It’s Friday, and we all know what that means! Interviews with your favorite badass feminists and activists. Whether social media queens and kings, creative artists, sex educators, or just kick-ass personalities, these people harness righteous anger, instigate movements and inspire culture change. We’re here to honor them and their work, but more importantly, to highlight how we can all get up, plug in, and Just Start Doing.
So without further ado…
Here’s Colin Adamo, director of Yale sex week and founder of Hooking Up and Staying Hooked!
As a recent graduate from Yale University, Colin Adamo helped coordinate a student group of health educators to teach sex-ed in local public schools, directed Sex Week at Yale, a biennial sex-ed summit, and authored a column on college relationships – and proves that young men are, should be seen as integral to the movement towards cultural change. He is currently working on developing the guide Hooking Up & Staying Hooked into graphic novel format and making his words of wisdom available to more and more young men.
1. Can you tell us a bit about how you start up the site Hookedupandstayinghooked.com? Did your experience as director of sex week at Yale inform your work after college? How?
I got to high school and was kind of desperate for any sort of advice when it came to girls, dating or sex. I found a lot of stuff in the bookstore but it always felt like it was for someone much older. After translating the info of these resources to fit my life, and a few years teaching health education to high school students while I was in college I figured I was in the perfect spot to put together the guide that I had always wanted when I was younger.
Through Sex Week I got to meet the most innovative and amazing people at the top of their fields be it specifically sex-ed, or adult entertainment, or even sex work. Being exposed to such brilliant minds and understanding their ambitions was a huge inspiration as well as a meaningful learning experience. It definitely gave me the courage to try new things with my work.
2. What is your target demographic, and what, typically, are their attitudes regarding consent, sex-positivity and boundaries? Why?
My hope is that every teenage guy across the country has the opportunity to sift through the content at H.U.S.H. as well as ask any questions they might be too afraid to ask their friends or parents. I write from what I know, so the advice is for straight guys 13-19, but I strongly advocate for education that is open to non-straight-identifying or questioning teens as well.
It seems like society wants to see these boys as positively-sexual – sex-obsessed and borderline dangerous in their pursuit to “ruin” the daughters of America with their uncontrollable hormonal lust. But I don’t think this is the case. I’ve met a lot of young dudes with questions, with insecurities, with the desire to find someone who they like and who really likes them back.
I think when you get down to it most young guys are open to feeling good and making their partners feel good. Unfortunately there is a lot of pressure to move at a pace that’s faster than they might like which often encourages them to push boundaries before they or their partners are actually ready and/or willing.
3. The attitude of most campus administrations regarding sexual assault and rape seems to focus on protection for women for which they are responsible – walking escorts, security etc. Do you think this is effective? What do you think are the problems of most of the violence education programs on campuses? What should change?
I think this attitude is totally whack and that is huge inspiration driving H.U.S.H. It seems like too often we’re looking for ways to “protect” girls from lascivious guys that are going to sexually assault them, get them pregnant or give them an STI.
It’s time we start talking to guys. Let’s quit treating them as potential assailants and instead address their desires and how to fulfill them respectfully and effectively.
Let’s ask guys what they want out of a sexual experience. Not many would say, “I want to get my rocks of regardless of whether or not I can find a partner who is willing.” Sure a lot of them might want to get laid, but most would probably want to do so in a way that makes them and their partners feel sexy, have fun, and get off. Giving them the tools to communicate with partners, give pleasure, and respect boundaries is the first step in creating healthier sexual environments on college campuses where heterosexual guys have sex (which is all of them).
4. How do you think activists can best involve and educate young men? What are the best ways to reach them?
My feelings are that activism is all about empathy, connecting to others on a person-to-person basis and discussing needs and concerns on both sides. It’s about reaching out and making allies, even if only one at a time, and having these guys accomplish your goals for you within their own community of friends and peers. Really supporting allies you acquire along the way might be the best method to bringing about change from within communities.
At the same time when educating or getting your message out you can’t write anyone off, paint any one person or group of people as the bad guy, or hand out any injunctions on how men have to act. You have to connect with them, see things from their perspective, and help guide them towards making the healthier decisions for themselves.
5. What is your favourite storyline/depiction of a relationship/sex/love for young people in the media? What makes it realistic?
I must admit my HUGE guilty pleasure addiction to Skins (I’m a loyalist to the UK version). It’s got teens hooking up in their bedrooms with their parents awkwardly milling about the house. It’s got teens getting messed up and hooking up when they shouldn’t. It’s got teens enjoying sex and intimacy and it’s got teens using sex as a tool or even a weapon. It has dramatically packed a ton of complicated feelings into a diverse cross-section of relationships.
Sure, I wish there was a little bit more depiction of them putting on condoms before going at it, and it normalizes drug use and rampant sex in a way I’m not completely comfortable with, but the roller coaster of feelings – the scariness, the desire, the hurt, the fun, the obsession, the excitement, the heartache, the ennui – capture a snapshot of adolescence in a way many have strived to, but ultimately failed. It’s completely unrealistic in its sensationalism but as real as ever in its portrayal of emotions that all seem so new as a teenager.
6. What frustrations have you encountered in your work? Or questions that you wish people would ask but don’t? Feel free to add anything else you’d like to say.
Too many people think young guys’ only concern is getting laid. It’s unfair. Few think that these guys need much in terms of guidance, or that they won’t seek out resources like H.U.S.H., or that they will only use it to get “what they want” out of girls. There is just generally an air of apathy or threatening desires that the rest of us assume young men have when few actually do.
I’d like to see more people asking, “what can we do for young guys?” I think it would make a big difference overall in the well-being of youth across the country.