A Letter To My Son About Consent

photo by clickflashphotos

 

Finn Wightman writes to her son about consent because, as she says, “I love you too much to leave these things unsaid.”

 —

 

Dear D,

I’m writing this letter after watching the parents in the Steubenville Rape Trial crying over their son as he was found guilty of rape. I’ll be completely honest with you; I can’t say that I found much pity in my heart for their pain. Instead I found myself thinking, ‘yes, you should be crying. Your son treated that girl like a toy, a rag, a nothing. You raised a boy that lacked even the most basic compassion for that girl as a fellow human being.’ I’m imagining your face right now, thinking ‘okay mom, not quite sure why you’re telling me this…’ Yep, brace yourself; mom’s got a bee in her bonnet. Just bear with me and carry on reading.

You see, somehow this crying couple’s son and his friends were convinced they had a right to do as they pleased – either because they were brought up believing themselves to be above the rules, or because they were so lacking in common decency that they had no concept of how to treat other people. Whichever it was, the parents and coaches of Steubenville failed their sons and contributed to a culture where a girl was treated in the most heartless and disgraceful way for these boys amusement. The horrible truth is that as long as parents anywhere allow their boys to think that their wants are more important than other people’s rights this will continue to happen. I’m writing this letter to you because I don’t want to fail you in the same way. I love you too much to leave these things unsaid.

I need you to know that writing this doesn’t mean that I think you would act like these boys did. Discussing the potential for bad behaviour doesn’t mean I think it’s inevitable, or even likely. It just means I need to know (for both our sakes) that I taught you what sexual freedoms and responsibilities really mean. Educating you about proper consent doesn’t mean I see you as a potential sexual predator, any more than my educating you about the safe use of matches presumed you were a potential arsonist. This is about safety; your safety and the safety of any potential sexual partner.

I want you to consider a scenario. Imagine an average weekend when you’re staying at your mate’s house. You’ve had a good day laughing and joking with a group of people, some of whom you know and a couple of friends-of-friends. You’ve had a couple of drinks, laughed at stuff on the internet, played x-box for hours and then gradually drifted into various stages of getting comfortable, shedding some of your clothes and sleeping.

Now imagine waking up to discover a man on top of you, having obviously had some kind of sex with you. I know that’s a shocking thought. Something you’ve probably never considered, even though male victims make up 8% of reported rapes. Imagine your shock, your disgust and your anger. Now imagine everyone telling you that it’s your fault.

Would you feel that the fact that ‘you didn’t say no’ while it was happening made it okay? Or that the fact you were drunk or partly clothed or sleeping in public meant you’d put yourself at risk and were ‘asking for it?  Would the fact that you’d spent some time together, been friendly, or accepted his offer of a drink, mean you were ‘sending out signals’ to him? Would the fact that you made a sexual joke earlier in the evening mean you were ‘up for it’? Would the fact that he heard you’d had sex with one of his friends, or relatives, be an acceptable reason? How about if you were walking home alone at night? Would you be actively putting yourself in danger and ‘partly responsible’ if a stranger dragged you into an alley and sexually assaulted you? If you accepted an invite to a friend’s house and he pinned you down on the sofa, would you be to blame for being alone with him?

I’m convinced your answer to each of those would be a loud and vehement ‘no’ – quite rightly.

So ask yourself this: if every single situation remained the same – except this time you’re female – does that make it acceptable? The answer, of course, is still no. No, nothing changes the lack of consent in these scenarios. Every one of those situations is sexual assault; no ifs, no buts, no maybes, and no excuses. Consent cannot be assumed, forced or taken. EVER. Consent is always, and only, something that is willingly given.

So let’s be absolutely perfectly clear: Sexual acts that take place without consent are rape, and the only thing that means yes is the word yes.

Not saying no does not mean yes.
Not fighting you off does not mean yes.
Not being awake does not mean yes.
Not being sober does not mean yes.
No type of clothing – or absence of clothing – means yes.
No amount of previous partners means yes.

Accepting a drink does not mean yes. Going out to dinner does not mean yes. Accepting a lift home in your car does not mean yes, and neither does an invitation in for coffee. Sitting next to you on the sofa does not mean yes. A gasp, sigh or returned caress does not mean yes. Erect flesh is not a yes – cold, fear, and even death can all cause the body to mimic the signs of sexual arousal. A yes to a kiss does not mean you can assume a yes to anything else. Never assume. Let me repeat that: NEVER ASSUME.

Resist the dangerous temptation to hope a kiss will just drift into something more without talking about it. Understand that ‘trying it on’ or ‘pushing your luck’ or imagining you’re correctly ‘reading the signs’ are all just polite euphemisms for being willing to risk committing a sexual assault in the hope that your feelings are reciprocated. Seriously, don’t. Every single woman I know can reel off experiences with this. Don’t be that guy.

The word yes is the only 100% unambiguous yes.

So, how do you get to yes? You ask. Really, it’s that simple. Ask the question, hear the answer, and respond accordingly. Even if it’s not the answer you were hoping for. Especially if it’s not the answer you were hoping for. That’s the difference between two people enjoying sex together, and one person sexually assaulting the other. The only reliable invitations to sex are clear, unambiguous, and verbal. If asking and affirming seem too embarrassing to contemplate, then maybe you just aren’t ready for sex with another person.

There’s only one person you should ever consider having unquestioning, silent sex with: yourself. That’s also the only person that might possibly ‘owe you’ an orgasm.

I know, all this sounds like such a list of rules and obligations for something that’s meant to be ‘natural’. Too much effort, even – well that’s tough. The world should not be treated like a sexual all-you-can-eat buffet where you can just help yourself. That’s exactly the attitude that has those boys (quite rightly) sitting in a cell. Sex that involves anyone beyond yourself is never just about your desire. If you imagine that your desires ever allow you to coerce another person into fulfilling your sexual need, then you have to ask yourself if you are willing to personally face the consequences of that view. We’re right back to that scenario where some stranger decides to use your body to fulfill their sexual desires, regardless of your feelings. Or you end up in a cell. Think about what that mindset means for the female relatives that you love. Should they be ‘fair game’ to any person attracted to them – like some commodity? That’s the rape-culture mindset, right there. It’s why I’m taking the time to put my thoughts on to paper; because the best lesson I can teach you is the ability to recognise that your choices have consequences, for you and the people you involve in your decisions.

So far, so negative… but there are real personal benefits to consent. Consensual sex is glorious. Verbal communication is hot. Listening to your partner and verbalising what you want will make you better in bed, and more responsive to each other’s needs. Talking about your desires and fantasies is far more likely to lead to them happening than hoping you’re dating a psychic. I’m sure your cringing at me now, but if you got this far there’s chocolate in the fridge, help yourself to it. Yes, this is a test.

You might not think it now, but making sure the sex you are involved in always involves complete consent will be the best gift you can give your future self. You’ll never look at yourself in the mirror and wonder if you pushed someone to doing something they weren’t ready for. You’ll never be the hypocrite that lectures their child while hiding a guilty secret. You won’t be burdened with regret at the harm you personally caused someone. You’ll never look a woman who has been abused in the face and know you’re a part of what caused her hurt. Most of all, you’ll be a leader not a follower. You’ll never be that boy in court; instead you’ll be part of a better consciousness that will make the world a safer place for everyone.

You’ll be the man I already see in you.

With love, always, Mum xxx

 

Also read The Healthy Sex Talk: Teaching Kids Consent, Ages 1-21

Originally published on Some Views From A Broad

Photo: clickflashphotos / flickr

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About Finn Wightman

Finn Wightman lives in the UK with her husband of 2.4 decades, her three teenage children, and a deeply annoying genetic disability. Previously a researcher for children’s television and Citizens Advice, Finn currently spends most of her time avoiding the hospital whenever possible, trying to remember all her different medications and being wheeled around like the Queen of Sheba. Her hobbies include films, music, books, sarcasm, sci-fi, laughing with friends, and trying not to drive her kids crazy. She blogs at Some Views from a Broad. Find her on Twitter @vida_public.

Comments

  1. Done with great love, a hefty portion of courage, a smidgeon of humor and 100% sincerity. Spoken as a devoted, loving parent who wants her son to be one of the good guys (never a bystander) in the hopes of changing the growing rape culture we find all around us. No does mean no — no matter whose saying ir. great article!

