this party and lifestyle where guys go out to have sex and girls sexualize themselves. Since we see it on TV, in our music and on Facebook, we think that’s the way we’re supposed to be.’ Debbie Massey, Ashley’s mother, commented that this culture makes teenage boys think they can get away with sexual assault. ‘Shows on TV show that if you have sex with a girl nothing’s going to happen,’ she said. ‘They think they’re above the law.’
Allison Pham, a Santa Teresa High junior, noted that rape has become part of everyday teen slang, with comment YouTube comments including “raping the replay button!” or “omg he’s so hot, I wish he would rape me.” She added, ‘I can’t go through a school day without hearing a rape joke.’ Santiago Garcia, a senior at KIPP King Collegiate surmised that this is because some teenagers don’t understand the importance of consent, noting ‘some guys assume that if the girl liked it, it’s not really rape.’
So what’s the solution? Garcia argued, ‘Parents should be more involved in what kids are doing.’ He noted, ‘I wouldn’t want my parents looking over my shoulder saying, “What are you doing? What are you doing?” but, at the same time, knowing that his mother sometimes asks to see his Facebook page keeps him in check. ‘It is effective,’ he said.