Friday, March 22, 2013

Trying to raise a son in a culture of rape

Steubenville football players Trent Mays and Ma'lik Richmond
I'm terrified for my son.
As parents, I guess we're all scared of something when it comes to our kids. Too much red dye 40, to little SPF 30. But those are manageable risks. Those are things I can control.
There are other things though, circumstances and situations that exist outside of our happy little bubble. Awful things that, no matter how badly I want to, I can't stop. Even worse? Someday, and it will probably come sooner than I'm ready for, I'll have to push my kid out into that world.
So again, I tell you, I'm terrified for my son.

I followed the Steubenville rape case from the moment it became a national story. As allegations turned into an investigation, I watched the coverage, unable to really understand it, but unwilling to look away. Next came the trial, which eventually concluded with two guilty verdicts against two teenage football players who raped a girl who was so drunk she had to be carried around like a sack of flour.
This is the world I've got to prepare my son for?
This is what our young men are turning into?
The thing that scares me the most, is that it doesn't sound so hard to teach your child right from wrong. Yet it must be more difficult that it seems, or things like this wouldn't be happening.
Rape is wrong. Doesn't that sound silly? Doesn't it seem utterly ridiculous to read those words? It should be obvious, right? Rape is wrong. Don't do it. Ever. Don't do it under any circumstances. It doesn't matter if the girl is drunk, sober, passed out or watching TV. It doesn't matter if she's walking down the street or if she's in a crowded subway car. It doesn't matter if she's wearing a short skirt or a San Diego Chicken costume. Don't rape her. That's obvious, right? Apparently it's not. And this behavior isn't limited to small, burnt out steel towns in the Midwest. It's happening all over the country.
How are we supposed to help our boys turn into productive men in a society so steeped in rape culture that otherwise reasonable young people don't know that it's wrong to sexually penetrate a girl struggling to stay conscious? How do we explain to our sons that rape is wrong when other girls will line up to blame, and even threaten the victim? How do we teach our sons about respecting women when our own elected officials refuse to show that respect by exhibiting blatant ignorance?
Maybe that's the easy part. We try harder.
We try harder as parents and we try harder as dads.
Young men can be taught by their mothers, but they learn from their fathers. They learn how to be strong, caring, respectful men by observing strong, caring, respectful men.
It's up to us to speak to our sons and explain to them, even if the subject matter is something uncomfortable to talk about, like rape.
Pretending there isn't a problem hasn't worked up to this point, and every second that passes while we make believe that everything is fine, the problem only gets bigger. The only way to change a culture is to face it head on and confront it.
I'm terrified for my son and the state of the world he stands to inherit one day.
But I'm willing to work like hell to make that world a little bit better of a place for him when he's ready to take it on.
I understand that, despite my efforts, it still might not be any better when he's ready for it.
But he will be.


  1. This is awesome. This is what it takes to make a change.

  2. Very well written. As the mother of a son I wholeheartedly agree with everything you said. I believe parents need to teach and prepare their children for a world that is scary and cruel but that is also beautiful when life is respeceted and appreciated. Thanks for writing