I’m not a mother of human children and I don’t anticipate that ever changing, but when I hear about, and personally experience the misogyny in our culture, I can’t help but wonder how an individual grows into a man that disrespects others – and in particular, woman – to such detrimental degrees.
If I had a son, as soon as that toddler is able to comprehend the simplest of words and concepts, respecting all people would be the first, foremost, fundamental teaching tool that all of my parenting would be based on. It’s not just about giving birth to a little baby boy and raising him to be a man, its about being prepared to explain that the things he is going to see and hear, the expectations the outside world is going to pressure him with, are below him, beneath him, barbarian concepts that he has to rise above. I can’t imagine what a challenge it would be to raise a man in this world today. Then again, I can’t imagine what a challenge it would be to raise a female either and to have to explain to her that she can do anything she wants with her own body, but that if she chooses to wear a short skirt or a tight shirt, a man might claim that she was “asking” to get raped.
If I had a son, I would tell him when he is a young child that it’s not okay to do anything to any person without their consent. Some people might want hugs, some people might not. ASK THEM before you hug. Some people might want a kiss, some people might not. ASK BEFORE YOU KISS THEM. Even touching a person without their consent is wrong. I would jab at him with my finger and ask him if he liked that. When he tells me, “no” I would then use that as an example of consent and why he has to ask others before even so much as touching them. I would ask, “Do you want me to poke you again?” When he says, “No!” I would say, “Okay, I won’t. That’s what consent is. I asked you if you would like to be touched, you said no, so I stopped. But if anyone ever touches you without asking, you tell them NO!”
As my theoretical son grows older, I would explain as a jump-off from hugs and kisses that some people might want to have sex, and some might not, and you only ever engage in sexual activity if your partner is mutually wanting to engage in said activity of their own free will. I would explain that sex is a responsibility, and about the possible consequences that can happen if you have sex without being responsible; STD’s, pregnancy, etc. I wouldn’t tell my son not to have sex, but I would impress upon him WHY it is important to wait until he AND his partner both feel they are ready to take on that responsibility, sex is a responsibility to one’s self and to one’s partner. By deciding to have sex, you are partially responsible for the health and well-being of the partner you chose to engage in sex with. If my son chose to have sex with a female, I would make sure he understood that it is just as much his responsibility to take precautions against pregnancy as his partner’s.
Notice that I said PEOPLE/PARTNER and not just WOMAN. I’d want my son to know that whoever he loves or is attracted to is one hundred percent okay, that the ONLY thing that matters is free will, mutual consent, and being prepared. I would teach him to understand very clearly that consent CANNOT be given when a person is drunk or high, that NO is a very clear statement, that YES only counts when it is not coerced.
I have so much trouble understanding the circumstances that surround men who rape. Take Brock Turner for instance, he rapes a girl behind a dumpster and gets 3 months jail time for it. After all, “Brock is an excellent swimmer and has a bright future ahead of him, we wouldn’t want to take away a talented person’s future, would we?” What makes me even sicker is that his parents are the ones defending him as such. His father referred to his rapist’s son’s actions as “a mistake.” I’m sorry – did Brock trip? Did his dick FALL into his victim’s vagina??! A mistake is when you dial a wrong number. A mistake is when you put the wrong kind of spice into your sauce because you weren’t paying attention. Rape is not a mistake, rape is a conscious choice. I can’t wrap my head around how a parent could find out their child is a rapist, and not be beyond horrified, disgusted, and absolutely beside themselves. If I was the parent of a rapist, my interest would be protecting his victim from him, not protecting his precious future. That would be out of my hands. He would have thrown his future away the moment he decided to rape someone.
Did Brock’s parents ever raise him to respect others? Did they explain to him that although he is going to grow up seeing and hearing very disturbing things from society, the media, his peers, that the lessons they (in theory) taught him about consent as a child are more important than ever now that he is a young man? (Or did they never teach him those lessons to begin with?) Did they ever set him straight when he made inappropriate remarks about woman or their bodies? Did they ever catch him looking at a Playboy when he was twelve years old and explain to him that although it’s okay and normal to admire the human body and even be turned on by it, those woman are NOT “asking for it” because they chose to pose naked? Did they explain that woman and men should dress however they feel most comfortable and it is not okay to sexualize or shame them for it?
If I had a son, the moment I chose to be a mother, I would consider it my personal responsibility to make sure he grew up to be the kind of man that everyone is safe around. He would be kind, he would be respectful, he would be an example for others to follow.
I may not be a mother but I understand very well the responsibility you take on when you choose to be a parent. I understand that the type of adult your child grows up to be is heavily influenced by the heart of their very first home and family. I am not a parent, but I was once a victim who didn’t report the person because I was too afraid I would be blamed because I had been drinking. I was once a victim who thought, “If it’s my word over his, who would believe me?” I was once a victim who did not stand up for myself, and against him. I was not only a victim of rape, but rape culture and I’m not sure which of those two brings me more internal shame.
If I had a son, I would raise him to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.
Mothers and fathers of sons, I hope you take a look at the world around you, and I hope that you have open, honest discussions with your sons about the respect they need to show others. I hope you don’t slap your sons on the back and congratulate them on their “conquests” in High School, because they will go off to college and take turns on the drunk girl at their frats thinking they are making their fathers proud. I hope you think about all of the times you were shamed or sexualized as if you were less than human (and we have ALL had those experiences, sadly, being whistled at or cat-called because you wore a bikino on a hot day, or being called a whale because you are overweight and decided to go to the beach anyway) and I hope you consider it your personal responsibility to teach your sons that no human being exists for their pleasure, that every person around them has just as many feelings as they do. I hope you teach your sons to help the old lady with her groceries across the street, to stand up for people getting bullied, to save the girl or boy across the room from being victimized in any way, but anyone.
If I had a son, I would do everything in my power to raise him to be a good man. Mothers and fathers of sons, I hope you feel this way, too. I hope you take a look at the current world around us and feel horror in the pit of your stomach, and I hope you respond to that horror by teaching your children right from wrong in the clearest, most open and consise ways possible.
I don’t have a son, but many people do. Don’t let your sons grow up to be Brock Turner.