Monday, April 15, 2013

Raising a Boy in Rape Culture

Lately, the news has been filled with horrific tales of teenage boys raping teenage girls and lots of victim blaming. Some victims have even committed suicide after being bullied after the rape. It gives a mama pause. How to raise a compassionate, respectful boy who grows into a respectful, compassionate man? We have started early. Rowan is three, but he is learning about body integrity, respecting other people's boundaries, and how to interact respectfully with others.
There are a lot of triggery links on this post, but please- if you have children, especially male children read them and talk to your kids NOW about this. I agree with this mom- it is an emergency:
"I don’t know how we stop boys from raping girls and posting the photos online. This has been happening far too often lately, and I’m sure there are many cases we still don’t know about. Because sex education is rarely taught in schools, rape education is never taught. I know as a parent I talk to my eldest son about these things and I will talk to my daughter about these things when she is older, even though I know my son is a smart, gentle kid who would never do anything like this, I talk to him about it anyway because I HAVE to. We all have to. I don’t know what else to say about this but my heart is broken.Please talk to your kids. This is an emergency."

A post of mine on Facebook, linking to an article about young boys learning todisrespect at an early age with the "boys will be boys"defense:
As a parent of a boy, I am glad to say that we have started early avoiding the "boys will be boys" behavior. Our child knows "back up and give them space", "you need to ask how your friends want to play together" and many more personal boundary and cooperative behaviors.It starts with simple things that can be easily dismissed by gender essentialists like knocking over towers. It cascades from there. After a childhood of learning that boys trump girls and they have no responsibility for the feelings of others, what do we expect?

I believe that these lessons need to be repeated often. Here is commentary from afather of a 4 year old boy on the Steubenville rape case:
'Convicted Steubenville rapist Ma’lik Richmond’s lawyer is planning to appeal the guilty verdict because – he says – at 16 years old, his client’s brain isn’t fully developed, and as such, he might not understand that rape is wrong.My son, all of four years old, is chewing his last strawberry mouthful as I finish my definition of rape and sexual assault, and my explanation of why forcing himself onto a girl—even his “girlfriend”, even just a kiss—is wrong. He gets it. His brain is far from fully-developed, but he nods as my sentence trails off and my hands fall back down to the table. “Okay, daddy. I won’t do it anymore,” he says. He slides off of his chair and gallops back to his cartoons.I know my son didn’t rape his preschool ex-”girlfriend.” And in all liklihood, he didn’t sexually assault her either. But when she let him know that she didn’t like him kissing her, it opened up our first conversation on the topic. And though I’m not completely sure I’m speaking on his level, I know I’d rather speak to him now so he knows that this is a topic between us. The rougher road lies ahead, but I’ve paved the first block and that’s what matters.'

I replied on Facebook:
We are working with my 3 year old son on boundaries and space and bodily consent. He knows to "give people space" if they ask. He knows that touching someone when they don't want it or they ask you not to is wrong (we even gave daddy a "time out" for continuing to tickle him when our son asked him to stop), and he knows that he needs to ask how his friends want to play together, instead of exerting his will upon others.That defense is some bullshit.

The national dialogue that puts rape prevention on women and girls is not where we should be focusing our energy. Rape is not a women's problem- while women and girls are most often the victims, boys and men must be taught, from birth onward, to respect others bodies, minds, and ideas.
"Responsible parentscan speak to their daughters about how to minimize their chances ofbeing raped. But the greater conversation we need to have is how tostop men and boys from raping. We have had years, and years, andyears of rape prevention seminars for women, of safety tips andclasses, of helpful hints so you don’t end up beaten and left in analley somewhere after being sexually assaulted. We need the same sortof seminars, and pamphlets, and websites dedicated to teaching boyshow not to rape. We need male politicians, and celebrities andathletes to do PSAs about how not to rape. We need fathers to talk totheir sons about not raping. Women? We do this. We talk about rape,we are vocal about rape, we write about rape and protest rape anddonate money to anti-rape organizations and write letters to getstricter rape laws passed. But we need more men to be as vocal as we are. "

How are you teaching your son in this regard?


  1. We MUST talk to boys about rape and its negative effects and girls should learn to talk to their parents. For example, if a girl is raped she should talk to her parents. She should tell them who did it to her. She shouldn't be ashamed for other people's fault.

  2. My son is turning four in a couple weeks. I think about this a lot. One of the most disappointing things he could do would be to grow up to be sexist towards women. Any other personal choice he makes is up to him, but that would kill me. It's really scary too, the way misogyny appears to have exploded online with groups like the Men's Rights Activists.
    We talk very frequently about boundaries and consent, and I have made sure he is aware of the fluidity and equality of gender and "sexuality."
    He loves cars and trains and machines and sports but he also loves pink and sparkles and hearts and cooking and pretty shoes and clothes.
    He's been supported in all of those interests.
    He knows that his body is his only and that others' bodies are theirs only.
    He knows boys can cry and girls can throw a baseball.
    He knows that we're all just people and we all deserve respect and compassion.


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