To the Parents of U.S. Teenagers,
(An open letter.)
Remember that intimate conversation you had with your son? The one where you said, “I love you and I need you to know that no matter how a woman dresses or acts, it is not an invitation to cat call, taunt, harass or assault her”?
Or when you told your son, “A woman’s virginity isn’t a prize and sleeping with a woman doesn’t earn you a point”?
How about the heart-to-heart where you lovingly conferred the legal knowledge that “a woman doesn’t have to be fighting you and you don’t have to be pinning her down for it to be RAPE. Intoxication means she can’t legally consent, NOT that she’s an easy score.”
I want you to consider these conversations and then ask yourself why you don’t remember them. The likely reason is because you didn’t have them. In fact, most parents haven’t had them.
By contrast, here are some conversations you might have a better recollection of. I’ll give you a telling hint: they probably weren’t with your son.
“Be careful with the way you act and the way you dress — it’s easy to get a bad reputation.”
“That’s just the way boys are — you can’t give them any excuse to behave that way towards you.”
“You need to be safe! When you dress that way, some people read it as an invitation.”
“Never go out alone, never walk alone at night, never drink from an open beverage.”
These are conversations often had by loving parents like you. They come from a place of care, they come from a place of concern but most notably they come from a place of upside-down, cultural indoctrination that is hurting, stifling and punishing young women.
It’s unfair and it’s horrifying,” one mother admitted to me, “but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s true. I can’t change the fact that there are creepy men out there behaving badly. I have to help my daughter protect herself.”
So let’s take a quick look at these “creepy men.” Who are they, really? Who are the creepy men that are making it unsafe for your daughter to go solo to a party on campus? Who are the creepy men that are catcalling her or slut-shaming her or intimidating her with their words? Who are the creepy men that are stalking her? Harassing her? Attacking her?
Who are these “creepy men” and where did they come from AND who in the hell raised them?
The answer, unfortunately, is YOU.
Your son is coming of age in that culture with those messages swirling around him. You might have raised him in a home that perpetuated that culture without ever intending to or perhaps you raised him in a home that taught values in complete contrast to that culture. The more important question is: did you ever directly tell him to never buy into that culture? Did you ever tell him that culture is unacceptable and WRONG? Did you ever have any of the aforementioned conversations?
When you have the “avoid getting raped” conversation with your daughter, it is difficult, as you don’t want to imagine her as a victim. The idea of having the “don’t rape” conversation with your son is more difficult as you don’t ever want to imagine him as a perpetrator.
Do it anyway.