I’ve Talked With Teenage Boys About Sexual Assault for 20 Years. This Is What They Still Don’t Know

Trigger Warning: rape/sexual assult

Laurie Halse Anderson reflects on her time talking to high schoolers about sexual assault.

And then there are the half-​confessions. No boy has ever come out and admitted to me that he raped someone, but a few have said, “I might have pushed things too far,” or “Well, we were drunk,” or “Things got out of hand and… she refused to talk to me after that night.” They don’t look me in the eye as they say this. They are not proud of themselves. Their confused shame is heart-​breaking and infuriating.

they are ill-​informed. These boys have been raised to believe that a rapist is a bad guy in the bushes with a gun. They aren’t that guy, they figure, so they can’t be rapists.

This is only made worse by the other question I get most often from these teenage boys in the classroom: Why was the rape victim so upset? They explain, The sex only took a couple minutes, but she’s depressed for, like, a year. They don’t understand the impact of rape.

Teenage boys are hungry for practical conversations about sex. They want to know the rules. They want to be the good guy, the stand-​up, honorable dude. Their intentions might be good, but their ignorance is dangerous.





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