  2. “Now imagine waking up to discover a man on top of you, having obviously had some kind of sex with you”

    now if we change this sentence to

    “Now imagine waking up to discover a WOMAN on top of you, having obviously had some kind of sex with you”

    What would you tell your son and what do you expect your son to react? Just curious.

    Because I think your letter is very good, its just lack one thing, one crucial thing. Before you teach anyone, boys or girls to respect others, you should teach him to respect himself, his body, sexually. For boys, its to teach him to respect himself as a sexual being towards straight women, not just gay men. You should teach him to say no and not allowing straight women, not just gay men, to grope his body or sexually harassed him.

    Why did I tell this? Because that is what I think the reason why so many men cannot understand the idea of respect towards women bodies. Because they have no sense of it. Because we, as a society, never teach men to respect himself, his own body sexually. We always teach that men bodies are ugly ( or don’t to anything to women ) and women bodies are hot. We always teach young boys that man are the one who pursues and woman are the one who approves when it comes to sex. We never teach young boys that they should not allowing other women touching his body, that their body are beautiful too. Indirectly, we teach boys that men are subjects and women are objects when it comes to sex.

    I’m sure most parents already teach their boys to respect women. But if they don’t understand the sense of respect itself, never feel they deserve respect, how could they understand what women feel? We can scream in their ears thousand times to respect women, but if they have no sense of respect itself, they would not understand it.

    I have think this all the time. My hypothesis is we should teach young boys about equality in sexual relationship to prevent rape culture. That men and women are not really different sexually and emotionally. We should teach young boys to respect himself, his body, so in the future they can understand truly, to respect women. And this is what I think lacking in most advice from parents to their sons.

    • I agree with John.

      While your letter is good and you have the bed interest of your son in mind, you forget that your son is also a human being as well and needs to be taught to respect himself and to speak out whenever he’s hurt. Particularly by a woman or girl.

      If boys are constantly harped on to respect girls and women without respecting themselves, they’re not going to give it. Period. Especially if underneath this pep talk lies subtle shaming. Not saying you’re shaming him but try to realize that he’s not going to feel safe if no one bothers to respect his boundries and feelings.

      • Hi Eagle35, thanks for your comments. I can assure you that there was certainly no shaming intended, Or forgetting he was a human being. I hope my reply to Jack clarifies my thinking on some of your concerns.

        • Thank you for clarifying. It’s great that you have the best of intentions.

          But one thing I want to critique. You said that your use of “Man” in the scenario is due to statistics.

          If you read the latest CDC studies, you’ll find there are men out there who have been sexually abused by women at considerable levels. Not fully equal, but enough not to dismiss them as an anomaly as is usually the case.

          However, be forewarned that they failed to classify “Sex by envelopment” as abuse so it effects the numbers. However, that doesn’t discount the CDC studies’s point: Men are a sizable portion of the survivor population. So it’s not statistically likely anymore for a man to be the perpetrator.

          • Hi Eagle35, I have looked at the figures you mention and completely accept your point. Those figures back you up. However, I hope you understand that my comments were based on the most recent UK figures. I’m sorry if anyone felt my letter slighted their experience – that was certainly not my intention. If we lived in the USA, that information would be my go-to point, just like I’d reference the increased reporting of female sexual attacks on men in Zimbabwe if I lived there. In the UK we know all sexual assault is seriously under-reported. I have no doubt that sexual assaults on men by woman are under-reported too. I can also imagine the difficulty in sharing anecdotal experiences. It’s hard to base a discussion on non-existent reporting. I hope that you understand that – even with a letter as long as this one – it would be impossible to cover every single concern from every single angle to everyone’s satisfaction. My intention was never to upset the people here who do not see their experience reflected in my comments to my son. I’m sincere in my wish not to devalue the experiences of others by sharing my letter. I hope you can accept that my letter was one of good faith, written to someone who is beyond precious to me. Most importantly, It’s also part of a continuing dialogue, not a once-and-for all thing. I know that your posts have given me another angle to discuss with him. I thank you for that. Best wishes, FW.

            • Your welcome, Finn.

              Understand that I’m only approaching from this point of view because the discussion needs to seriously evolve. We can no longer think of sexual abuse in terms of men doing it to women. So far, the lid is being lifted on men sexually abusing men. But we have to also include women sexually abusing men. Otherwise, it’s just going to be a vicious cycle (Men aren’t listened to because they don’t speak out/Men aren’t speaking out because people don’t listen),

            • The UK define rape as the carnal knowledge of a woman by a man using his penis, forcefully.

              By their own definition, men cannot be victims, and women cannot be perpetrators (just like in India).

            • Actually that’s the old definition under common law. Since 2003 the Sexual Offences Act has included the offence of sexual assault by forced penetration, which carries the same maximum sentence as as ‘traditionally defined rape’. Additionally, the reformed act does not discriminate the sexuality of attacker/attackee and also covers penetration by objects, penetration of the mouth, and penetration of the anus without consent.

            • And envelopment too? Like mouth, anal and vaginal envelopment of the penis, for example.

              The penis-owner can be raped, without him being penetrated. I doubt most statutes that don’t define rape explicitly in such: “A sexual act for which consent was not given/obtained” are bound to miss the men-as-victim-but-not-penetrated rapes, and as such, count male-male as higher (simply because most female rapists don’t penetrate their male victims).

            • My understanding of the law is that ‘forced penetration’ includes the act of forcing someone to penetrate..

            • It doesn’t in 99% of places that have it in place. Maybe it should be specified.

            • Finn:

              My understanding of the law is that ‘forced penetration’ includes the act of forcing someone to penetrate..

              It doesn’t.

              Sexual Offences Act of 2003 definition of “forced penetration” does NOT include the act of forcing someone else to penetrate:

              A person (A) commits an offence if—

              (a)he intentionally penetrates the vagina or anus of another person (B) with a part of his body or anything else,

              (b)the penetration is sexual,

              (c)B does not consent to the penetration, and

              (d)A does not reasonably believe that B consents.

              (SOA 2003)

              Being forced to penetrate someone else falls under sexual assault:

              A person (A) commits an offence if—
              (a)he intentionally touches another person (B),
              (b)the touching is sexual,
              (c)B does not consent to the touching, and
              (d)A does not reasonably believe that B consents.

              In fact when one look at the UK equivalent of NISVS 2010 Report, the CSEW and reads it carefully and look at how sexual assault is defined and how the categories are grouped as well as how the questions to the respondents are designed one will see that not only will male victims of being made to penetrate underreport to a larger degree, but they will be grouped with indecent exposure, sexual touching (such as any form of groping) and other lesser offences into the “Others sexual offenses” category.. This will drown them out since women report for isntance groping to much larger degree than men.

            • Mark Neil says:

              Tamen, It should be noted that, presuming the wording is exactly as you stated it, the second definition likewise excludes male victims, as it is specific to when “HE” intentionally touches another person. By that law, a man can only ever be sexually assaulted by another man. That, in and of itself, demonstrates the systemic sexism men face.

            • Mark Neil says:

              Tamen. Looking over your link, It appears the only crime commited when a woman forces herself on a man is “Causing a person to engage in sexual activity without consent”. At least there is an exception that assures those convicted of subsection 4 (the one that includes male victims of women) that allows for the same sentence men face, but having it in a separate section ensure male victims are hidden in the stats

              http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2003/42/section/4

    • Hi John

      You are on to something important!

      But just one question:
      Is this possible and at the same time watch and “use” hard core pornography daily?

      Island discusses to make hard core porn illegal, that means 80% of all porn online.
      Island is sex positive society,more so than the US.

      .

    • Hi John, thanks for your comments. I completely understand your concern that my use of a man in the scenario I described might imply that it might be acceptable if it was a woman – that’s far from the case.

      Firstly, let me reassure you that my son is in no doubt of my opinion that he is a fine, strong, beautiful person. I agree with you that this is hugely important. Equally, I agree with you about his right to physical space, personal autonomy, the right to refuse a person’s physical attention (regardless of sexual orientation) and to have his feelings heard. These are conversations I started with him at a far younger age (and regularly since) just as I have with his sisters. I can understand your concern reading my letter without that context. I agree that it’s vitally important. The point of my letter was to move forward from those conversations about his right to refuse and consider the additional responsibility of his need to ask as he begins forming physical relationships with others.

