Do me a favor, will you?
Don’t sell my sons short.
Let me ‘splain. No, no time to ‘splain, let me sum up….
You, world, you sell them short each time you assume they’re going to act like Neanderthals simply because they are in possession of testicles and a willy. You do it every time you insist they’ll be distracted by the first spaghetti strap that crosses their line of vision, or an extra inch of thigh skin. You do it every time you restrict someone else in response to an embarrassing pubescent erection, which, let’s be honest, is just as likely the result of the wind blowing the wrong way as it is to an object of affection walking by.
You keep selling them short. You presume that somewhere, embedded into the XY chromosomes my sons carry, is a short-circuit which prevents them from telling right from wrong, from conscious choice and decision making, from weighing the options and coming down firmly on the side of acceptable.
But the animal kingdom! You cry. But biology! Precedent! You cry, cry, cry me a river as if human beings and society has not been a constantly evolving game of hit or miss all along.
So please, don’t use elephants in the wild to assume that my sons won’t be able to appreciate the sexuality of a peer without losing their shit and flunking algebra.
They are boys, not single-celled organisms. They are eminently capable of reason and ability, in possession of a morality and a conscience. Don’t give them an easy out or a ready excuse by claiming, repeatedly, they can’t help it.
They are capable of so much more than that. Let them show you.
The US Marine Corps. is smack in the midst of a scandal at the moment. Photos of female Marines, many to them explicit, were hacked, uploaded, taken and shared among a group of 30,000 male Marines.
Cue the tried and trite excuses:
“Well, what do you expect?”
“This is what happens when you have men and women serving together.”
“Men are lusty/animals/biologically programmed”
“All men do stuff like this. It’s locker-room talk.”
Men are not static creatures. My boys are not static. They are dynamic. Society changes, we progress. What do I expect, world?
I expect that as a whole, we have moved beyond “well, what do you expect?” and on to “I expect better.”
Don’t tell them not to cry. Don’t tell them to man up. Don’t tell them to grow a set. The need to cry, to empathize and emote–it is not shameful or womanly, it is human. They’ll be men by virtue of growing and maturing into larger, hairier versions of themselves. Don’t sell them short by handing over a definitive list of rules and regulations they need to meet in order to be men. Allow them the freedom to define themselves.
The majority of men don’t rape, don’t grope, don’t assault or assume. The majority of men understand consent. The vast majority of boys and men manage entire lives without uploading nude photos because they have been taught it is not right, or something inside them realizes it is not. If men truly were programmed to do those things, if that’s just what men ‘do’, does that mean all the men who don’t aren’t real men but imposters, traitors to their DNA?
Don’t sell my kids short just because they happen to be boys. Don’t assume they don’t know their way around a conscience.
Don’t give them the easy out of ‘boys will be boys’ or ‘men will be men’. Not only are you excusing behavior, you’re excusing me from my job of parenting them to know right from wrong.
And in case you need a list to put on your refrigerator, here’s a starter. Feel free to add to it as you go along.
It is not right to ask a girl to take, send, upload or share nude photos of herself or other females.
It is not right, if a compromising picture exists, to assume you have permission to share that picture. Its existence does not absolve you of wrongdoing.
It is not right to force yourself on a girl or woman who has not given her consent. And yes, that means if you’re unsure, you explicitly ask. And if you’re still unsure, you walk away. Even if it would have meant getting your rocks off.
It is not right to have sex with a girl or woman who is drunk, on drugs, or in any other way mentally incapable of giving informed consent. Having sex with an unconscious girl is rape. Even if she was flirting with you an hour before. Even if her skirt rode up. Even if she’s lying naked on your bed. Why? Because women who cannot speak can’t give consent. And consent should never be assumed.
It is not right to expect girls and women to manage the way they dress, or act, or speak or behave because it makes a man uncomfortable. Boys and men capable of managing their own emotions. Let them. If a girl walks by and her spaghetti strap distracts a boy or man? It’s up to the boy or man to change their behavior, not to force the girl to widen her straps. Every time you assume a boy or man can’t manage those feelings, you are not only taking something away from a girl or woman, you’re taking away something from a boy too. The ability to manage his own emotions and actions.
Don’t sell my boys short. I have taught them, I am teaching them, to tell right from wrong, that respect is not limited to sex or gender, that just because someone else does it it’s not ok, that if it makes them question the devil standing on one shoulder, it’s most likely wrong.
We all make mistakes. We all utilize poor judgment from time to time–girls, boys, men and women. But don’t sell my boys short by excusing that capacity for judgment in the first place.
I hold my sons to incredibly high standards. You should too. Not just my sons. All the sons.