Navigating the road to adulthood — especially in regard to sex and relationships — is difficult for even the most self-assured kid. What can make things even worse for young people is the general feeling that everyone around you is hooking up. That is actually a misperception, as only a small number of young people are actually engaging in casual dating and sexual encounters, says Senior Lecturer Richard Weissbourd, faculty director of Making Caring Common (MCC), but that belief can do damage.
"There is a cost to these misperceptions because a lot of young people feel like there is something wrong with them or that they are defective because they are out of step with their peers," says Weissbourd. "And, in fact, the young people that are not having a lot of sex are the norm."
In its new report, The Talk: How Adults Can Promote Young People's Healthy Relationships and Prevent Misogyny and Sexual Harrassment, MCC examines young people's attitudes and behaviors around sex and love — focusing on those 18–25 years old — and looks at how parents and educators can better help prepare them to enter into healthy and loving relationships. Many young people have anxiety about these things and would love guidance from adults, says Weissbourd.
"I think we fuss a lot about the sex talk and whether to have the sex talk with our kids," he says. "The reality is that a lot of parents aren't having that talk. And it's certainly an important talk, but in many ways the more important talk is the love talk."
In this edition of the Harvard EdCast, Weissbourd discusses the new report's findings, and offers suggestions on how both young people — and the adults who care for them — can deal with sex and relationships, as well as widespread misogyny and harassment.
The Harvard EdCast is a weekly series of podcasts, available on the Harvard University iTunes U page, that features a 15-20 minute conversation with thought leaders in the field of education from across the country and around the world. Hosted by Matt Weber and co-produced by Jill Anderson, the Harvard EdCast is a space for educational discourse and openness, focusing on the myriad issues and current events related to the field.