From Alpha Galileo entry entitled Alcohol advice needs to play a greater role in sex education for teenagers: about a University of Sheffield, UK research project:
“The objective of this study was to explore the broad gender-based attitudes and opinions towards all of the case studies, not just to explore any differences between attitudes towards any one particular case study” explains Dr Hayter, who carried out the research with Christina Harrison, a sexual health specialist nurse from Doncaster Primary Care Trust.
“Male and female attitudes clearly differed. The girls’ responses were more empathic and complex because they face more complex social pressures when it comes to having sex. The young men on the other hand appeared to follow behaviour patterns that included pressuring girls to have sex, often with the use of alcohol.
“We also noticed that the boys often used aggressive language about relationships - an element that was missing from the girls’ focus groups. For example they suggested that a girlfriend who slept around would probably pay a physical price and that using tactics like getting a girl drunk were acceptable.
“In one of the boys’ focus groups there was even a suggestion that it was OK for a boy to force his girlfriend to have sex and the group started trying to differentiate between ‘just a bit of pressure’ and ‘proper rape’.”
This research is important for all of us to be aware of, but especially for integrating rape prevention into sex education so that the education can be effective at countering dangerous and deeply entrenched attitudes.
This education must be more than a quick statement that pressuring someone else into sexual contact is wrong. Hearing it and believing it are different.
I don't believe boys' lack of empathy is biological. This is learned behavior which is linked to rational thinking not hormones. There are many long-standing justifications given for why boys (and men) shouldn't have to concern themselves with how their sexual actions can harm others. A big one is the "she's there" justification. Another is "she could have gotten away if she really wanted to."
In sex education it is important to teach that the use of even a single rationalization is a warning sign that the planned action is wrong and/or illegal.
Another justification I've seen lately is the "I did everything under the circumstances that I could to verify consent" which sounds good if you don't know that in certain situations there is no way to verify legal consent or to distinguish between genuine consent and compliance.
The most obvious situation where this justification is invalid is when the person allegedly consenting is semiconscious. In that situation the only valid action is for the person wanting sex to walk away and not seek consent until the other person is fully conscious.
If consent is genuine then after physical separation and a delay that consent will return. This is also true with the use of isolation or social pressure.