The Real Talk We Need to Have With Our Sons About Rape
The past few weeks, I’ve been troubled by how some adults are reacting to the rape case in Steubenville. Making generalizations about teens doesn’t help other teens to understand the severity of rape. We need to address the “boys will be boys” attitude that permeates our society and we need to be honest about how much we really don’t tell boys about self-control and respecting boundaries.
Our first mistake is rushing to tell boys what rape is instead of asking them “What is rape?” Once we know what they’re thinking we can proceed to have a conversation about rape. We have to let them ask questions no matter how much we want to avoid answering them.
As parents of boys, how may of us have in-depth conversations with our sons about rape. Yes, it’s an uncomfortable and complex subject but we can’t just keep telling them that “No means no”, “Respect women” and “Don’t rape.”
We have to teach them self-control and not to use their power or strength to over power a woman who is weak, vulnerable, promiscuous or inebriated. We have to let our sons know that under no circumstance is it ever okay to use words, physical force, drugs or alcohol to rape a woman. It starts with teaching boys at an early age to have self-control.
It’s not about just raising our sons to be gentleman, because there are men who by society’s standards are gentlemen, that rape women. There are nice guys that rape women. Let’s stop projecting an image of a rapist as an feral animal or a monster. A rapist can be cleverly disguised as a friendly, well-respected neighbor, co-worker or associate. Boys need to know that no matter how popular, good looking, sexy, well-liked or charming they are, no matter no much money or time they spend with a girl, they are NOT entitled to sex.
I was almost raped by a “nice guy” who I thought was my friend. After he helped me move into my apartment, he tried to rape me. The thought that ran through my head as I was fighting him off was”No one would believe me because he’s a nice guy.” He never gave me any indication that he had this side to him. I never flirted or led him to believe we were anything more than friends. This is why it was so painful. I thank God that at some point he came to his senses and realized what was happening and left quickly. The next day he called to apologize but the damage had already been done. He crossed the boundaries and broke a trust. There was no turning back and our friendship was over.
Years later, what I learned about that night is that it was about control. He tried to use physical force and persuasive words to convince me that I led him on and I wanted this. This is what we need to remind our sons that no matter how charming, good looking, wealthy, educated or successful they are, they have no right to take away a woman’s dignity, her self-respect, her pride and her trust. We have to remind our sons that no woman “asks for it” because she is promiscuous, flirty, sexy, or confident.
Rape is a sexual act that is sometimes violent in nature. Anytime someone is forced to do something against their will, it’s not mutual and consenting.We have to teach them that they may face a situation in which a woman is sending mixed messages and she is enticing him. I don’t care if she’s buck naked and waiting, once her lips say “No” or “Stop”, you have to control your urges and stop. Only “yes” means yes.
We have to tell our sons that just because a woman is giving him signs that she is interested in having sex, these signs could be misconstrued.
If at any point the message is unclear, don’t try to proceed with sex. Alcohol played a major role in the Steubenville case and we have to let
our sons know that alcohol inhibits your thinking and reasoning. A “nice guy” can make bad choices when he has been drinking.
We need to teach our sons that if they witnessed another guy trying to coerce a girl into sex or is taking advantage of her weakened state to speak up and do something. Let’s stop with the “boys club” and “no snitching” mentality. Let your son know that if he sees something and doesn’t take action, he is just as responsible. Sharing pictures and videos or making comments about the victim is also something we need to discuss.
Our conversations with our sons about sex and rape are not one shot deals. They have to be continuous and unabridged. No matter how often we talk about it, the message should be clear: “It’s about respecting boundaries and getting consent.”