An online petition by former Kambala student Chanel Contos that is calling for better sex education has resulted in thousands of young women sharing their stories, and has demonstrated “rape culture” is still very much a problem in the teenage circles of elite single sex private schools in Sydney. Dr Tim Hawkes is a leading expert on the education of boys. He was the Headmaster of The King’s School in Parramatta for many years and is also an advocate for The Fathering Project, a group who equip and train dads to step up in their parenting role. Dr Hawkes commended the petition, “I think it’s terrific and I really think it’s important for society to wake up on this”. “As a collective, we call for sexual consent to be at the forefront of educational issues in every school, from a young age.”
He said surveys have revealed 55% of boys in the upper years of high school said they had a friend who had engaged in sexual assault. Dr Hawkes said a combination of factors are contributing to the problem. “I think we need to improve the sex education in our schools, I think we need to improve the quality of our parenting, and this is obviously where the Fathering Project comes in,” he said. “I think we also need to look at issues such as the pornification of contemporary society. We’ve got to look at the fact that governments through their current laws are giving free and unfettered access to pornography, and this often breeds inappropriate feelings of entitlement and dominance among boys, and an expectation that their sexual partner should perform as seasoned professional sex workers. There’s a whole combination of factors that are contributing.”
Dr Hawkes said it is harder for fathers to influence their son’s values today, because they are spending so much more time online than with their own fathers. He said recent surveys have shown meaningful interactions between fathers and their teenage sons are as little as 18 seconds a day. “Whereas that same son will spend between two to five hours in front of a screen and on the net. And so therefore, we’re getting rather too many of our sons being cyber-parented. And we’re getting a large number of sons who adopt values that are antithetical to the values in the home. Because the influence of the home on their values formation has been minimal.”
Dr Hawkes said it is important for fathers to teach their sons all of the essential elements of consent. While it is important to teach young people the essential elements of consent, it is also crucial that young people know how to deal with unwanted sexual advances. Adolescent psychologist Collett Smart explains that some girls feel pressure to be “nice” and it’s important for them to understand that they don’t always have to be nice.
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