For longer than I care to admit, I subscribed to the notion that “rape culture” was a myth. There was part of me that thought it was all an over exaggeration, if we could just manage to conduct ourselves as respectable, modest young women, the instances of rape would go away.
Then I had my first son, and a second, a third, and a fourth. Suddenly I found myself surround by little boys. Boys who would one day be men. And all at once, it clicked.
I had been raised in a home filled with women, I had three sisters, a mom, even the dog was a girl. My father was woefully outnumbered. But raised in an environment like that, with conservative, cultural-norm following parents, the message that was sent to us regarding rape, was: a good defense is the best offense.
This message is pervasive throughout our culture. We teach our young girls through our suggestions, our rules, our movies, our comments, and our looks, that there are things they should be doing to prevent from being sexually assaulted. We tell them that their shorts should be longer, and the shirts higher. They shouldn’t be drunk, or walk home alone. They certainly shouldn’t come off as promiscuous or adventurous. Put on a cardigan, sit with your legs crossed, and act like a lady.
I knew how to talk to girls about rape, I thought. But I didn’t have baby girls, I was given four beautiful boys. Four stereotypical, rambunctious, wild, and loving boys. So I had to re-evaluate. I wanted to teach my boys about how wrong it was to ever force sex, so I decided to work backwards. Go from what I knew and turn it over to them.
What I had always understood, albeit subconsciously, was that it was my responsibility, as a woman, to make sure I didn’t get raped. I was responsible for making sure a man did not force a sexual encounter on me. My skirt was responsible. My breasts were responsible. My hair, my attitude, my actions.
Talk about a wake up call. I sat with my mind reeling thinking about the four boys I was trying to raise into men, and realized to turn what I had been taught into a lesson for my boys I would have to tell them not to be around women with short skirts, or large breasts…. because they might rape her.
Avoid the women with cleavage, you might rape her.
Walk away from the drunk girl at the bar, you might rape her.
As a culture we have taken our girls and told them that it is their responsibility to take the necessary action to avoid being raped. Instead the lesson we need to be SCREAMING to our boys is DON’T EVER RAPE.
My boys will hear from me, that I don’t care if the woman in front of them is walking in a dark lonely alley with nothing but a g-string and nipple tassels, she is not asking for anything.
My sons will never be responsible for her clothing choices, where she decided to walk, what she decided to drink.
They will, however, be responsible for their own actions.
I want to raise MEN who see a person in a vulnerable situation, and speak up for what is right. Not because she is a woman, but because she is a person. Men who are willing to look at their buddies and say “hey that’s not cool” when one of them crosses a line. I want my sons to be able to see that line clearly.
I am not going to raise my boys to think that they need to avoid women of any particular type. I am going to raise men who can take accountability for their actions and hold themselves to, what should be, the most basic standard of self-control.
If we can band together and teach our boys to value, and respect the people around them, regardless of their genitalia, we can begin to wipe out the pervasive themes of “rape culture” that have been sewn so flawlessly into our society.