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Talk about ‘it’ says White Ribbon to men

Media Release

09 March 2017

Talk about ‘it’ says White Ribbon to men

We need parents and especially dads to step up and start talking to their boys about respectful relationships and respectful sexual relationships. The behaviour within Wellington College and St Patricks Silverstream highlights that boys don’t understand what respectful sexual behaviour is, and that there’s more that fathers can do.

Research commissioned last year by White Ribbon New Zealand found that Kiwi dads rarely discuss the importance of consent and knowing when it is OK or not OK to engage in sexual activity with someone with their teenage sons.

“If young men are not receiving good information from their dads (and parents),” says White Ribbon Researcher Garth Baker, “then they look to their peers, media, movies, the internet and pornography for clues on how to behave.

“Many schools are trying to get this information to their students through programmes such as Mates and Dates or Loves Me Not programme and by participating with the White Ribbon Campaign, but as a society we have to do more, and that means dads talking to their sons.

“During interviews with men in 2015 we learnt that fathers were uncomfortable talking to their sons about respectful sexual relationships,” says Mr Baker. “To find out more we commissioned Research New Zealand to discover what topics fathers were comfortable talking to their sons and daughters about.”

Kiwi dads said they least ‘regularly’ discuss the importance of consent and knowing when it is OK or not OK to engage in sexual activity with someone with their teenage sons. 22% said they regularly discuss this, compared with 66% who regularly discussed ‘doing well at school’.

“These findings are concerning,” says Mr Baker “because our sons want and need to hear this information from their dads (and parents). If dads don’t talk to their sons, they will go elsewhere and get their information from less reputable sources such as pornography.”

Pornography typically shows aggression against women and it intensifies sexist and violence-supportive attitudes and behaviours, as well as increasing sexually aggressive behaviour. Fathers need to counter this with positive talk about consent and showing respect. Research shows that children are being exposed at younger ages to pornography.

White Ribbon wants to give kiwi dads the confidence and skills to talk about respectful relationships and respectful sexual relationships with their sons. To facilitate this we have created a toolbox for dads and young men. The Start with Respect toolbox gives suggestions to young men on how to have a respectful sexual relationship. We have also created short videos that focus on the top five tips for dads. These can be downloaded at www.whiteribbon.org.nz

The research also found that dads with a teenage daughter were twice as likely to ‘regularly’ discuss the importance of consent and knowing when it is OK or not OK to engage in sexual activity with someone with their daughter, than their teenage son.

“There is classic double standard with daughters. Dads often want to protect their daughters and therefore have conversations with the aim of keeping them safe. But when it comes to their sons, dads too often think boys will be boys and lack the confidence and skills to have what are vital conversations.

“We can’t expect girls to take all the responsibility for their sexual safety; we need to teach our boys to behave respectfully and legally.

“As men we can influence the attitudes and behaviour of our sons by talking about, and demonstrating respectful relationships. This emphasises the values and behaviours we want instead of violence and sexual violence.” says Mr Baker.

Five top actions for fathers:

1. Role model respectful behaviour. Show you respect your partner as an equal and communicate respectfully.

2. Be actively involved in raising your kids. This makes them better people and makes you a better person too.

3. Start developing their respectful behaviour early and adjust to their development.

4. Talk about respect as a behaviour. Describe what they can do to show respect.

5. Know they’ll appreciate learning from you. Kids typically want more sex education than they get.


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