Talk to Your Sons

If you doubt the veracity or sincerity of the #MeToo movement, I beg you to read this blog post. If you read nothing else I write, please read this.

My 18-year old daughter has had multiple experiences that I can’t fathom. That I never experienced and struggle to comprehend. Experiences that make my skin crawl. That make me want to shout into the wind. That make me want to strangle the necks of the young men who foisted these experiences on her. That make me want to cry. That make me think, as parents of boys, we must collectively be failing.

************** warning **************
*potentially offensive language ahead *

Jane has been asked to boys’ houses for casual sex. Jane has been texted by boys asking her to suck their dicks. Jane has been texted by boys asking her to let them “suck her titties.”

This has come from multiple boys. None of whom she’s been in a romantic relationship with at the time of the request. In fact, only one of them had she ever even gone on a date with, and that one, it was a single date months in the past. One had only recently been dumped by a close friends of hers. And another was a clearly platonic friend she had known for almost a decade.

Jane is matter-of-fact about it. She tells them no and often tells them off. She lectures them on their behavior and attempts to explain the inappropriateness of it. But.

But.

She seems to take it all in stride.

Just let that sink in for a minute.

An eighteen year old girl knows it isn’t right but also isn’t particularly surprised.

I talked to another mother of a girl of a slightly younger age. That girl wears a sweatshirt several sizes too big for her every day to school, no matter the weather, because that’s the only thing she’s found that keeps boys from grabbing her.

What a terrible thing for our boys that they are expected to misbehave. What a terrible thing for our girls that they have to deal with the misbehavior. As if it’s normal.

Now before you shake your head and mutter under your breath that some people should do a better job raising their sons but it has nothing to do with you, consider this. One of these boys, I know for a fact, comes from a very good family. A good Christian family that believes in hard work, respect, morals, proper behavior. His parents would be appalled.

I don’t tell them because they would come down on him and he would lash out at Jane and Jane would be mad at me, feeling I had betrayed her confidence. And then she would shut me out. I don’t tell them because Jane doesn’t want me to.

She’s already learned the lesson that many women seem to learn. It’s just better to sweep it under the rug. To minimize the significance of what happened. To say it really wasn’t that big a deal. It’s just her word against his anyway and there’s always the chance that his parents and others won’t believe what she says. That they’ll think she’s just out to destroy his life for some unclear reason. So we don’t rock the boat. No wonder so many young women struggle with depression and anxiety.

Here’s another sad lesson. When I said that every time I see one of these boys or his parents, I’m thinking about it, that I can’t look at him the same way anymore, she responded, “I know mom. Me too. It just goes to show that you think boys are your friends, but really, they aren’t.”

If you think your son would never do this, that he’s not capable of being that crass, that you’ve surely raised him better than that, You. Are. Wrong.

I believe my 15-year old son would never do this. I believe he is not capable of being that crass. I believe I have raised him better than this.

But I also know that before this, I had never talked to him about stuff like this. I had never thought I needed to tell him that asking a girl he’s not in a serious relationship with for sexual favors is wrong. That texting a random girl “Hey, suck my dick” is out of line. I seriously never thought I needed to.

I have talked to him now. In depth. And if you have a son, you should too. Today. And again tomorrow. And next week. And as often as necessary. Talk to him about his behavior but also tell him to talk to his friends. Tell him to call it out for what it is when he sees it. Work to change this culture that objectifies and demeans our girls and reduces our boys to something less than they can be. Than they should be.

Addendum: I told Jane as she read this that I would not publish it without her permission. I thought she might not want me talking about it. She shrugged. “It’s not a unique story, mom.”

9 thoughts on “Talk to Your Sons

  1. A sign of the times of abomination, sin and corruption. I cannot imagine what many of these young ladies are experiencing. I have 3 young granddaughters and they’re going to face this?? Our society is rotting from the inside out.

    • I’m not going to say you are wrong, but I’m hesitant to focus on “our fallen world” because it can refocus the blame away from the individuals and in some ways permit them to not take full responsibility for their personal behavior.

  2. Me, too and I’m a LOT older than Jane. The only thing that’s new about this is technology. Worse yet, it’s not limited to teenage boys. My experiences with this have been with grown men and not verbal suggestions. I never knew what to do. Once I worked with a man who would rub himself against me. I ignored it and avoided him as much as possible. My therapist at the time (also a man) had a suggestion — “spill something on him and say ‘I’m sorry’ as though you’re not at all sorry.” I worked in a job that involved solvents. As a woman, I’d been raised not to physically attack anyone in any way. But…. Anyway, long story short, it came to pass that he had to leave the work area and change clothes in order to avoid a chemical burn to his manhood. He knew exactly why he got spilled on and he never rubbed against me again. I think Jane’s manner of dealing with these young creeps may actually help them become decent adults. Mine may have just made that guy feel like a victim. And you are right. Young men can help stamp out this behavior by standing up to their friends and acquaintances, and, yes, to the grown men they are around, too.
    I can’t believe that having a Groper-in-chief in the White House helps this situation at all.

