This month’s book might be an uncomfortable read. But if you have high school or college-aged sons, I recommend joining us anyway.
Sex and consent are two topics we can’t shy away from, and they’re the central focus of journalist Vanessa Grigoriadis’ new book, Blurred Lines: Rethinking Sex, Power, & Consent on Campus. The book is already generating plenty of headlines and online discussion, and I hope it will spur some serious reflection and discussion among our community of “boy parents.”
Sexual assault on campus is frequently framed as a female-issue. Every parent I know worries about the safety of their daughter on campus, and that worry often rears its head years before the girl heads off to college. It’s a worry that I understand. As a woman, I am all-too-aware of the existence of rape culture, the physical strength differences between males and females, and the ever-present power for women to put up, to go along, to appear cool and not make waves. I’ve heard stories of fellow women treated badly — doubted, re-victimized — when they tell their stories of sexual harassment and assault, and I have no doubt that some (many? most? all?) schools have mishandled sexual assault complaints.
But as a mom-of-boys, I’m also aware the dangers of casting all males as potential rapists. I see the fact that the scale has been tipping in favor of believing accusers, to the point that any defense of an accused male is seen as an assault of women and support for the patriarchy and rape culture. I question the ethics of charging a male with rape or sexual assault in cases where both parties were drunk or high.
The woman in me cheers that fact that Title IX protections and enforcement have led to increased efforts to address sexual assault on campuses and in schools in recent years. But the journalist in me, who has interviewed Title IX personnel at a variety of colleges of universities, knows that the system is flawed. As a woman, I’m leery of the Betsy DeVos’ efforts to remake Title IX ; as journalist and mom of boys, I believe a review of current Title IX policies and enforcement is well over due.
So I’m reading Blurred Lines, in an attempt in increase my understanding of the issues at play; in an attempt to better understand the world now inhabited by my high-school and college-aged sons; and in attempt increase my ability to help my sons (and yours) thoughtfully, respectfully navigate this changing terrain.
Want to join me? Here’s how to participate in BuildingBoys book club:
Step 1: Get book. Order a copy online or check it out from your local library.
Step 2: Start reading.
Step 3: Check in on Fridays. Each Friday, I’ll write a post about what I’ve read so far; I encourage you to stop by and share your questions and comments as well. I’ll also post a question or comment on Twitter and Facebook using #BBbookclub. Watch for the hashtag, and use it to share your thoughts, comments and questions too. (Feel free to share information about our book club too!)
New this month: I’m thinking of doing a FB Live discussion of the book. Interested? Think it’s a good idea? Let me know via the comments below. If there’s enough interest, I’ll schedule one.