In today’s adolescent dating culture, many express how frustrating and unsatisfied they are because contemporary dating styles encourage young men to be aggressive and young women to be accommodating to the men who pursue them.
Unfortunately, sex and violence are so intertwined for men that an easy separation is impossible. Violence is constantly glamorized and sexualized in youth culture. The multibillion-dollar pornography industry is the clearest example of how we learn that power and control are tied to sexual arousal. Even in children’s comic books, popular music and videos, and magazine advertisements, we are constantly reminded that dominating and subduing women is sexy and arousing. The primary message young boys receive is that having sexual access to women and having someone sexually vulnerable to you are the quintessential signs of male power, the epitome of success. Women are regularly shown alongside other symbols of masculine power, such as fast cars, money, and guns.
Some of these images depict the women as resisting forcefully at the beginning, then finally giving up and enjoying sex. In this way, young men are taught that women are somehow turned on sexually by the aggression exhibited by men. They may protest or say no at first to guard their character, but if they relax they will enjoy it, they will become stimulated by the man’s aggression. If they don’t, then there is something wrong with them.
The outcome of this conditioning is that men are given permission, even encouraged to use sexual aggression to control women, to deny what they’re doing and then assert that it’s no big deal anyway. If this goes on long enough it soon becomes the norm. Young men assume this is the way relations between men and women are naturally. If there is any guilt or remorse, the young women get the blame.
- She’s a tease
- She’s frigid
- She’s too emotional
- She shouldn’t have said that
- She knew that would make me angry
- She asked for it
- She said no but she meant yes
- If she didn’t want it she wouldn’t dress like that
There are so many layers of aggression, blame, and denial that there is no way for young men to see the impact their thoughts and behaviors have on the women around them. We can even use the Scriptures to reinforce these ideas that women are inferior, further damaging the inherent dignity and value each young woman has, leading to a fractured image of who she was created to be by God.
Here are some questions for you to start a conversation about domestic abuse/intimate partner violence:
- What role does the church/your ministry have in (inadvertently) reinforcing these toxic gender beliefs?
- When was the last time you had a conversation about male gender training with the young men in your ministry?
- When was the last time you had a conversation about female gender training with the young women in your ministry?
- What are new values/beliefs that need to be taught from Scripture to replace old, harmful beliefs?
- How can we affirm young males without encouraging male privilege?
- How can we affirm young women without imparting a second-class female victimstance?
- Does your church/ministry talk about intimate partner violence with youth? Why or Why not? Should we start to? How should we begin that conversation?
If you suspect domestic violence is occurring with a student you can provide them with the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.
You can also begin the conversations with students by using talking points from the healthy relationships spectrum on the National Domestic Violence website. This is a great resource to help those who struggle with the impact of aggression and violence in relationships.