      I don’t tend to scream in his ear that he should respect women. I do tend to hammer on about respecting people. I agree with you that self-respect is the only sound basis from which to teach that.

      There were reasons I used a man in my scenario. Firstly, it’s by far the most statistically likely scenario. Secondly, I was trying to bypass the ‘Hurr, hurr, it depends what she looked like!’ bravado response from people. Thirdly, I’m writing to a nearly 6ft tall, muscular young adult and didn’t want to get derailed into a discussion about physical power when fighting people off is not the point. I hope that gives my letter a little more context, and reassures your concerns.

      • AnthonyZarat says:

        “Firstly, it’s by far the most statistically likely scenario.”
        No, it is not.

        FACT: Women are as likely to rape men, as men are to rape women.
        PROOF: http://i.imgur.com/Ps9wW.jpg
        SOURCE: http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/nisvs/

        • As I said to Eagle35 above, I don’t deny the significance of the data you’ve linked to. However, I was working off the reported experiences within the UK. Thank you for posting this additional information. It’s certainly an important topic that I’ll be exploring in future discussions.

          • Mark Neil says:

            Understandable. But consider that it may be because boys aren’t taught they are allowed to say no, or that if they are violated without their consent, that it’s a problem. When boys are only presented with a “men are the perpetrator” scenario, seeing women as perpetrators as she rides him against his will, always with the “never hurt a woman” mantra rolling around in his head, preventing him from defending himself, becomes very difficult. And when even his own mother can’t perceive him as a possible victim of a woman,. only another man, what is he really to think when it eventually happens to him? When he thinks back on the letter his mother sent him about consent, and the scenario he is experiences was never raised, never even presented as a possibility, what is he to do?

            • Thanks for your concern, let me reassure you that it is entirely misplaced in this situation. If you read my other replies you’ll see me constantly restate that this is one part – a mere facet – of the ongoing discussion we have had with our children for well over a decade. My son is in no doubt that I consider his right not to be assaulted – in any way, by any person, of any gender or sexuality – paramount. That he has a right to refuse a touch, and refuse the request to touch others. He’s known that from his earliest years. It’s been repeated and reconfirmed too many times to count.

              I’ve also explained the reason for the scenario I presented, and the reason for the letter multiple times. It’s saddening that so many people can’t accept an act of good faith and prefer to slur the sincerity of my concern for a boy that is beyond precious to me. Thankfully, he, his father and uncles know me better.

          • That graphic does not offer proof of the assertion “women are just as likely to rape men as men are to rape women”. An estimated number of male victims( forced to penetrate) of about 5 million does not equal an estimated number of female victims (penetrated) of over 21 million. Those statistics also do not stipulate the sex of the perpetrator or what was forced to be penetrated. The CDC statistics are interesting, to be sure, but they do not support that assertion.

            I do not blame the individual for the mistake. Maths are hard.

            • Mark Neil says:

              It always amazes me the efforts people take to deny male victims, and moreso, female perpetrators. The CDC numbers are a census of the population, which is then used to project trends across the greater population. The population of women that reported rape and attempted rape, in the 12 month figure, was 1.1%. The population of men that reported “forced to penetrate (because, you know, the definition the CDC used for rape specifically included female on male rape, so a separate category, that could be left out of the summaries, was needed for male victims), in the 12 month figure, was 1.1%. And while the report doesn’t actually provide the information on the sex of the perpetrator of the 12 month figures, the lifetime figures break down as female victims reporting 98% male perpetrator, and male victims of forced to penetrate reporting 80% female perpetrator.

              That said, the claim that women rape as often as men is not a correct one, as it breaks down to 60/40 male/female perpetrators. But the stats do support that men are raped as often (moreso in fact, as prison rape was not included in the census). So, while you are correct that these are estimates, they are based on census data with a much larger base than most of the rape studies (which generally don’t even acknowledge men can be victims, let alone gather that data, and certainly don’t report it), unless you don’t know how 1.1% and 1.1% are even (we know, maths are hard), I can’t see how you are coming up with the numbers you are using to dismiss male victims. Nor do I understand the reason this is relevant, regardless, portraying the idea her son could only be raped by another man (She has since clarified she clarified otherwise) is not a good portrayal to give, as it leaves him open to being victimized, and not knowing what to do about it, which was the point being raised.

            • Mark Neil says:

              Correction:

              “forced to penetrate” (because, you know, the definition the CDC used for rape specifically EXCLUDED female on male rape, so a separate category, that could be left out of the summaries, was needed for male victims),

            • I believe we are in complete agreement, except in so far as you assumed that I was somehow attempting to “deny male victims and female perpetrators.” I was merely pointing out that the statistics did not support the assertion being made, which is a point that you also stated as valid.

              I think you have assumed a level of emotional involvement in this topic that I do not have, for either side. It is a shame that more comprehensive sexual ethics instruction is not as widely available to young people in the US as instruction in basic statistics (or if it is, perhaps neither is very effective). Young people, regardless of gender, could benefit hugely from both.

          • Learkana says:

            “Male rape victims and male
            victims of non-contact
            unwanted sexual experiences
            reported predominantly male
            perpetrators.”

            That is a direct quote from the CDC survey. The construction of masculinity in society is a problem, and needs to be addressed. I applaud Finn for the letter she wrote to her son.

            • Learkana, Men being forced to penetrate were NOT included in the definition of rape. It pays to actually read through more than the cliffnotes. It in fact says (if you read the sum of all stats) that the majority of sexual abuse men face is from female perpetrators.

      • “Thirdly, I’m writing to a nearly 6ft tall, muscular young adult and didn’t want to get derailed into a discussion about physical power when fighting people off is not the point. I hope that gives my letter a little more context, and reassures your concerns.”
        I am 6’6, 300+lbs, probably double the size of many women but I have been hit by women who literally were half my size, I did not hit back and it affected me quite a bit. I’ve been groped against my will by those women too. A large body needs a certain mindset and ability to fight back, not everyone fights back. I’ve been punched in the stomach by a man at a club and didn’t fight back out of fear. There are men who are raped who lie still out of fear, their bodies have an errection that they cannot control and are raped by women. Size alone CAN help avoid problems but not always and it can work against the victim too as people are less likely to believe a smaller woman raped or abused a much larger man.

        • Size alone CAN help avoid problems but not always and it can work against the victim too as people are less likely to believe a smaller woman raped or abused a much larger man.
          Too true. Its not like being large always works as a deterrent. Oh it can work as such and its nice when it does. But there is no question that size can also be a bull’s eye.

        • Hi Archy, thanks for your comments. I completely agree that size is not the issue here, even though I was coming to that point from the opposite end of the hall. As I’ve said in other replies, this is one small part of the ongoing process of raising our children to respect the physical autonomy of themselves and others. I’ve always stressed their right to say no to other people invading their personal space. Please don’t think that my writing on one tightly-focused area implies a disregard for other points, or that because my letter to my son doesn’t reflect your personal experiences that it devalues them or disregards them. I’m certainly finding a wealth of points to discuss further, and I appreciate your comments. Best wishes, FW.

    • John,
      such a good point! I hadn’t heard it said like that before, but of course! It make perfect sense…
      That the culturally accepted norm that boys/men are always ready for sex is disrespectful and damaging. It is hyper-sexualization of males, which tells them it’s not okay to refuse sex, and shames them for saying ‘No’. Joanna Schroeder mentioned this in her article, “Saying ‘No’ is the compassionate and respectful thing to do”, which was making the point regarding young teenagers, but clearly, it’s also an issue for adult males. I think it underlies the stigma against males reporting sexual assault, as well as the belief that women can’t be perpetrators, as if it were actually impossible for a woman to rape a man because, hey, aren’t men always up for sex anyway?
      As you said, “we teach boys that men are subjects and women are objects when it comes to sex.” In other words, we teach girls/women that their value is directly proportional to how sexually desirable they are to men, and we seem to be teaching boys/men that their value is (apart from the size of their wallets) directly proportional to the amount of sex/sexual partners they have (i.e., he who dies with the most toys AND the most notches on his bedpost wins).
      It seems like this kind of hyper-sexualization may also be beneath the idea in many women’s minds that any man who is nice to them or pays them a compliment is obviously trying to bed them. And from there, it’s not too far of a leap to the hideous idea that “all men are potential rapists.”