    • Hmmm… remind me not to upset you! 🙂

      Seriously though, yes, technology adds a new dimension. I think it makes it more prevalent because the boys that wouldn’t have the guts to rub up against someone or ask for a blow job in person can make the request from a distance while looking at a screen instead of a shocked or angry face. No risk of getting slapped! Then again, they are leaving physical evidence that I think more girls should be encouraged to use with authority figures to hold the boys accountable.

  3. Yes it does being the dad of two now grown sons. The other side of the coin happened to both of my sons. Sweet young girls would send titty pics to them asking them out. I accidentally found out when my oldest who was 19 told the 15 year old that he use to get them too when his little brother made a comment about it. I overheard their response to each other – deleted them and never dealt with the girl (s) again.
    The oldest also said he wasn’t interested in a job that showed everything to him and probably everyone else as well.
    Fast forward to the youngests first year in college. He came back to his room and heard the shower going. He yelled at his roomie but the roomie was in his room not the shower. He banged on the door and a cord came out in a towel – both boys asked what she was doing and she flirted with my son. He kicked her out and told her not to come back. A while later he came to his room and another coed was laying in his bed sleeping. He woke her and kicked her out too. After that he always kept his bedroom door locked.
    You see it’s not just boys. Although I do agree boys tend to be very aggressive and probably are responsible for these girls thinking that’s how a man wants a woman to be.
    Sonin my case and in many many cases our young men are behaving and respecting girls and women. All could do it but all do not do it.
    I have had multiple fathers tell me they wished my sons would date their daughters.

    • I’ll agree that there are plenty of girls misbehaving and not recognizing their behavior as inappropriate, but there are some critical differences.

      The most significant is the power imbalance. Girls are much more likely to feel threatened and intimidated when boys aggressively pursue them because they know that if the boy decides to force it, there is little they can do to stop him.

      I would also argue that a girl you don’t really know passed out on your bed is an uncomfortable experience but nothing like someone you thought of as like a brother pressuring you for sex. The damage that does to a person’s ability to interpret their relationships can’t be overstated.

    • I’ve been thinking about your comment and my response and I think I owe an apology of sorts. I’m afraid I came across as minimizing your sons’ experiences. I was focused on the feeling of vulnerability that felt unique to a girl’s experience. But I think I also fell into an easy trap of feeling like it’s somehow less of an issue when a girl does it. But the sending of unsolicited pictures is clearly the same regardless of who does it. And choosing the least objectionable of your examples to the most traumatic of mine was unfair.

      Boys have unique challenges in our society. No one is surprised when a girl objects to this kind of behavior (assuming she is believed). Boys risk hearing, “What’s the matter? Don’t you like girls? What kind of a man are you?” Which really ties back to the mentality that causes the kind of behavior I was talking about.

      So I’m sorry your boys had the experiences they did, that the girls hadn’t been better taught to respect boys’ personal space. I will quibble just a bit on you saying it’s probably boys’ faults for girls thinking “that’s how a man wants a woman to be.” There may be some truth in that but it comes a little too close to victim blaming for me. Reverse the roles and it’s “girls are responsible for making boys think they want to be wooed this way.” It feels different to me (and apparently you too) but I’m not sure it should be. Thank you for reading this blog and for sharing your perspective.

  4. Thank you for this. I’m also not surprised. You know why? Because as a never-married woman over 40, I have ALSO had this kind of interaction with men. Completely unsolicited dick picks, requests for nudes, expectations (even near *demands*) from men—FULL GROWN, over-35-yo “MEN”—who think that a friendly exchange is an invitation to sexual contact when we don’t know more than each other’s names. Seriously. I’m so sick of this. So thanks for speaking out and speaking with your kids about this, and for respecting Jane’s input and opinions before publishing this blog or otherwise acting on these incidents. Much love to you and your whole family.

    • I have a couple of friends who each divorced a few years ago. One tried a dating app and had a guy who expected sex on the first date, while the other received unsolicited dick pics. I remember thinking, “I hope to God I’m never single again because I don’t want to navigate that.” It’s incredible and I’m sorry you have to deal with it. Thank you for sharing your experience.

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