WE CAN Young is a campaign aimed at enhancing the resilience of boys and girls in the Netherlands concerning sex and relationships. It aims to achieve that boys and girls treat each other with respect and are conscious of boundaries. So what are those boundaries? What is considered experimental and when does it start to cause damage to yourself or the other? WE CAN Young uses six ‘sex rules’ to get a grip on these issues (Flag system. Sensoa and Movisie, 2010).

  • Consent, do you both want it?
  • Voluntary, there is no pressure involved?
  • Equality, no one is dominating?
  • Age appropriate, what is in line with your age?
  • Context appropriate, what you do does not bother, insult or shock anyone?
  • Self-respect, what you do does not damage yourself or someone else?

Research into adolescent sexuality

The organisations SOA Aids Netherlands and Rutgers WPF (centre of expertise on sexual and reproductive health and rights) studied sexuality among young people between 12 and 25 years of age. The study provided the following figures:

  • 4% of boys and 17% of girls between 12 and 25 have sometimes experienced a sexual act against their will.
  • More than 7% of girls have sometimes had sexual intercourse against their will, compared to 2% of boys.
  • For their first sexual intercourse 0.2% of boys and 3.3% of girls were forced, and 4.7% of boys and 13.5% of girls were talked into it.
  • 6% of boys and 12% of girls state that someone has got angry at them in order to have sex with them.
  • 51% of boys and 25% of girls disapprove of two boys kissing, and 16% of boys and 24% of girls disapprove of two girls kissing.

Conscious of boundaries

There are many standard views on how boys and girls should behave. These differences in perception and roles cause problems with expectations and setting boundaries.

  • A girl should be sexy, but not too sexy because then she’s a slut
  • Girls are responsible for setting boundaries, not boys
  • Boys should always be willing, otherwise they’re gay
  • Girls want love, boys want sex
  • Boys are stronger than girls, so they will never be victims

Link to ‘gender’

Men and women are equal. At least that is what the Dutch Constitution says. However, in practice this is often not the case. Then we speak of gender inequality. Gender says something about the social roles men and women have in society. These roles are acquired.

For instance:

  • If a woman stands up for herself, she’s a bitch
  • If a man wants to work less in order to look after the children, he is under his wife’s thumb
  • A man shouldn’t cry, it is not a macho thing to do

These examples contain all kinds of stereotypes that indicate how we think men and women ought to behave. In video clips and commercials we find the same stereotypes. These images and stereotypes have an impact on all of us, because we think ‘this is how it should be’, whether or not we recognise ourselves in them. WE CAN Young aims to promote that boys and girls start to think about existing stereotypical images that are created for instance by the media.

WE CAN Young is part of the worldwide campaign WE CAN end all violence against women.