  3. Tonight 7PM EST will be an online discussion sponsored by V-Day and The Nation: “A Call to Men: After Steubenville” (or something like that)…. this may be interesting….

  4. “Giving this ‘talk’ is like sitting a pregnant woman down and drilling into her head that she must never, under any circumstance, drown her babies.”
    Actually, I’d think that was a pretty essential conversation to have if we lived in a society where thousands of babies were drowned deliberately every year, and other people quite happily commented that drowned babies were asking for it. I’m sorry you only see misandry where there is nothing but love, and the wish to protect him and any future person he wants to have a physical relationship with.

    • There is a lot of child abuse out there, much of it perpetrated by women so it would actually benefit society to teach mothers not to abuse (fathers too). Teach everyone not to abuse, have a variety of articles covering all bases. The trouble is having too many male=perp female = victim style articles. I do hope parents are teaching their girls to stop rape as well (as in stop RAPING other people), stand up against rape, etc. I wouldn’t call this article misandrous though, but if you ONLY taught males to stop raping women then it might be (which I doubt you do).

      I think that these articles may help avoid some rapes such as where consent isn’t 100% clear like with silence and the awful no means no style of consent education when not everyone says no. I prefer the enthusiastic consent model, people saying YES and THEN you both have sex. Most people won’t rape but it can’t hurt to teach em better consent education as long as we don’t hyperfocus on men as the perps which happens too often at the moment.

  5. Finn, this is eloquently stated and obviously written with love and respect. I applaud your willingness to not only talk about a difficult subject with your son, but also your willingness to share this letter with anyone willing to read it. I wish there were more mothers like you out there.

    And I’m appalled at the responses you’re getting! Picking apart your letter for not saying *everything* that could possibly be said about the subject. Assuming (incorrectly, based on the wording of your letter) that even broaching the subject means you think your son has the potential to be a rapist, which is akin to saying you don’t need to talk to your children about bullying, because that assumes they have the potential to be a bully. Or about any of the other things that children should be taught not to do.

    If more parents would write letters like this to their children, we wouldn’t need to be having this discussion in public, because it wouldn’t be an issue.

    Michelle

    • Telling young men that they could be raped not just by men but by women does more than just draw attention to a little-understood issue. As John wrote, it shows young men that their own body deserves respect, and therefore everybody’s does.

      Similarly, the old notion of “don’t hit girls” implies by omission that its okay to hit boys. It should be “don’t hit anybody.”

      • It’s always been don’t hit anyone in this house. Respect is not a gender-focused issue here, and it never should be anywhere.

  6. I loved this piece. As a woman, I think myself and most of my friends should have read something like it back when we were teenagers. This part especially:
    “Not saying no does not mean yes.
    Not fighting you off does not mean yes.
    Not being awake does not mean yes.
    Not being sober does not mean yes.
    No type of clothing – or absence of clothing – means yes.
    No amount of previous partners means yes.
    Accepting a drink does not mean yes. Going out to dinner does not mean yes. Accepting a lift home in your car does not mean yes, and neither does an invitation in for coffee. Sitting next to you on the sofa does not mean yes. A gasp, sigh or returned caress does not mean yes. Erect flesh is not a yes – cold, fear, and even death can all cause the body to mimic the signs of sexual arousal. A yes to a kiss does not mean you can assume a yes to anything else. Never assume. Let me repeat that: NEVER ASSUME.”
    As girls, we were taught mixed messages. To have something this explicitly told to us would have definitely cleared muddy waters and allowed us to speak up when we felt most uncomfortable. Instead, we were stuck between being prudes or being sluts, and so we rarely said anything.

  7. I’ve been back to this post several times to read it over and over again. I have been tempted to comment, to relate how it reflects my experiences, but to be honest, the other comments here have made me hold back. Once again, my experiences feel invalidated because the topic has turned into ‘all the things you didn’t address’ instead of the things that you did.
    You should be commended for the things you got right, not taken to task for the things you didn’t cover in this one conversation with your son. Your children are very fortunate to have such a caring and forthright mother, with the courage to put this out there. The reactions here are proof of the courage that it takes.
    This resonated with me very much:
    Not saying no does not mean yes.
    Not fighting you off does not mean yes.
    Not being awake does not mean yes.
    Not being sober does not mean yes.
    No type of clothing – or absence of clothing – means yes.
    No amount of previous partners means yes.

    Many years ago, I broke up with a man I’d been seeing because there were things he’d been telling me that didn’t add up. After all was said and done, I discovered that virtually everything he told me had been a lie—about himself, his situation, his job—everything. I discovered he’d been going through my things—breaking into my car—reading my schedule. He attacked me for canceling casual plans and accused me of going out with someone else when I needed to go to the library to work on a paper for class. I made a decision to end the relationship—and then it got really scary.

    In the end, I was forced to change my appearance, move to another town, take an unlisted phone number. To literally disappear. I dropped friends that knew him. I stopped going anywhere I thought I might run across him. The one time I did meet him in public, he murdered me with his eyes. Fortunately, I was with a large group of people at the time. They never noticed my hands were shaking under the table as I laughed and celebrated with them. Thank God he never figured out my class schedule or I would have dropped out of school, too. He never crossed the legal line. He never did anything that could be traced back to him. I had no recourse through the law. Because we’d previously had a relationship, I got little to no support from anyone—and no one believed me when I said I feared for my life.

    For ten years after this stalking incident, I blamed myself. I couldn’t understand how I could have been so stupid not to see this man for the psychopath that he was. How my judgment could have been so wrong. Because I’d failed to see him for what he was and protect myself from someone like him, I didn’t trust my judgment with anyone else. It took me that long to finally risk going out with someone again. I am happy to say that I am in a committed relationship with a man who understands where I am coming from for reasons of his own. But that’s not my story to share.
    What this letter does is help me understand that I did nothing wrong. And that is the most important reason for sharing it. That is why, despite hemming and hawing and drafting and erasing this comment many times, I am taking the plunge and thanking you for posting it.

  8. I appreciate you writing this so much. I am a 25 year old man. I am currently in recovery for sex-addiction. Part of my recovery right now is admitting the wrongs I have done to others. My heart breaks for the women I have hurt. I am working to apologize to them, and tell them that I know I wronged them. I do not expect that to heal their hurts, but I do hope it helps. And ironically enough, my fiance has been hurt in similar ways by other guys who used her for her body and called it a relationship. I pray that your son would understand this letter and it would go viral. People need to hear your words as principles to live by and warnings for what does and could happen. Thank you agian.

    • Dustin, thank you for your kind comments, they mean a lot to me. I wish you every good thing in your recovery and in your continuing relationship. FW

  9. Indeed, quite a few people find having to explicitly ask about everything a turnoff.
    That’s why there are such things as non-verbal cues.

    This is the issue I’m having with some of these articles I’ve been reading about consent. We’re telling our kids (well, really lets be honest here, just our sons) that they should ask for verbal consent when trying to escalate things sexually. But if we’re being completely honest, how many people literally ask for verbal consent each and every time they have sex? I’m guessing probably no one, so we can’t be completely literal in what we are saying. I’m guessing most people who have had sex usually reached that point through a serious of non-verbal cues letting their partners know it was ok to take it to the next level, but none of that nuance is seen in some of these articles. And just as you suggest, I’ve heard women say its actually a turn off when men verbally ask for permission.

    So what are we trying to do? Are we attempting to establish a new precedent where all sexual activity is preceded by verbal consent? If so are the people who are preaching this really practicing what they teach? Are they really behind closed doors, asking their wives and husbands for verbal consent each and every time they make love? If not, then we need to approach this issue with our children using some level of nuance.

  10. This is a brilliant letter, and if more parents had this kind of candid non-hysterical dialogue with their sons and daughters about sex education then society would be a much safer and more enlightened place. But a lot of commenters here are being wilfully obtuse. This is an individual letter to the son of an individual person about how best to conduct himself in a decent and respectful way in his future sexual relationships, with women. No doubt, as a parent, she has had and will have many other discussions with him about self-respect and respect for others, including men. But this is one letter, about one specific issue; one which (as can be seen in the myriad of court cases, press articles, misunderstandings, minimal conviction and report rates, differences of opinion etc…) is an important thing we need to discuss right now, as a society.

