The day you bring your child into the world is, typically, a day that offers immeasurable joy and opportunity. An opportunity to shape a tiny little human into whoever you’d hope they would be. So I am going to go out on a limb here and say that most parents don’t hope and dream that their child will turn out to be a rapist. It’s interesting because we teach out kids not to play in traffic; not to stick their fingers in light sockets; and not to talk back to their teachers, yet the opportunities that most parents have to discuss consent and the like, don’t even seem to register as necessary. So here I am, willing to help you navigate the ever-looming conversation with your son about not raping people.
Your Desires Do Not Outweigh Another Person’s Rights.
This seems pretty simple right? Just because you want something it doesn’t mean you have the right to it. We teach this to our kids when it comes to learning how to share in pre-school; not stealing from a business when you go into a store; and just because you may be attracted to someone else or someone is in a position in which you feel that you could take advantage, you don’t… the universe isn’t your personal play ground and that isn’t the person you want to be. That isn’t the person I want you to be.
What Makes You A Man Isn’t The Act Of Taking From Others.
There are so many messages in this world about what makes a man a man and lets be honest, the majority of them are shit. They often center on cockiness, aggression and dominance. Ya know, the whole “boys will be boys” nonsense. The belief that boys aren’t responsible for their actions because they are inherently impulsive and wild creates a narrative that hurts the boys who try to live up to that expectation and the boys who don’t. So when your son tries to take away another person’s sense of self-respect, worth, safety, or love… you don’t stand for it. You help him understand that being a man isn’t about leaving a wake of destruction.
You Don’t Know Everything. That’s Okay.
From a really early age, boys are conditioned to believe that they should have all of the answers (how do you think “mansplaining” evolved?). Which is not only ridiculous, but also a ton of unnecessary pressure—no one knows everything. It’s our job to allow him to be vulnerable and praise his ability to step back and not just listen to others but hear them. This will help build important relationship skills necessary for healthy, long-term intimacy. Instead of his jumping to conclusions around what he believes to “know” someone else “wants,” he’ll have already learned how to ask, listen and accept that information for what it is.
You Are Not Entitled To Anyone’s Body. Ever.
Whether you are in a romantic relationship, friendship or connect with a total stranger, our son’s need to understand that regardless of how they may feel physically or emotionally, those feelings don’t over ride another person’s autonomy. We don’t hit someone because we “like them;” we don’t expect sex because we paid for a date; and we sure as hell don’t force any type of physical act on anyone else, for any reason at all. Entitlement is a helluvah thing, y’all. The sooner our kids realize that they aren’t entitled to anything in this world, the better off we’ll all be.
It’s More Than Okay To Be Emotional
I will literally say this a billion times until the day I die: Our sons should be encouraged to connect with their emotions. Of course, emotional expression looks different for everyone, but emotional suppression hurts. It can cause a buildup of anger and resentment that reduces a person’s ability to healthily manage life’s stressors. Moreover, how can we expect our sons to be empathetic towards others when they can’t even show themselves empathy.
Consent Is An Ongoing Conversation. Like, Forever & Ever.
There are some conversations with our kids that should continue forever. For example: don’t drink and drive and don’t use the good towels when you masturbate. So when our sons begin to show interest in dating or spending time with others romantically, that is our cue to begin an open dialogue around consent, which seems straightforward, but may not be for them. Like, what happens if someone is in a situation in which they are unable to consent (i.e. passed out, etc.)? Or what if your partner consents but seems uncomfortable about it? These are conversations that may seem pretty simple and self-explanatory to adults (well, some adults), but need explanation and reiteration to adolescents/young adults.
The take away–don’t stop talking to your sons. Let them know you’re there to listen and answer questions without judgement. It’s up to us to teach them not to rape.
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