Pragmatism beyond the locker room

What began as a private chat between a group of teenagers, somehow roped in the entire nation. In the era of cyber-romance, where people find love, friendships and everything in between based on a few swipes and likes, such instances are unavoidable. The only way to correct it is by understanding where the fault truly lies. Sharing a piece of personal exchange to the public, even as a joke, is not acceptable; and talking about raping someone is not acceptable at all.

But it’s questionable if they even know what the consequences of such conversations are and what consent is. Did anyone teach them? Do the online media specify consent before anything? We need to acknowledge that these young minds have seldom been taught sex education in school, apart from one chapter or life science maybe, as it is such a hush-hush topic.

The author is mental health therapist/counsellor. Views expressed are personal.

Their parents never talked to them about sexual consent as they felt awkward. So, the only platform which can teach them about this activity is the glorified World Wide Web, the content on it and the knowledge that the peers gained (again through it). Did we teach them to respect women, take consent and talk about the opposite sex with dignity? We didn’t as it was always a taboo.

Young children need to be sensitised towards issues of importance. We have to stop teaching our boys that they are the strongest, can get away with things easily and be rowdy. Seeds of a misogynistic mindset that prevail in the society should not be allowed to be sown in their minds. We should introduce them to the concept of respect and consent.

And we also need to educate our girls that they need to stand up for themselves, but at the same time respect other genders and themselves. Nobody can force you to send explicit content until you want to do so and take its responsibility. We have the power to say no and walk out. In this world of digital footprints, where everything is available, girls and boys need to be educated about their safety. We don’t talk to our children about consensual sex, consequences of intimacy, sexual wellness and cyber safety, among others.

And it’s not always girls who become victims — sometimes boys too fall prey. We’ve witnessed how in today’s world girls don’t refrain from using the same language, they don’t refrain from intimidating regarding the same heinous gestures. They need to be taught that just because they are girls, saying awful things about girls or boys is no less a crime.

Children need to be taught young the sheer importance of their own free will that their safety is their right; it’s their choice and most importantly they always have someone to talk to. Children who fall victim to such incidents/ cybercrimes live with a heart full of anguish, a brain full of fear and negative thoughts. These kids have to be introduced to an environment where emotional outbreaks and well-being are an acceptable character regardless of gender.

They don’t need trips to the courtroom or police station, that’s only going to increase the hate they have and might eventually make them offenders. They need counselling where they can express and grow out of the darkness in their heads and minds. Discussion about sex, physical intimacy, mutual respect and consent should be initiated without any hesitation.

This will protect children against misinformation that they might gather. Attraction and desires are natural but we have to emphasise safe boundaries. Sometimes schools and parents can’t have an effective and efficient discussion regarding the same, thus consulting a mental health counsellor is the best option as each mind is different and they have the expertise to tackle it with care.

Talking to a mental health counsellor helps restore their confidence and self-belief. We also have a major responsibility towards introspecting our family relation as the child is never going to learn gender equality and respect if he witnesses the contrary in the household. We, the parents, teachers and all of us, need to understand that we have the delicate strands of our babies’ mind. We inculcate the concept of right and wrong and the solution lies with us.

The recent case of a boy who in an isolated incident was blamed by a girl for molestation and without any proof or investigation the social media defined him as an offender. It had such a deep and disastrous impact that it took him no longer than eight hours to end his life. That boy, guilty or not, has been devoid of an entire life ahead just because there wasn’t anyone that had talked to him before or even at the time of unfavourable circumstances.

This wouldn’t have had been the case had he received proper counselling. It’s never too late to realise our responsibility and play our part in making this society safer and better. Today it’s someone you may not know but tomorrow it can be someone precious to you. Consulting a mental health counsellor can be beneficial for paving the way in these difficult times. The amount of thoughts and insecurities we possess in our heads is the key culprit and letting it go with professional help is a ray of light in the darkness. Self-love and self-worth, which are complete within themselves, need to be taught.

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