    This is not an essay covering all different forms of sexual abuse, not does it intend to be. Would the writer have had to bring race into it as well, to avoid offending people who want to discuss issues of sexual assault and race? You are pushing writers, researchers and commenters into the impossible position of having to attempt writing book before they can discuss anything without offending anybody who wants to talk about something else. As a result, the obvious positives of a letter like this get lost in pointless circling over comments that have no place in this discussion, other than to attempt to unhelpfully diminish it as an issue.

    Men get raped to, by men and women. I read recently that the rape of men in prison is thought to possibly be the most prolific but under-reported type of rape. These are all valid issues. If you feel strongly about them why not conduct your own research, write and share your own articles and pieces to further those discussions and educate? Do that, instead of criticising individual opinion pieces that don’t cover absolutely everything about a hugely expansive subject you want to see covered.

    • “These are all valid issues. If you feel strongly about them why not conduct your own research, write and share your own articles and pieces to further those discussions and educate? Do that, instead of criticising individual opinion pieces that don’t cover absolutely everything about a hugely expansive subject you want to see covered.”

      Thank you for this comment, and your understanding of my intentions, I really appreciate both.

  11. FlyingKal says:

    “Not being sober does not mean yes.”

    Does a verbal yes (or other form of initiative) while not being sober mean no?

  12. Thank you for your concern, This is one single discussion in an ongoing dialogue. Let me reassure you that all of my children have been well educated over many years – by both parents – to know that they have complete autonomy over their own bodies and NOBODY has the right to touch them without consent, or ask to be touched by them. That is regardless of sexuality or gender. This is about keeping him safe as he moves forward into *choosing* to have sexual relationships with other people.

  13. FlyingKal says:

    Just a reflection, and to kind of flip the table. What do we (society) teach our daughters about consent? Is that any different than the message baing handed out here, or elsewhere? *Should* it be any different?

    I am a man who have been lonely most of my life.
    I have always taken a no as a no, and in no way do I condone a habit of taking a no as a yes.

    • Jonathan G says:

      This is a brilliant and incisive question, and one I would like to see discussed extensively. I, too, am a man who has been lonely most of my life. I, too, have always taken no as a no, and do not condone taking no as a yes. I understand full well also that the lack of an explicit “no” does not mean “yes.”

      But what frustrates and enrages me about these simplistic slogans is that they do not address the truth that I have learned from years of bitter experience with women: the lack of an explicit “yes” does not mean “no.” I always took the lack of yes to mean no, and so left a long string of romantic failures in my wake. I’ve learned that culturally we consider it a man’s role to pursue and push for the “yes,” and a man who doesn’t do that is a failure in romantic relations, unless he’s so exceptionally desirable that women will pursue him. Heck, there’s even some basis in the psychological research to believe that women’s sexual arousal is in part predicated upon and induced the pursuit itself.

      But where does that leave us? The widespread use of ambiguity by women as a romantic tactic creates confusion. From a man’s point of view as the pursuer, it can be damn hard to tell the difference between an unspoken “no” and an unspoken “yes” sometimes. And I have no doubt that that confusion leads to bad consequences when men assume or interpret the signs wrong.

      That’s why we need to discuss the dynamics and teach women about consent, too. Not only does the phrase “only yes means yes” apply to men too–we’re not always ready for sex and it’s not a grievous insult if we refuse–but if it’s going to work, then women as a whole have to abandon strategic ambiguity in romantic affairs and say yes or no definitively. I don’t understand, how can I not be “that guy” yet avoid the crushing romantic failures and howling loneliness? Only a handful of times in my life have I got an unambiguous “yes.” Plenty of other times the signs and signals were all there, but not the “yes,” and when I took it as a “no” she abruptly lost interest and cut off contact with me.

      Clearly, the message that so many women get is at odds with the message given to men here.

      • “The widespread use of ambiguity by women as a romantic tactic creates confusion … I don’t understand, how can I not be “that guy” yet avoid the crushing romantic failures and howling loneliness?”

        Answer: Open, honest, verbal communication. If a woman’s behaviour is ambiguous, how about simply asking her for clarity? Tell her how you feel and what you want.

        I don’t mean to come off as flippant; I respect what you’re saying and I recognize the ambiguity you speak of (I’ve been guilty of it myself at times). And maybe your question was rhetorical, but I was moved to answer anyway.

        If my marriage has taught me anything, it’s that I can never assume that I know what other people are thinking/needing/wanting, and they can never assume they know that about me. We actually have to communicate with honest words. I know it’s hard, awkward, sometimes embarrassing, and it takes both parties to be willing, but it’s the only possible way to avoid serious misunderstandings and, as you say, “crushing romantic failures.” Nothing kills romance faster than the failure to communicate.

        • Jonathan G says:

          Ah yes, excellent question, one that I addressed in the draft that I wrote before it evaporated when the page auto-refreshed. In my experience, if I have to ask, the answer is… vague, at best. Don’t get me wrong, in an established relationship, open and honest communication works well. In the pursuit or courtship phase, the results suggest it’s too forward and/or too gutless.

          And no, my question was not rhetorical. I’m still trying to figure these things out. I have a deep and abiding fear of being “that guy,” but I also don’t want to be alone all my life.

          • Aaarrrgh! Damn that auto-refresh! I’ve lost so many awesome (imho) comments at the unmerciful hands of the auto-refresh, so I feel for you, Johathan.

            I’m thinking about my own ambiguity when I was dating in my 20s, and i think it really stemmed from 2 things: 1) an internal conflict between what I wanted, what I though I *should* want, how I defined myself, and who I thought I *should* be; and 2) how the person I was dating fit into all of the above.
            That was back when I made other people responsible for my sense of well-being.

            Who are these people that find it too forward and/or gutless of a man to ask? Probably the same people who jump to conclusions, make assumptions, and expect others to read their mind. I know you say you don’t want to be alone all your life, but do you really want to be with that kind of a person? Believe me, I was *that girl* once upon a time, and we are such a pain in the ass.

            I say, keep asking! There’s nothing gutless about it (it takes courage to say what you feel). And *too forward*? Bullsh*t! Forward is good. Forward is honest. The world needs more forward!

        • FlyingKal says:

          Megan:
          What were you taught about consent?

          Yes, communication is the key, obviously. That’s the simple answer. Just like “consent” is the obvious, simple answer.
          But what do you do when the communication doesn’t work? When a “no” from your partner more often than not turns out to actually mean “Oh I’ll think about it, ask me again in a while”, but then don’t bother to clarify or just don’t give a d*mn when the question isn’t repeated?

          • What was I taught about consent?

            That’s a good question, FlyingKal… I don’t even know that I was explicitly taught about it, beyond the cursory “no means no” from sex education class and the odd after-school special. I think I just absorbed the knowledge from society (Canadian) that consent is within my right to give or withhold, and that I should never touch someone, or be touched by anyone, in a sexual way without permission. It was never understood that a verbal “yes” was necessary to give consent, but rather that we always have the right to say “no”, and that it’s necessary to say it in order to withdraw consent (unless we’re unconscious, then it’s always “no”). In other words, “no” means “no”, and the absence of “no” (barring unconsciousness) means “yes”.

            That being said, there were times in my youth when I sincerely wanted to say “no” but didn’t because of a desperate need for acceptance and love. Seems that I also absorbed from society the erroneous belief that I’m only acceptable and loveable to the extent that I’m sexually desirable. But I digress.

            As to your other question: “what do you do when the communication doesn’t work? When a “no” from your partner more often than not turns out to actually mean “Oh I’ll think about it, ask me again in a while”, but then don’t bother to clarify or just don’t give a d*mn when the question isn’t repeated?”

            I’m no expert, but it sounds like that’s a symptom of deeper, more complex feelings and beliefs than simply the presence or absence of sexual desire. I can only speak from my own experience here, and what I’ve discovered is that at times when I’ve repeatedly refused or have been a begrudging participant in sex with a partner, it always had much more to do with what I felt and believed about myself than it did with the other person.

            For example, if I feel like my partner isn’t showing me due consideration or respect (which is usually a conclusion I’ve drawn based on an assumption), then my response may be to withhold affection. Or, if I lack a sense of my own agency because I’ve been depending on my partner and our relationship to define and direct me, then withholding sex may be an attempt to reclaim power. Or, maybe I feel particularly unattractive because I’ve been comparing myself to photoshopped images of “perfect” female beauty and and have decided that I’m unloveable because my thighs and tummy don’t look like that.

