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Sexuality education to deconstruct gender-based violence

Naming social phenomena is crucial for them to emerge in the collective debate as issues worthy of receiving due media and political attention. Femicide is not simply the murder of a woman; it is the intentional murder carried out by a man against a person socially recognized as a woman precisely because she is woman. It is an act of prevarication, of power, and, like every manifestation of gender-based violence, it does not stem from an aggressive impulse or romantic yearning-unacceptable justification often recounted in the newspapers or on television-rather from a patriarchal culture, widespread at the individual and systemic levels. It is no coincidence that the Viminale’s 2021-22 dossier dedicated to feminicides in Italy reports alarming data – 125 cases in one year, 17 more than the previous year – and highlights how most of these murders were carried out within the family, by fathers, relatives, partners or exes.

Not just physical violence

Le narrazioni mediatiche non solo contribuiscono a deviare l’attenzione dal fenomeno al caso individuale, facendo sì che chi legge possa comprendere o addirittura solidarizzare con l’omicida; ma spesso utilizzano un linguaggio intrinsecamente aggressivo nei confronti della stessa vittima, additandola come colpevole, o almeno complice, dell’accaduto. Questo meccanismo di colpevolizzazione della vittima (in inglese, victim blaming) è esso stesso una violenza e si ripropone anche ad altri livelli, dalle molestie verbali agli abusi sessuali. Il fenomeno del catcalling – letteralmente “fischiare al gatto” – sta finalmente emergendo nella sua problematicità. Fischiare, fare commenti sgraditi e non richiesti sul corpo di una donna, guardarla con insistenza, sbarrarle la strada mentre cammina, invadere il suo spazio sicuro, toccarla senza consenso… Tutto questo è problematico, non goliardico. E problematica è la soluzione che viene acriticamente ostentata: per arginare il problema, le donne devono cambiare abitudini di vita, abbigliamento, atteggiamento. But in this way one is only playing into the hands of the patriarchy, keeping its rigid sexist and macho rules intact.

What is the solution then?

Education from as early as kindergarten, as well as audiovisual representations, undoubtedly play a fundamental role in the construction of shared imaginaries and everyday practices. Wanting to limit the analysis to the European socio-cultural context, aware of offering only a partial picture, the educational gap between the Union countries themselves urgently emerges. In Italy, unfortunately-even if luck does not weigh heavily in political choices-education in sexuality and affectivity still seems to be taboo, yet it could be the right path to build a happier society. Teaching boys and girls what consent is is the first step to developing functional human relationships in adulthood, within which people socially recognized as men can show their vulnerabilities, without fear of losing the fragile and coveted masculinity, and those socially recognized as women are able to express their dissent, without fear of losing the docile and compliant femininity. It seems clear, then, that the much-feared sex education is nothing more than education in listening and respect, indispensable factors for experiencing healthy and pleasurable sexual relationships.

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