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Some women see the sexual misbehavior, date-gone-wrong allegations against comedian Aziz Ansari as an example of how a woman tries to navigate consent during a sexual encounter.
But one author argues that view says something about the way young people are taught about sex at an early age.
Here & Now's Peter O'Dowd speaks with Cindy Pierce (@CindyPspeaker), author of "Sexploitation: Helping Kids Develop Healthy Sexuality in a Porn-Driven World" and "Sex, College and Social Media: A Commonsense Guide to Navigating the Hookup Culture."
On her initial reaction to the Aziz Ansari story
"This is about miscommunication, and when so many people start their connections, as did these two individuals, through texting, that's where a lot of flirting happens and what they think is getting to know each other more. And when you're connected by phones, and through text, you're not really getting to know someone. The whole hookup culture really stands out for me; it's just a recipe for misunderstanding and miscommunication. So I think both Aziz and this young woman had a hard time communicating and weren't reading each other's cues and weren't being clear."
On the debate over whether it was assault or a representation of a broken sexual culture
"I think it's really a collision of factors between the tolerated hookup culture, which is all about being casual. Also adding to that the social media, which keeps people at a distance. Not practicing social courage. Social courage means you're going to be in awkward situations, you're going to have conflict, you're going to be having to negotiate things, but people aren't doing a lot of that. And, in addition to that, porn. I think porn is a major factor. Porn is the No. 1 sexuality educator. Parents kind of surrender because they think they put parental controls on it and they walk away from it, which kids work around. They think their kids are not online, where kids are curious and trying to get answers for things they hear on the bus or at recess or at school. Kids are being exposed to porn much earlier. The average age recently was 11, we're starting to hear that's 9, and in the trenches of talking to parents, it's really 9 or 8. And what they're exposed to — it's not converting to their real experiences once they get to that point of having a partner. So I think between porn, hookup culture and social media, that collision of factors — and you add alcohol to that and that's the recipe for disaster right there."
"I think we're in a time where we're still raising girls to be compliant, be polite. And for boys, there's still this pressure to prove your masculinity and your heterosexuality, whether you are heterosexual or not."Cindy Pierce
On the influence of porn
"I think that's where they get ideas. And the thing is — the porn industry is not going away. It owns the world. Thirty to 35 percent of what crosses the internet is porn, globally. I talk to young men in high school and college — I look like their auntie, they'll tell me anything. I'm no threat to their lives. They are concerned about porn. They are concerned how it's not converting to their sexual experiences. They're worried about erectile dysfunction, they're worried about the violence. Porn glorifies rape, in a way. The most viewed porn is quite violent and quite aggressive, and it skews expectations about how bodies respond and how bodies look. The young men I speak to — almost all young men are interested in giving pleasure to their partners. They're interested in communicating and having a relationship. But the part they're scared of is the awkwardness and the vulnerability required to make that happen. And so they depend on porn to get their ideas and kind of imitate that. And then it doesn't really pan out and they're confused."
On a disconnect between cultural strides like the #MeToo movement and what we're doing behind closed doors
"I think we're in a time where we're still raising girls to be compliant, be polite. And for boys, there's still this pressure to prove your masculinity and your heterosexuality, whether you are heterosexual or not. And that is — your social survival for girls and boys, and I'm speaking in a very gendered, binary viewpoint here because hookup culture is quite hyper-heterosexualized, and this is where a lot of the dynamic is. It's about social survival."
"We are moving into a place where young people are starting to understand affirmative consent is verbal. It's not of doing a checklist. It's checking in every step of the way. Whoever wants to advance to another level needs to ask. Now, in her situation there was a power dynamic. But in her own account I only heard once that she verbally said 'no.' And Aziz Ansari responded, but then he continued to pursue her. So reading non-verbal cues — I hear this and people in their 40s, 50s and 60s who expect, 'I just want my husband to know what I like. I want him to --' I'm sorry. These kinds of things are complicated. You've got to give clear directions, sexually. So not just around consent, but around pleasure in what you like. This needs to be clear and verbal. People say, 'But it ruins the moment.' And this is the most common thing you hear of people who have been violated, regardless of their gender, is that they were comfortable to a point. When they became uncomfortable and felt their boundaries were violated, they paused and didn't want it to be awkward. You often hear, 'I didn't want it to be awkward. I didn't want to hurt their feelings.' There's this pause, and in that pause, they are violated to a point where they are beyond uncomfortable. They've been either assaulted or violated in some way."
On navigating these kinds of conversations
"I think we need to keep saturating people with information. And in this generation, they need it in surround sound. It cannot be — you know, a college student doesn't get one talk on affirmative consent and communication and get it. They need to be marinated in this message. And college is kind of the last place because then you're off into Tinder world on your own. We're in a very tricky time where communication is meant to be less of it, yet it's most needed. And I basically say to young people, if you can't talk about consent, pleasure, and you can't talk about contraception if you're in a heterosexual encounter, and you can't talk about safer sex — using condoms and dental dams. And people say, 'But that would be so awkward.' I say, 'Well, you're naked. And that's about as awkward as it gets. If that feels too awkward, get your clothes back on.' "
This segment aired on January 19, 2018.
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