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Sexual violence: dangerous representations persist among 18-24 year olds

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“We see a sharp decline in French people’s adherence to sexist stereotypes making up rape culture (defined as a society’s adherence to many rape myths), but when you look at the numbers of 18–24-year-olds, it all falls apart.” report drawn up by the psychiatrist Muriel Salmona, president of the association Traumatic memory and victimology. In support, a survey conducted by the Ipsos polling institute among 1,035 people, constituting a national representative sample of the French population aged 18 and over.

The results indicate that the level of tolerance of the French is decreasing vis-à-vis sexual violence, compared to the first two surveys conducted in 2016 and 2019. They also report strong expectations to improve the fight against such violence. However, a good number of French people still adhere to sexist stereotypes that constitute the culture of rape (which disempower the aggressor and make the victim feel guilty). Mostly men, mainly aged 18-24.

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Edifying figures among 18-24 year olds

Despite the expansion of the #MeToo and #MeTooIncest movements, the French still seem to struggle with the definitions of consent and rape. One in five French people still consider that forcing their partner to have sex is not rape and 51% of French people believe that it is more difficult for a man to control his sexual desire.

The most worrying age group is that of 18-24 years. 20% of 18-24 year olds do not consider “forcing someone to have sex when they refuse and won’t allow it” to be rape (compared to 8% of all respondents). Young people seem to be more likely to join a violent vision of sexuality, without respect for consent :

Also according to the survey, 52% of young people aged 18 to 24 consider that it is common for people who accuse of rape “to lie out of disappointment in love or revenge” (compared to 37% of all respondents). Moreover, 43% of them even think that it is common for children who accuse of rape to lie (against 21% of all respondents).

© Traumatic Memory and Victimology Association

The early influence of pornography in question

Young people aged 18 to 24 are also more likely to say that pornography is a way like any other to do their sex education (34% against 19% of all respondents).

For the association Traumatic memory and victimology, the alarming results among young people can be explained by “the exposure of this age group from childhood to pornographic content, often violent and degrading towards women with an eroticization of hatred and violenceas well as online games depicting gender stereotypes, rape culture and scenes of sexual violence against women”.

The association advocates fora better education, awareness and communication strategy about sexuality. “There is an urgent need to act as children are increasingly exposed to pornography whose online content is exploding year on year and is largely unregulated making it a lawless zone with scenes where women are subjected to degrading and humiliating violent acts, and with access to criminal content: videos of rape, revenge-porn, paedocrime”, warns Muriel Salmona.

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