            Yet, the truth of the matter is always that I’ve failed to show due consideration and respect for myself, or have denied my own agency, or my own real beauty. These behaviours express themselves as an unwillingness to really listen to and understand my own wants/needs/feelings and then either address them myself, or communicate them honestly to my partner. In other words, I project negative feelings and beliefs about myself (and the world, in general) onto my partner, and then punish both of us by withholding intimacy.

            We humans are so great at projecting our shadow-side onto others, always looking outside of ourselves for the source of our discontent, as well as the source of our identity and worth and happiness. And because, at least for me and probably for many others, identity and self-worth have been closely linked to sexuality, sexual relationships are often the arena in which our confusion and negativity about ourself play out. Of course, the source is never outside of ourself, but the capitalists are working hard to make sure we never figure that out. Again, I digress.

            So, what to do about it? As I said, I’m not expert, but if I was in the situation that you described, I would contemplate what it is I might be feeling and believing about myself such that I’d stay in a relationship with someone who isn’t as interested in helping me fulfill my sexual needs as I am in helping them fulfill theirs, who isn’t willing to discuss why, and who may not even know themselves well enough to say. Maybe other dimensions of the relationship are so great that I’d put up with the sexual incompatibility?

            • FlyingKal says:

              Megan:
              Thank you so much for a long and well-worded answer.

              First, about consent. IDK, having only ever lived first as a boy and then as a man, but I was brought up with the very stringent rule of always asking for consent. And also while being a youth that very question itself being taken as a sign of “weakness” or uncertainty that by itself was sure to generate a “no” as an answer. I don’t know if that much really have changed with age, or if it’s just that old habits are hard to brake.
              Anyway, the reason for my question was that I’ve often been under the impression that girls are brought up with a different set of rules than boys regarding consent. That for them it’s something that’s first and foremost is something that they are resonating around in the terms of “giving” and not nearly as much of “receiving” or ensuring themselves. Of course I might be wrong, but it’s something rarely discussed, and it’s also a feeling I get from reading this article, that it’s something primarily directed to men.

              And the other question. I consider myself a pretty bright and sensitive person. But I think that problems in a relationship should at least be tried to be solved together. Just saying “no” and nothing more will not help me understand what the problem is, and trying to guess on my part will just as likely only make it worse.

              And because, at least for me and probably for many others, identity and self-worth have been closely linked to sexuality, sexual relationships are often the arena in which our confusion and negativity about ourself play out.
              And kind of vice versa, for me, and probably for many others, what happens in the sexual “arena” as well as other places often has a deep impact on our identity and self-worth as well.

              But yes, I’ve walked out on relationships with dysfunctional communication.
              But being past 40 and never being the handsome or attractive guy, I kinda feel I’m running out of options.

              I wish you the best, and thanks again for your answer.

      • I’ve noticed some women use the ambiguous behaviour, those who say that asking turns them off, they want a man to just kiss them. Too much reliance on body language alone is bad because not everyone uses the exact same body language, nor can everyone accurately read it.

  14. A Letter To My Son About Consent — The Good Men Project

  15. Hi Jonathan

    I understand your feelings.
    But tell us if what you describe here happens during dating( this for us Europen strange practice ) or when you are in a relationship with a woman?

  16. Maria Smilios says:

    I find your letter to be less than because of one reason: you put the blame on the shoulders of the parents, and herein lies the problem. Yes, parents have immense influence, but so does the violent and deplorable culture that surrounds sports, especially in small town america. This is by no means excusing these boys and their vile and vicious behavior, but your argument lacks substance, as it remove the responsibility of the schools and the culture. If you’ve taught your son not to steal but he turns out to be a thief, is that your fault? No.

    • Hi Marie, thanks for your comments. I’m sure your views hold water, but as my son is not part of the small town America culture, or involved in the sports culture you describe, I believe our parental influence is more important. ‘The Culture’ is us. Society is made up of a collection of individuals, and only the determination of individuals will influence change. I made it quite clear in my letter that this was about fulfilling *my* responsibility when I said, “I’m writing this letter to you because I don’t want to fail you in the same way. I love you too much to leave these things unsaid.” You say “If you’ve taught your son not to steal but he turns out to be a thief, is that your fault?” and I agree the answer is no. I’m just making sure I do the teaching. Regards, FW.

  17. I am male and past middle age. I found Finn’s letter disturbing, and I really had to think hard about why – perhaps because it raises issues I find personally painful, and prefer not to think about. Maybe, though, I’m old enough to think I’m not on my own.

    If my mother had sent me this letter, I would have read it as an accusation, and as being more concerned with those against on whom I might ‘predate’ than with caring for me. But then, that was my mother. And most of what she said about sex was ambiguous, fearful, angry, and prohibitive.
    She would have had no trouble presuming that I – as a man – was a danger to women. She believes – as she has explicitly told me in later life – that her parents kept her ignorant and frightened in order to ‘protect’ her. Her defence of them is painful to hear.

    I’m sure this is not where Finn is coming from, but why does she want to warn her son specifically against this kind of abusive behaviour? I found the facts of the Steubenville rape trial appalling. I have four sons, and I know, without a shadow of a doubt, and without ever having discussed this with them, that they would have found them equally appalling – just as they would find the facts of other violent crimes committed by disturbed people appalling. I don’t find myself wanting to be sure I have warned them not to be rapists, any more than I find myself wanting to be sure I have warned them not to be arsonists, serial killers, or members of a street gang.

    I did – as a very young man – behave in ways that were sexually inappropriate. In a fog of ignorance, libido, and low self-esteem, I know that I pressured when I should not have. I am sure I never groped someone who was too drunk to know what I was doing, and I don’t think I ever tried to exploit ignorance or low self-esteem in others. I also know that I allowed things to be done to me that I wish I had not, and that my expectations of respect from those I desired were low. They were ugly times for me, and the misery of them has still not left me – although it has become something different, now, I think.

    There was one aspect of the Steubenville story that took me back there. Among some men – boys – who spoke of their sexual encounters there was a strong theme of abuse. There was little affection in these stories. And they were used to establish miserable local hierarchies which pilloried failure to take advantage of a sexual opportunity. Perhaps the boys in Steubenville were playing out an extreme expression of this nasty social game.

    It took me a while to realise that there were many silent for the few that spoke.

    I don’t think that there is an inevitable slippery slope from inappropriate youthful behaviour to Steubenville. I did not become a rapist. I might as well say I did not become a giraffe. It just wasn’t there in me – despite the aspects of my childhood that contributed to a good deal of sexual misery, despite living in a relentlessly abusive culture, despite decades of living with inexpressible desires. I don’t have to resist the temptation to force myself on someone who does not wish to have sex with me; the temptation is not there. Nada. Zilch. Not fun.

    I also think that if I had been inclined to be a rapist, I would not have been much moved by a letter. Even from my mother.

    A rapist is not just some man who has ‘over-stepped the mark’, or expressed some inevitable and unfortunate aspect of male sexuality. A rapist is a distinctively different kind of man: Perhaps mentally ill, perhaps narcissistic and deluded, certainly viciously dangerous – probably in many areas of his life, as well as in his behaviour towards women.

    There are certainly many of them – enough to sustain rape as an act of war, enough to explain the rape statistics, enough to account for the experiences of the women I personally know who have been raped …

    But they are not among those likely to be moved by a letter, nor are they young boys who just need a little guidance.

    So, for me, there is something odd about this letter. If Finn’s son needs to hear these things, it is already too late to expect him to listen. If he does not, then saying them to him demeans him.
    If he gets through his life without ever behaving towards someone in a way he later regrets her will not only not be rapist, he will be a saint. But if he doesn’t manage this, he won’t be a rapist either. Not even a proto-rapist. Or a giraffe.

    • I’m sorry to hear that you had such a difficult time with your mother. I’m fortunate (and grateful) not to have that situation in my life, and to know many, many wonderful men – foremost of which are my husband (one of the most amazing people I have ever met) and my lovely boy. We don’t ‘monster’ men in this house. As I made clear in my letter “I’m writing this letter to you because I don’t want to fail you in the same way. I love you too much to leave these things unsaid. I need you to know that writing this doesn’t mean that I think you would act like these boys did. Discussing the potential for bad behaviour doesn’t mean I think it’s inevitable, or even likely. It just means I need to know (for both our sakes) that I taught you what sexual freedoms and responsibilities really mean. Educating you about proper consent doesn’t mean I see you as a potential sexual predator, any more than my educating you about the safe use of matches presumed you were a potential arsonist. This is about safety; your safety and the safety of any potential sexual partner.”

