A male friend tells a story about an incident he witnessed at a frat house party. He and two of his fraternity brothers found themselves in a bedroom with an inebriated, negligibly conscious young woman who was lying on the bed. One of his friends, he recounts, said, “Hey, let’s stick our d*cks in her mouth!”
My friend and the third friend looked at him incredulously. “Are you effing nuts? What the eff is wrong with you?” they responded. They quickly left the room, found the young woman’s friends, and encouraged them to take their drunk friend home right away.
This happened in 1982. Guess not much has changed.
This year, a client shared she saw some NSFW pics of a female classmate on her teenage son’s phone.
“So,” she asked me, “Should I talk to him about it?”
“I’m sorry…WHAAAAT?!” I replied. Okay, that’s not what I said, but it certainly was how I felt. Of course she needed to talk with her son about the pictures; and what it meant to have them, share them, and look at them.
Moms, boys need your input so they can also understand the world from a female perspective. You can’t leave these conversations solely to the men in their lives. They must hear your anger, see your disappointment and concern, and observe your pain. You must teach them how women should be treated. Your voice is a crucial one, even when you think they’re not listening. Because they are. Because you’re their mom.
My now 20-something sons heard a lot from me in their growing up years about sex and conduct — much more than they would have preferred, I’m sure. Oftentimes, the topics were cringe-worthy for all of us. But the recent Brock Turner case makes me wonder if he — and other young men who rape — get these crystal clear messages from their moms.
A starter list of what boys need to hear from their mothers or grandmothers:
1. It’s rape.
How to talk about it: “If a woman says no and you go ahead anyway, it’s rape. If a woman can’t give obvious consent, it’s rape. If a woman is inebriated to the point of incoherence and you have sex with her, it’s rape. No means no. An inkling of no means no. Sketchiness means no. I promise you, no blow job or intercourse with a semi-conscious woman is worth ruining both your lives.”
Brock Turner’s rape victim’s letter was so eloquent and powerful it should be required reading for all incoming college freshmen. I’ve borrowed from her words to drive these points home:
If you are confused about whether a girl can consent, see if she can speak an entire sentence. If a girl falls down, help her get back up. If she is too drunk to even walk and falls down, do not mount her, hump her, take off her underwear, and insert your hand inside her vagina. If she is wearing a cardigan over her dress, don’t take it off so that you can touch her breasts.
2. Zip up. Sexual assault needs to be talked about, especially before they head off to college or wherever life is taking them.
How to talk about it: “Be alert to these situations. Often, they involve heavy partying and a mob mentality. Step in or go get help. Inaction makes you responsible, too.”
How to talk about it: “Condoms, condoms, condoms. An unwanted pregnancy has lifelong implications, no matter what you choose to do about it. It doesn’t just affect the woman. You’ll also be affected in ways you can’t imagine.” Same goes for STDs.
How to talk about it: “Like most things in life, it’s okay in moderation. Know that the porn industry is built on fantasy — so don’t expect the women in your life to look and behave sexually like the women you see on the screen. Don’t let porn interfere with building real-life relationships.”
5. First Time.
How to talk about it: “I hope your first sexual experience will be with someone you care about. It will be more meaningful that way.”
6. Racy pics.
How to talk about it: “Don’t share compromising pictures of yourself or your classmates. Once they’re out there, you can’t take them back and you leave everyone involved vulnerable. Never share pictures of people clearly disrespecting themselves, or ones that were shared privately with someone else. This could be a prosecutable crime. Want that on your record?”
7. Be aware of the female experience.
How to talk about it: “Make sure women know they’re safe with you. If you’re rushing up behind a woman on a dark street or in a parking garage, say something to assure her like, ‘I don’t mean to alarm you, I’m just in a hurry.’”
8. Learn how to please a woman.
How to talk about it: “Sex isn’t all about you. Learn what your partner wants and do it. If you’re not interested in pleasing her, maybe you should rethink your choices.”
9. Don’t make false promises to get someone to have sex with you.
How to talk about it: “That’s just plain disgusting, and I raised you better than that.”
10. The all-important Mirror Test. “Look in the mirror and ask yourself if you like the person you see. If not, do something about it. Remember, whatever you do, you have to like yourself in the morning.”
Pretty simple, huh? Now it’s your turn, moms and grandmoms. You’ve got this.
Abby Rodman is a bestselling author, psychotherapist, and relationship strategist renowned for her focus on dating, marriage and divorce in midlife. She has appeared on the Today Show, HuffPost Live, and is regularly sought out by media outlets for her expertise on relationship issues. Abby is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post and her work has been featured in the Boston Globe Magazine. To learn more, visit her website at abbyrodman.com.
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