Don’t Rape! A Message For All Our Sons

Someone, somewhere, is raising a son who will be a rapist. I don’t know about you, but I most certainly don’t want that to be me.

Don’t Rape! A Message For All Our Sons

Recently someone “corrected” a meme that says “Tell your sons not to rape my daughters” and it went viral. They corrected it to say “Tell everyone to be nice to everyone”. After that there were about a billion comments cheering the corrector on, but I just want to know one thing. Where are these parents who AREN’T telling everyone to be nice to everyone? If there are parents like that, they’re not particularly responsible are they? I wonder if they’re the parents of all the rapists that are getting about.

There were a ridiculous number of people offended on behalf of their sons. Apparently suggesting that we  tell boys not to rape is discriminatory, because MEN GET RAPED TOO (that’s a bit of an illogical leap isn’t it?) We shouldn’t tell our sons not to rape because they might get raped!? Weird! But we need to tell girls not to rape if we’re going to tell boys. Ok, whatever.

I’ll tell you something. If you think like that, you’re viewing this through the wrong lens. Why would you assume that rape is always a heterosexual act? And what does telling someone not to rape have to do with the fact that they may fall victim to a rapist? To be honest, I don’t get it. It stinks of cognitive dissonance.

I have a daughter. You need to tell your sons not to rape her.

I also have three sons, and I’m not remotely offended by the suggestion that I talk to them them about rape. I have no reason to defend them either. All I have is a desperate need to tell my sons not to rape. Not my daughter, just my sons. Not because I think they will become rapists, but because I acknowledge the unpleasant reality: SOMEONE, SOMEWHERE, IS RAISING A RAPIST. 

In a recently published article by Mirko Bargaric, the Director of the Centre for Evidence-Based Sentencing at Deakin University, Melbourne, it was stated that:

“… when it comes to sexual offences, rounded off to the nearest whole number, women constitute 0% of all offenders – that’s right, zero. ”

So clearly, there are some women who are charged, but the number is extremely low. EXTREMELY low. The “men get raped too” argument is totally irrelevant to this conversation. It’s time to rewrite our social discourse. Our current one is failing abysmally on all fronts. There must be mass denial and social blindness in order for it to continue the way it does, with people outraged by the suggestion that they tell their sons not to rape, because men get raped.

What crime figures show us – despite the internet outrage of parents with sons – is this. Young boys get abused by paedophiles. The majority of which are men. But if a boy can make it to adulthood, his odds of being raped are extremely slim, unless he is sent to prison. Furthermore for those men who are raped, the majority are raped by,  you guessed it! MEN!

People like to suggest that the problem with rape statistics and men is that men aren’t coming forward to the police or other reporting agencies with their stories. Men are too embarrassed. But shame and embarrassment are not an experience that is exclusive to men. Men are no more embarrassed than women as victims of rape, and any reputable source will confirm this for you. Furthermore, whilst police may not believe a male victim, or may shame him, it’s actually no different for women. That is rape culture!

Rape culture is also a refusal to discuss rape with our sons and a demand that we just tell all our kids to play nice rather than talking to them about rape. Whoever corrected this meme, very neatly highlighted – as did all the commenters cheering them on – exactly what rape culture is! I might thank them for it, were I not so disgusted.

All rape is a very serious crime and all victims deserve support, adequate safety services, and justice. Be they male or female, they are all entitled to that, no one is suggesting otherwise. What we are suggesting though, is that, given what the figures on rape demonstrate – that men and boys are almost exclusively the offenders – something has to be done. Doing something about it will protect all victims, both men and women, from the violent men who violate consent.

I know people often get a bit red faced when they have to talk about sex with their kids, but just as it’s your responsibility to talk to them about schoolyard bullying, and the importance of hygiene, it’s your responsibility to talk about healthy relationships, responsible sexual relationships, abuse, and violence – like rape. It’s simply not good enough to assume that your sons will treat women well, because the fact is that someone’s sons aren’t living with that as their default setting.

In my lifetime I have known four lovely families whose sons were accused of rape by by friends, or other girls within our periphery. None of their mothers, none of their fathers would ever in a million years have condoned it. They would simply have assumed that their sons, had grown into good teenagers, and young men. And I don’t blame them! I mean, it’s pretty hard to believe that you have to tell someone not to rape. For me, not raping other humans isn’t much of a challenge at all!? Why on earth would I have to spell it out?

We have to spell it out for them because someone, somewhere, is raising a son who will be a rapist. I don’t know about you, but I most certainly don’t want that to be me. I don’t want your daughters to be their victim either.

Look, I’m not unrealistic about it. I don’t hold parents responsible for the actions of their children, be they teens or adults. We each make our own life decisions, some of us make good decisions, others become rapists. No parent is responsible for that, unless they actively encourage rape. I am however, responsible for explaining consent before I set them loose on society. I have to explain the law. Who can and who can’t give consent, what makes sex legal, and what makes rape. It’s my job to explain that, because apparently, sometimes it’s not clear. And sometimes the boundaries of common sense are blurred by things like group mentality or alcohol, or both.

A woman who is disabled may not be able to pronounce the word NO, but the absence of no, is not consent. This isn’t a hard lesson to teach. I have two dogs and a cat, none of which can say yes, or no. They communicate effectively with body language, and sounds though. If the cat doesn’t like what you’re doing he’ll yowl. If he really really doesn’t like it, he’ll take a swipe at you with his claws. He’s not verbally saying no, but he’s clearly communicating his wishes. I want to prepare my sons for situations like that, in the hopes that they will recognise dangerous situations and either act to protect other humans, or walk away if they themselves are the danger. It’s the least I can do, the rest is up to them.

It’s possible to teach begin teaching consent without ever mentioning sex. I’ve been teaching my 3yr old, and 6yr old about consent since they could crawl. My 10yr old too, but I’ve also put consent into  context with sex and rape for him, because he is old enough. He’s old enough to be interested, he’s old enough to understand what sex is, that it’s more than just making babies. He’s old enough to understand rape. Most importantly, he’s an age where he and his friends aren’t interested in sex as an activity, so much as they find the concept of it giggle worthy, so when I talk to him about it, he doesn’t die of embarrassment.

Lay the foundations of consent with your sons from the moment of birth. I’m not even kidding. Surround them with messages of consent, conversations that critique rather than perpetuate rape culture, and most critically, show unwavering respect for women. As young people this serves to give them a language to explain abuse should they encounter it, as teens and then adults, it serves to protect others as well. We have to take this seriously. You don’t get to make choices for them about how they choose to live as adults, but if it really bothers you that much, try telling your daughters as well as your sons, rather than not telling your sons at all. You never know, you may contribute to a drop in the 0% of women who are convicted rapists!


sons - image of father and son at sunset
A timely message – DON’T RAPE!
License: Creative Commons CC0.

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