An Open Letter to Private Boys’ Schools

28 Oct

Dear Private Boys’ Schools,

let’s talk about your rape education program.

If you even have one.

As someone who attended a private all-girls school from the age of 3, I received a fair amount of self-protection spiels. From the awkward “it’s not okay for anyone to touch your private parts” mumbles I received in elementary school to the assembly of junior high where a police woman came to talk to us about reducing our risk factors as potential targets to the high school prom night safety and it’ll-ruin-your-life-to-get-pregnant talks, I was doused in awareness from the very beginning that there were people out there who, if I wasn’t careful, would try to take advantage of my sexuality.

Sure, threat prevention awareness is a good thing to learn. But notice how it was presented to me as an “if I weren’t careful” scenario? Notice how I was taught about “reducing my target risk-factors?” While I was never explicitly told that it would be my fault if I were raped – in fact, I was usually vocally told the opposite – that message was still insinuated by the very approach the rape education programs took.

And oh hey, just a side note – nobody ever taught me what to do if I were raped. Police calls, hospital rape kits, legal paths, therapy – I only found out about those things through watching Law & Order SVU. In college.

But most of that, I suppose, is irrelevant to the main thing I’d like to tell you, oh vaginaless boys’ schools. You see, what I’d really like to say is that while all those rape talks about making sure we were safe might have done some good for me and my fellow females, it would have done even more good to have made sure there weren’t any rapists to begin with.

And that’s where you come in.

If anything, the rape rate would go down more drastically if boys were taught how to not rape. Girls don’t get to choose whether or not they’re victims. Boys always get to choose whether or not they’re rapists.

Sure, not all rapists are male and not all victims are female, but as things stand right now, males do make up the majority of aggressors. Where “majority” means 99%.

But surely, your sweet young upperclass boys who have been hand-fed good, moral values from the age of five would never do something so terrible?

Well. That has not been my experience.

I had friends who had been raped by the time we even got to be seniors in high school. It wasn’t by some thug from the bad part of town. It was by one of those nice, privileged boys that their friend had just gone to the winter dance with. The straight-A student, the drama club regular, the average joe on their crew time they’d hung out with on Friday nights. You know, the one nobody could ever envision as a rapist.

I mean, the sense of entitlement that would require!

Surely this son of a lawyer who drives his shiny car to school and has a tight group of male friends to back him up no matter what he needs would never have such a sense of entitlement. Sure this good Catholic boy who was taught that a vagina is a prize to be won by wedding vows would never be tempted to think he deserves the goody bag early!

Oh. Wait…

Hopefully by now you’re seeing my point. Those innocent young boys in your private prep school, they’ve been set up by their socioeconomic status to maybe become not so innocent. And even if those traits don’t quite take hold in adolescence, your boys are the ones who go on to become the frat guys you read about in the news who got to college and decided that finally, sex was theirs for the taking. Or if they make it beyond that, they are the ones who form into utterly distinguished businessmen with prim-and-proper wives and a white picket fence and a routine predictable as clockwork and 7 am traffic, and who when they become bored with their utterly distinguished, utterly regimented lives find themselves relieving that boredom in their niece’s bedroom…

No, these are not figments of a perverted imagination. They are real stories. Of my friends.

So. Now that we’re all properly horrified here, what do we do about it?

Well, let’s go back to those rape prevention talks I mentioned earlier. How about we have them again, except at your school this time? How about we make rape prevention as important a curriculum component at boys’ schools as at girls’? And while we’re at it, why not incorporate it into a recharged version of sex ed? One that could be used to teach both boys and girls, at private and public schools, from a practical perspective? Because honestly, telling us that hey, here’s your reproductive system, and it will do these things is about as helpful for managing daily sexuality as telling a pilot-to-be that hey, here’s a diagram of a plane, it can fly. Great. Now the pilot knows the plane can fly. Probably has no idea beyond that what the fuck to do with it.

Why not go beyond the mere “here’s a uterus and a vagina, here’s a penis and testicles” to actually tell budding pubescents, “and here are some feelings that you’re probably going to have with respect to your particular genitals, and here’s how to handle them.” Instead of just telling kids that it’s not okay to have sex before marriage, why not focus more on telling them that it’s not okay to abuse another’s body? Teach about abstinence in religion class. Teach about consent in sex-ed.

Seriously, there are so many ways to tackle teaching boys about rape prevention. And they’ve been shown to work. Take, for example, the “Don’t Be That Guy” campaign in Vancouver that led to a 10% decrease in the rape rate. Or the course designed by Foubert, Tatum, and Godin that told men, among other things, about other males that had been victimized – and that even led participants to report two years later that they had retained perspective and behavioral changes as a result of the course?

For decades, girls’ schools have been trying to keep down the rape rate from their side. Honestly, hasn’t done a whole lot of good.

Guess the ball’s in your court now, boys’ schools. Whatcha going to do?

I really hope it’s not just sit back and change nothing. This is not somebody else’s problem. It is yours.

Sincerely,

Miceala Shocklee

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2 Responses to “An Open Letter to Private Boys’ Schools”

  1. Cassandra McCullers October 29, 2013 at 1:54 am #

    Thank you so much for this! It’s definitely true that teaching men not to rape works. Of course, there also need to be structural and legal changes – schools need to come down harder on “minor” offenses like harassment and bra-snapping (which the teachers often witness) early on, and also sending the offender in question to have a talk with a counselor. One big problem at my university is that, while there’s a big push among the students to educate each other about sexual assault, the administration is mum. Local police can’t investigate a rape that occurs on campus, but campus police are basically horrible at collecting evidence, and often pressure victims into not coming forward to preserve the image of the university. 17.6% of girls are assaulted during their four years here, and that rises to 30% for sorority girls. There are plenty of sexual assault advocacy and support groups on campus, though that in itself is telling since there’s a need. There’s a presentation about “don’t rape!” at orientation, but it’s a bit of a joke, and usually poorly done. One of the advocacy groups started having male members go around to talk to all the fraternities about rape, which helped some, but again it’s only one talk, not a culture change. And the university doesn’t expel rapists, even serial rapists (about 9 out of 10 campus rapes are by repeat offenders, and the vast, vast majority by someone “known to the victim”), even though cheaters are expelled at the first offense. A really simple solution would be for them to add anti-rape training to the honor modules we have to complete yearly, and to expel at the very least repeat rapists, but nope.

  2. myrreni October 29, 2013 at 8:54 am #

    My attacker was a 21 year old male from a middle class family who had the attitude that the upper classes could do whatever they liked to the working class, it was their privilege. I don’t know if it was the boys grammar school he went to that gave him this attitude, or whether it was his parents, but I truly believe that your idea could help stop this happening to other people. Privilege does not equal consent and boys should be taught that.

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