      This is about more than rape. It’s also one small part of a continuous dialogue. Thanks for your comments.

  18. FlyingKal says:

    This article made me think. Think back 20-25 years to my own youth. I’ve taken care of more girls in these similar circumstances than I care to count or even remember. Trying to walk and talk them sober enough to get them to sleep in a bed or take a taxi home, holding their hair and wiping the vomit off of their face and clothes, and on “special occasions” even calling an ambulance to get them to a hospital.
    Girls who no longer had any idea about where they were or who they were with. Who had had too much to drink to work up the courage to approach that popular guy who couldn’t care less about them, but supply them with alcohol anyway just for the hell of it.
    I guess I, and sometimes a few of my friends, just happened to be there, to be the receiver of their tears, anger, and vomit.

    And not once did I take any “advantage” of the situation. Not once did I leer, grope, or let my hands “wander about”. It’s not even something I’m particularly proud about. It’s just how it is.

    Funny thing is, I still vividly remember most of them being totally furious afterwards. Not at the guys supplying them with the alcohol, nor at their so called friends abandoning them when they were passé out and needed them the most. But with me and my friends. Because in caring for them, *we* were the ones making them look like a fool and embarrassing them..

    Then again. Being cared for by the unattractive dork… Clearly, that must have been among the worst that could happen.

    • flyingkal I think this all goes back to your original question about “what do we teach girls about consent?” For all this talk about consent on this site and others and “only yes means yes” platitudes what do most men experience _from_ women from the ages of 16-29? You hit on this in this comment in particular.

      What did I see growing up and halfway through college? The guys who were more aggressive with girls and pushed boundaries were the ones who were more popular with girls and who had girlfriends. Guys like me who were respectful, and made sure boundaries were protected didn’t get anywhere with girls. We either weren’t respected as guys worthy of dating or were we actively considered unattractive.

      It wasn’t until midway though college that I stopped being “respectful” and treating women like princesses that I started getting anywhere with women.

      So really, maybe the consent talk should start with girls and not boys. What are our girls being taught if they continually choose to be around bad boys and bad men? I wonder how many really great guys at the OH high school would have loved to hang out and been friends with the victim in this case, yet she chose to hang out and be friends with these monsters. and let’s be clear here, this boys might not have raped before, but I’m pretty sure they’ve done other disrespectful and bullying actions before.

      Why aren’t we teaching girls about the type of men who will treat them well?

  19. Katherine says:

    I really appreciate you taking the time and courage to write this letter. Having a guy ask for my consent is probably one of the most attractive things he can do. I was sexually abused when I was a kid and went through a few relationships where my body was used for someone else’s pleasure. I’m in a new relationship, and my boyfriend always asks for my consent. It really makes a girl (or maybe one who comes from a similar background to mine) feel special and respected. I agree with some of these posts that eventually a relationship can work it’s way to non-verbal cues. I think in the beginning, both people in the relationship should use the verbal cues. Once again, thanks for your insight into this touchy topic.

  20. Your trust in your child alone will suffice for making him a true gentleman. I hope all mothers communicate their trust and such virtues to their sons which will make girls feel protected and comfortable in the company of the strangest of men around the world.

    Proud of the mother in you!

  21. I’m not reading the comments. There’s too much discussion going on. Forgive me if I am repeating other thoughts.

    This was an incredible letter and it was… perfect. I’m saving this. I will share it with my own boys one day, because… I couldn’t say it the way you did.

    Thank you.

    • Hi Damon, thank you so much for your kind words, they mean a great deal to me – especially from a father of boys. FW x

  22. The thing I have found that makes discussions like this easier is to have an ongoing, open dialogue with your child starting early. I have always tried to be first and foremost honest with my children. I have also tried to always listen to my kids (yes, it can be challenging when they are 4 and chatter endlessly about nothing…but there is a payoff. Listen!) We have had discussions along the way about objectifying women, about being drunk, so it was not unusual for me to initiate a conversation about Steubanville and what happened there. It wasn’t uncomfortable or unnatural at all to discuss what exactly constitutes consent, how standing by and not stopping it is NOT ok, what exactly constitutes rape, etc…. I also know my son wasn’t raised in a home where macho crap like “scoring” with a girl is celebrated. It is not celebrated to disrespect or disregard any one’s feelings. That sports mentality of “win at all costs” was never acceptable in our home. Actions speak louder than words. Parents and coaches can easily and inadvertently set really bad examples. I know my son isn’t perfect and I am sure he will make mistakes. I do know he has been taught about right and wrong. I want to believe these life long lessons will stay with him if he ever feels the tug of peer pressure. (He is 17 right now and so far I have a lot to be proud of) Its never too early to start talking and listening. And when a time comes that it really matters, you will be so happy you engaged in that endless 4 year old chatter about an action figure. :)

  23. According to those guidelines: I am a rapist. I have raped many times before.
    I have had sex with men and women without an explicit “Yes”

    • I’m not too sure whether you are being sarcastic, or whether you have just realised something? In many cases, we tend to believe that silence equates compliance, what we are not prepared to do is something very simple, ask. That’s all it takes.

    • Actually, you don’t know if you’ve raped someone or not. The chances are that they were perfectly willing, although you’ll never be sure. The point here is that you could have been sure – had you asked.

  24. Great job on this letter, Finn. Pretty much perfect

  25. William Baxter says:

    For the purpose of this comment I am assuming the traditional definition of rape, between a man and woman. I’d also like to say that rape is abhorrent and those guilty should face severe sentences; however, in these days where women are much more confident in themselves, drink much more than they ever did and can be sexually overtly promiscuous there are other things the writer should mention to her sons.

    Probably best not to date women like those in the example who have only ‘a couple of drinks’ and then don’t recall having sex/being raped. These women should stick to lemonade or stop drinking pure alcohol by the pint.

    Another thing the writer should mention to her sons is that only a female can be too drunk to know what she is doing. No matter if each has the same amount of alcohol to drink, the man is deemed always to be sufficiently sober to establish whether a) unequivocal consent has been given, b) that consent is not due to any degree to intoxication and c) that there is no chance of the female forgetting that she gave consent, say, the following day when she regrets her actions.

  26. I love this. The only point NOT addressed that should be is the faulty concept of a ‘point of no return’ for sex. Consent can be withdrawn at any point and if someone KEEPS GOING, that is rape.

  27. I know that this is a letter to her son, so this is male specific letter, thats why its all about how to respect women. Yeah I know every parents should have this kind of talk to their sons.

    But still, why she use an example of another men violating her sons? Why? Why not women? Why?

    Just read tweets about male rape victims. They ridicule him, they laughed at him, they dont believe that women can rape men. Its very brutal, brutal victim shaming.

    • You said it your self she is writing to her son, and so she knows what would cause the greatest effect on her son, while female to male sexual assault is a real issue it is likely that her son would have taken it as a change of tone and taken the whole thing a little less seriously. and besides that she is trying to protect him from being accused of such things and as he is a male using males as the antagonist is easier for him to personally relate to.

    • Why would you imagine that I would care less if my son was attacked by a woman? Honestly, I find it bizarre that people could even imagine that! I’ve repeated my reasoning and myself many times in the replies. I’m so sorry for your pain, and the pain of others I seem to have offended by not covering every thing from every angle. I hoped that people would accept the good faith and reasoning of this letter – which I was asked to share. I’ve now come to terms with the reality that nothing I say will satisfy those questioning my good intentions.

    • Thank you for your understanding, I really appreciate it. FW x

  28. I’ve been kind of following the comments on Finn’s letter, having made one myself.

    I’m finding it hard to think of a comfortable or kind way of articulating what I want to say, but here goes:

    There must be something really important about the the fact that sex, which clearly has more to do with communication and bonding than with procreation, can become such an arena of misunderstanding and aggression.

    It’s a bit simple minded, I suppose. I’m reminded of my cat, who sometimes can’t decide whether she wants to cuddle me or kill me. I need a new word for this cat affect: ‘aggressionate’.

