I do my best. As a feminist raising boys, I go out of my way to have an open and ongoing dialogue with you about differences, about gender and as you get older, about sex and consent.
But I can’t change biology. And I can’t single-handedly change the world we live in and the world you are exposed to. I can only try to counter it in the best way I know how.
And sometimes, despite my intentions and efforts and preaching and screeching, I worry that the pool of cultural influence you’ll eventually dive into will swallow you whole.
I’m sure Brock Turner’s mother did the best she could by her son as well. I’m sure she thought she was raising a polite, respectful child. And maybe he was all of those things. I don’t know Brock Turner. I don’t know what kind of person he is outside of the fact he was convicted of three felony counts of sexual assault. I only know him because of those 20 minutes of action. The truth is, I don’t know what kind of person Brock Turner is. Maybe in all the other minutes of his life he was a good guy.
But none of that changes the fact that in those 20 minutes, he did a bad thing.
I think about those 20 minutes of action, 20 minutes that changed the lives of two people irrevocably, and I wonder if Brock Turner’s mother, like his father, will try to excuse away his behavior as an aberration or a simple unfortunate decision. I understand why she might.
But I need you both to know this: I will never, ever excuse away that behavior.
It is never ok to touch a woman without her consent. It’s never okay to assume a girl or a woman is receptive to your attentions. I don’t care if she’s sober, drunk, incapacitated or even just slightly unsure. It is never okay to assume.
And I will never make excuses for either of you if you do.
I will love you, always and unconditionally. You are my babies, my boys, my soon to be young men. But I will not excuse you if your behavior goes against everything I’ve taught you, everything I stand for. I will spend the rest of my life trying to figure out where I failed along the way. I will second-guess what I could have done better or differently, what more I could have done.
But I will not make excuses for you. I will not lay the blame somewhere else or allow you to do so.
If you reach adolescence or young adulthood thinking it’s ok to read something into the shortness of a girl’s skirt, the way she dances, the amount of beer she drinks at a party? Then I have failed. If you grow up thinking it’s ok to take something that doesn’t belong to you–virginity, dignity, pride, flesh–then I have failed not only you, but every young woman you meet along the way.
If you lay the blame at the threshold of alcohol or culture or that fact that in some twenty-minute span of time you were unable to decide those minutes of action were wrong?
I will not lie for you, I will not excuse you, I will not make excuses.
Because I’m telling you here, right now, and over and over again in no uncertain terms: IT IS WRONG.
It’s wrong to expect sexual favors. It’s wrong to feel entitled to them. It’s forever and always wrong to force yourself on someone. It is wrong to take advantage of someone who cannot give you their full consent. I am telling you this now and every day and I hope it is evident in the way I speak and act and in my behavior.
I’m telling you right now that if a young woman is too intoxicated to speak or move or get home, you do not touch her. Not because I’m worried about you getting into trouble, but because it is the right thing to do. Every.Single.Time. If a young woman is flirting, if she is interested in you, if she initiates sexual contact and then changes her mind, you walk away, because it is the right thing to do. Every.Single.Time.
Because I will not make excuses for you. I will not lie or hide the truth.
You don’t get to do wrong by a woman and then claim it was an unfortunate decision or a mistake or you felt like you were owed. You don’t get to take away the pride and self-respect, confidence and dignity of a women because you were unsure. I’m telling you right now, if you’re unsure, the answer is always no. You don’t get to assault or force yourself on a woman because you thought she wanted it, she said she wanted it, she implied or made you think that. You don’t get to harm a woman just because everyone else is doing it and it’s no big deal.
You don’t get 20 minutes to figure out if something is right or not. You get a split-second in which to remember everything I’m telling you.
I will love you. But I will not let you blame the girl. I will not let you blame the booze or the fraternity or the group. I will not let you blame hormones or biology or flimsy clothes or high heels or makeup or cleavage or flirting or dancing or walking alone or being in a dark parking lot or sexual partners or any hundred thousand other things that have gotten people off the hook. I will hold you responsible for taking everything away from that woman. I will love you.
But I will not let you walk away from it.