These days, it’s a hard task, reading the news. Especially about sons. Someone’s sons.
An American man running for election, spouting nonsense like “a woman’s body has ways if shutting down” reproduction during rape. The term “legitimate rape” bandied about. Young Indian women mercilessly raped, beaten and murdered. Men blaming them. A teenager repeatedly raped in a football-mad US town, and, among dozens of others who failed to help her, a male college student laughing about her pain.
Girls are taught from fairly early ages that it’s not safe to . . . you must never . . . watch out for friends who . . . don’t go . . .. In many parts of the world, women schedule their days around making sure they are safe.
In India, women are now making thousands of gun applications. Because the law requires that they experience a clear danger to their lives, they point to the recent deaths of women raped and murdered, as well as the many threatening remarks directed their way. It could happen to any of us, they say. It doesn’t matter what we wear, what we say. It could happen, and we need to defend ourselves.
So, girls and women are advised, trained, exhorted, criticized, and urged to take up arms.
What about boys and men? Hands up, all parents of males who have specifically taught their sons that they are never to rape, that if they witness a rape they are to step in and stop it (calling 911 if necessary), and that if they hear of a rape they are to report it?
One, anyway. Mine.
My own son, an intelligent, kind young man, was taught these things as an adolescent. I didn’t think I needed to tell him, I didn’t believe he was likely to act wrongly, but I taught him anyway. “Don’t do it . . . if you see it, stop it from going on . . . if you hear about it, report it.”
What if the Steubenville attackers had been taught those things, directly, by their parents? And the rapists in India? And the many, many boys and men who think they have the right to break into someone’s body and ransack it?
Back in the day, police used to believe that criminals stuck to specific crimes. Then they began finding matching DNA from rapes and from . . . burglary. Of course. In both cases, there’s a feeling of entitlement to enter premises or a body which is not the criminal’s own.
A rapist is like a burglar. A psychopathic predator. A cruel parasite.
Is that what you want your little son to grow up to be? Is that really the fate you want for your teenage son, your adult son? Do you truly want him to be regarded as horrifyingly disturbed, wicked, cruel, and wonder where you went wrong? Do you want him in prison, or killed as a woman rightfully defends herself?
Start today. Teach your sons. Teach them to respect women, and women’s bodily integrity, as much as they respect their own. Teach them that they have no right, by force or coercion or otherwise, to enter another person’s body without full and fair consent — that means, at the minimum, consent by an alert, physically and mentally healthy adult not under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or fearing for her life or safety, or the lives or safety of others.
That if they witness a rape, they must stop it, and if they hear boasting of rape, they must report it.
Teach them that real men control themselves, and that lack of control signals problems – not with his environment or how a girl or women dresses or behaves, but with the man himself.
Teach him that if he acts in a way that hurts another person, or allows harm to continue or be obscured, he is not a man. He’s merely a boy in man’s clothing.
Teach your sons well.