I almost didn’t write this for the fear of any backlash, but as the mother of four little boys, I just have to say something.
Good Lord, have I had it with that term being spread around like it’s the new “it” thing to discuss, like rape is a new phenomenon just now deemed newsworthy. But the truth is, when we discuss something to death, that means it’s out there, raw, ugly, and in the open. Most of the internet flurry about rape culture came with the atrocity of the Steubenville rape, and the media’s absolutely deplorable victim-blaming. If you haven’t heard of this, go brush up HERE. Then, note that the first adjective used to define this poor girl isn’t that she was brutalized; no, it’s that she was “drunk.” Like “drunk” is some kind of free pass for these boys. How do they describe the boys? “Football players.” Sorry, but the only word they should be using is “rapists.” UGGGGGGGH!
So the flurry of Steubenville dies down, but then today, I read THIS, about how this 15 year-old girl was gang-raped at a friends house, had pictures of her torture spread around her school, and was subsequently tormented so horrendously by her classmates that she killed herself. Sorry, but WHAT THE HELL is wrong with these kids we’re raising? How can we stop this?
I am the mother of four boys, and all I see when crap like this happens, is that my boys can’t turn out like these monsters. If I have one responsibility in this world, it’s to raise these four good men, or I’m part of the problem. Breaking rape culture starts with us, the mothers of boys. So here we go:
Oh, my beautiful boys,
Right now you are little, and cute, and have squishy, kissy cheeks. Right now I am the center of your universe, the healer of boo-boos, the Goddess of hockey gear, and keeper of the brownies. Right now, you are everything that is good, right, and thrilling about little boys, and the light that shines through those eyes of yours could illuminate the world. It does mine.
But you are growing up, and as you do, this world will become complicated, and sometimes ugly. I’m sorry I can’t shield you from this. I would keep you in a bubble your whole life if I could. But, the amazing part of this is that you can directly decrease the ugliness by just being you. I’m begging you to be the men you have the potential to be.
When it comes to girls, and the sex I cringe at the thought of you having, she’d better be consenting or I will hunt you down myself. Let’s have a quick talk about consent. Consent means she said, “Yes.” Everything else is a “no,” and if she says “no,” you’d better respect her choice, otherwise you will become what is ugly in the world. Ready?
* “No,” means No.
* “Maybe,” means NO.
* “I don’t know,” means NO.
* “We shouldn’t,” means NO.
* Changing her mind when you’re about to round third or home? That’s also a NO.
* No response? STILL MEANS NO.
Do you know what means Yes? It’s only when she says “Yes,” before you so much as touch her, and she’s not drunk, high, or otherwise impaired. It’s saying “Yes” while of sound judgement, and it’s your responsibility as men to make sure she means it. Oh, and if you’re having sex, you’d better be mature enough to know you’re a man, and not hide behind the “boy” title. Question her “yes,” make her say it out loud, and not through a head-nod or what you think was her sigh of assent. If she’s drunk, take her home and care for her like she was your sister or even me. There is not a girl in this world that isn’t someone’s daughter, sister, or maybe even mother. Treat her with the same respect and kindness you show me, because I know I’ve taught you to, and I expect you to.
These are not chances to try to “change he mind” or guilt her into it. If she’s unsure about this decision she’s making, then you need to back the heck up off and wait. Why? Because a few-seconds of orgasm isn’t worth the destruction it can cause. Because you will be a good man, and men, the real ones, don’t take advantage of anyone. Ever.
Right now, as little men, we have a rule in this house: We’re superheroes. We protect anything smaller than we are. Whether it’s an animal, a little brother, or a neighbor in need of our support, if we are capable, we are kind. We are always capable. I need you to carry this through your life. Genetically speaking, you will be stronger than most girls, and with this comes a responsibility to protect them. This doesn’t mean that you won’t meet mean girls with cruel hearts and spiteful tongues. I wish I could protect you from them, but I can’t. Whatever anger, or hurt they may inflict upon you, they still deserve your protection and kindness. Why? Because I expect you to be better, to take the love in your heart and make your words and actions match it.
Why am I hounding you on this? Because I love you, and I cannot sit by while a generation of men your age is turning cold and callous. Because I was a teenage girl once. Because when a man rapes a girl, and that’s what it is if she hasn’t explicitly and whole-heartedly said, “YES,” it causes irreparable damage to her, deeper than physical wounds. It will also ruin you as a man, taking you from the honorable potential you have to be your amazing selves, and turns you into something abysmally evil.
But there’s more to this whole “not-raping” thing. When I say protect those who are smaller, it also means to stand up to the bullies who are committing these awful, deplorable, disgusting acts. Too many stories are out there of girls being abused at parties, being carried out to be assaulted while the room stares and does nothing out of peer pressure because the boys are popular. Please, do something. Call the police. Call her parents. Call me. I don’t care if you’re where you’re not supposed to be because you snuck out; if I get a call at 2 am from the police station because you assaulted some asshole raping a girl, I will happily bail you out and then make you brownies. Be the good in the world. You never know when a simple action on your part can change someone’s life for the better… or the worse.
I can’t be with you every moment of every day. Life is catching up to us, and you’re growing so fast I can barely keep the right-sized clothes on you. I am so proud of the little boys you are, and the honorable men you will grow to be. Every day, as you leave this house I say to you, “We made you beautiful, God made you smart, but only you can choose to be kind. Make good decisions. Be kind.” I won’t always be here, but I hope that as you pass me on the height chart and make your way in our world, you remember these words, and you wear your beloved super-hero capes, even if only in your heart. Be someone’s superhero, not their villain.
Though you may not have a little sister that I can draw analogy to, who I could use as an example of providing protection, I have one more request to make of you. When you are fathers to my granddaughters, teach them to be wary, smart, and strong, because I cannot raise every boy on this planet, and there will always be evil in the world around us. Be her superhero, just like you’re mine.
Please, my little loves. Protect those who are smaller as I have protected you. Kindness is never a weakness. It might not make you popular in high school, or even college, but it will make you into the kind of man the world will stop and take notice of. It will make you into the kind of man your father is, and your grandpa is. Kindness is the kind of strength that will build you into a man so strong that you can conquer the evils in this world, even if you are one boy at a time.
I love you, and though you have no clue that I’ve written this letter, I think I’ll go make you some brownies and kiss those cheeks while you’re small enough to not wipe it away. Too soon, you’ll be men, but right now, you’re still my little boys, my little superheroes.
I love you with my whole heart,