The Talk: How Adults Can Promote Young People’s Healthy Relationships and Prevent Misogyny and Sexual Harassment
This is the talk we need to have with young people.
Many adults—especially parents—often fret about youth and the "hook-up culture." But research suggests that far fewer young people are "hooking up" than we are commonly led to believe. This focus on the hook-up culture also obscures two much bigger issues that many young people appear to be struggling with: forming and maintaining healthy romantic relationships and dealing with widespread misogyny and sexual harassment. What's more, it appears that parents and other key adults in young people's lives often fail to address these two problems.
Making Caring Common's report The Talk: How Adults Can Promote Young People’s Healthy Relationships and Prevent Misogyny and Sexual Harassment explores these issues and offers insights into how adults can begin to have meaningful and constructive conversations about them with the young people in their lives.
Authored by: Richard Weissbourd with Trisha Ross Anderson, Alison Cashin, and Joe McIntyre
Teens and adults tend to greatly overestimate the size of the “hook-up culture” and these misconceptions can be detrimental to young people.
Large numbers of teens and young adults are unprepared for caring, lasting romantic relationships and are anxious about developing them. Yet it appears that parents, educators and other adults often provide young people with little or no guidance in developing these relationships. The good news is that a high percentage of young people want this guidance.
Misogyny and sexual harassment appear to be pervasive among young people and certain forms of gender based degradation may be increasing, yet a significant majority of parents do not appear to be talking to young people about it.
Many young people don’t see certain types of gender-based degradation and subordination as problems in our society.
Research shows that rates of sexual assault among young people are high. But our research suggests that a majority of parents and educators aren’t discussing with young people basic issues related to consent.
Talk about love and help teens understand the differences between mature love and other forms of intense attraction.
Guide young people in identifying healthy and unhealthy relationships.
Go beyond platitudes.
Talk about what it means to be an ethical person.
Key Data Points
70% of the 18 to 25-year-olds who responded to our survey reported wishing they had received more information from their parents about some emotional aspect of a romantic relationship.
65% of respondents to our survey of 18 to 25-year-olds wished that they had received guidance on some emotional aspect of romantic relationships in a health or sex education class at school.
87% percent of women reported having experienced at least one of the following during their lifetime: being catcalled (55%), touched without permission by a stranger (41%), insulted with sexualized words (e.g., slut, bitch, ho) by a man (47%), insulted with sexualized words by a woman (42%), having a stranger say something sexual to them (52%), and having a stranger tell them they were “hot” (61%).
76% of respondents to this survey had never had a conversation with their parents about how to avoid sexually harassing others.
48% of our survey respondents either agreed (19%) or were neutral (29%) about the idea that “society has reached a point that there is no more double standard against women.”
39% of respondents either agreed or were neutral that it’s “rare to see a woman treated in an inappropriately sexualized manner on television.”
32% of male and 22% of female respondents thought that men should be dominant in romantic relationships, while 14% of males and 10% of females thought that women should be dominant.
Most of the respondents to our survey had never spoken with their parents about “being sure your partner wants to have sex and is comfortable doing so before having sex”(61%), assuring your “own comfort before engaging in sex” (49%), the “importance of not pressuring someone to have sex with you”(56%), the “importance of not continuing to ask someone to have sex after they have said no” (62%), or the “importance of not having sex with someone who is too intoxicated or impaired to make a decision about sex” (57%).
58% of respondents had never had a conversation with their parents about the importance of “being a caring and respectful sexual partner.” Yet a large majority of respondents who had engaged in these conversations with parents described them as at least somewhat influential.
Making Caring Common surveyed over 3,000 young adults and high school students from all over the country. Read more about our findings and recommendations in the Executive Summary (PDF) or by downloading the full report (PDF).