    Does anyone really understand what’s going on here? Can they express it in a way which avoids the bear traps?

    Finn’s letter did make me feel uncomfortable, but I also understood the care beneath it’s composition. It’s certainly a much better attempt at communication than many I have seen and suffered from. I don’t know if I have really been able to be clear about what the discomfort was – I tried to express it in my earlier comment.

    it’s very hard to make sense in the language of sexual communication. it’s easier (a bit) to make sense in words. Can we bridge the gap? Or is it hopeless, for some profound reason known only to the murky evolutionary processes which produced us?

  29. Hi Alex

    What did you do to your cat?
    This is NOT normal cat behavior!

    This sounds like an abused cat.

    • Iben, my cat does a similar thing. He’s just a temperamental lil shit. Some cat breeds are pretty aggressive. I’ve heard bengals can be very aggressive.

    • Iben –

      (!)

      She’s a Bengal.

      It’s normal for Bengals.

      I feel this is going somewhere strange. Maybe another metaphor would have been safer!

      Alex

  30. D Higgins says:

    “The only reliable invitations to sex are clear, unambiguous, and verbal.”

    Couldn’t disagree more. Because of so many incidents of rape, I think people are becoming a little TOO careful and legally explicit to the point of taking some of the spontaneity out of the sexual experience. What, so if I go on a date and take a girl home, and we both play equally active parts in seducing each other and undressing each other, then having sex (without the whole “asking permission” thing), then it’s wrong? It’s rape?

    No thanks. This idea is absurd. I believe a word has to come from an unwilling partner, whether man or woman. That word is “no.” Or “not this time,” or “I’m not ready yet,” at which point the other person says “ok, no problem” and respects that.

    • I think you have to take this letter in context. The author is an adult talking to a teenager. Presumably, this teenager, and most teenagers, are new to sex and sexual ques. A teenage girl thinking about having sex for the first time might actively participate for quite some time and then begin to question wether she is making the right desision. The same can certianly be true for teenage boys as well. In this situation verbal consent really is the only way to know if they are still willing participant or if he/she is feeling like they should just go with the flow. I don’t know if you remember when you were a teenager but saying “no” or “I am not ready yet” isn’t the easiest thing to say when you want someone to like and care for you. Sometimes fear of what he/she might say to their friends keeps you quiet.

      That being said, adults who are more well versed in sex and sexual advances might follow along with your senerio. Espically if this is an adult you are in a relationship with and know more personally. But teenagers – boys and girls alike – need to remember that their peers are very hormonal and prone to indecision. Besides wouldn’t you rather have your child ask permission and avoid a rape accusation all together? It might not be as passionate but at least he/she will be 100% certian of consent.

  31. Not buying it says:

    Yep, I fully understand your article as a matter of fact I just had another conversation with my seventeen year old son in which I pointed out to that him & all of his male friends are considered potential rapists & as annoyed he was with the legal reality he thanked me when he understood that a verbal retraction of consent after the fact or deed is enough to paint him as a rapist/sex offender for the rest of his life, if he is not careful about it, thank you for the article Finn.

    • I hope you also told them that (at least in the UK) a reasoned belief that consent was given is considered a valid defense against the charge, as would the character witness testimony of other partners you had previously asked for consent. The best protection is still to ask.

      Thanks for your comments.

  32. Hi Mark Neil

    You make me confused!
    Can women today in the US murder men in cold blood without getting punished?

    The letter Finn wrote,and published here triggered a long debate. I am thankful to Finn because I learned a lot from all the comments.
    As a women I want men to express their feeling without invalidating them. It hurts when their feelings are axpressed the way we see here,but still I think we as women can listen.
    This is not nessicerely men that want to shut women up,at least I hope this an honest expression of feelings.
    And thanks to Finn.

  33. Wow. It is my firm belief that every parent should have this kind of frank discussion (among many) of sexual behavior and respect with their children. Perhaps if the parents of the Steubenville teens had this kind of talk with their children, the media might not be speaking now of the ‘great potential’ of these boys lives ‘being ruined’.

    The questions raised by John and Eagle35 are important, and I can see where without the context of other discussions along this line, it is easy to assume that this letter is the sum total of any conversations about sex–which would indeed, leave some of their concerns unaddressed.

    I admit, I am surprised at how quickly this has turned into a discussion of the shaming of men, however. That is not what this letter is about. The author clearly states that she does not think her son a sexual predator: “Discussing the potential for bad behaviour doesn’t mean I think it’s inevitable, or even likely. It just means I need to know (for both our sakes) that I taught you what sexual freedoms and responsibilities really mean. Educating you about proper consent doesn’t mean I see you as a potential sexual predator, any more than my educating you about the safe use of matches presumed you were a potential arsonist. This is about safety; your safety and the safety of any potential sexual partner.”

    It is exactly what is says it is. A clear and candid discussion about what constitutes consent. The kind of discussion that every parent should have with their children, along the lines of drinking responsibly and not driving when drunk, or how to interact appropriately on the internet, or how to deal with bullying. The reactions to this letter would seem to indicate that bring up this kind of discussion with your children at all is wrong–or that we should only be teaching our daughters what the definition of consent is, and hope that everyone else is on the same page.
    In addition to being akin to a discussion of the safe use of matches (I like that analogy, it is very fitting) it too, is a guideline for anyone *observing* acts that violate someone’s body–something that an inordinate number of teenagers in the Steubenville teens’ social circle did without stopping or reporting.

    That is the real shame here.

  34. First, in my previous comment, I never said this letter is men shaming, or she think her son is sexual predator. I do think every mom should aways have talk like this with their sons. I do think however, that this not enough.

    I think most parents dont tell their sons that they need to respect themselves first, teaching them a sense of respect first. Teaching them its not okay for a woman to touch and grope their body without consent ( and as a man who is quite attractive, I have experienced those acts from women, mainly older women). And this is what I think is the root of problem of rape culture. Men dont have sense of respect because we never thaught them to respect themselves. They couldnt understand how it feels for women.

    And the way she use an example of a man, not a woman could sexually violated him, is not really good I think. It teaches another homophobia and “men must want it” theory. Its not healthy. It teaches him that if a woman sexually violated him, he must want it because hes a man.

  35. “I admit, I am surprised at how quickly this has turned into a discussion of the shaming of men, however. That is not what this letter is about.”
    It happens because there is a vacuum of accountability n responsibility put forth to women n girls in letters or the lack their of. I have read quite a few of these types of letter articles, read of men pledging to stand up against violence against women, etc, but not a single letter written to a daughter telling her to never rape a man, etc. At the moment it feels like only one gender is being taught to respect consent en mass, I am pretty shocked that I haven’t seen the girl version of this letter/article.

    Teaching people to respect consent n not be a rapist is fine, teaching one gender however becomes sexist towards that gender.

  36. While you’re absolutely correct in saying that men and women alike should be taught the true and only meaning of consent, this was a mother writing to her son, not to a daughter. That’s why all her emphasis was on men violating women. This is a truly beautiful letter and every mother (and father) should be having this discussion with their children. Consent needs to be clarified in society in general, not just for boys/men. Also, the stereotype of men violating women comes largely because of media hysterics such as the circus surrounding the Steubenville case. That is extremely unfortunate because there is so much sexual abuse by women as well as men. And the face of sexual abuse is not always rape which includes sexual intercourse. But that’s an entirely different conversation.

  37. Eagle35 et al, please don’t take this as an angry response, I’m doing this so you might understand why women might snap at what you’ve said about men being abused, which if you’ve responded in a similar way to other posts or articles of this type I imagine you would have had some angry comebacks at some point. Yes, this is a gender specific comment, a woman talking to men. I sincerely hope you’ll see why.

    First of all, all of us deserve support and understanding for any abuse we’ve received, no matter what type of abuse or the gender of either the abused or the abuser. I understand that women can be abusers as well as men and that men can be the victims of abuse as well as women. You have my sympathy and understanding.

    However, this post is about a very specific topic, a different topic to the one you’ve raised. This is about a culture that allowed teenage boys to completely disregard the basic human rights of a teenage girl and not even understand that what they did was wrong. This was about how teenage boys can get to this stage. She explicitely states that discussing the matter does not mean she believes everyone is capable of such an act but simply wants to make sure that her teenage boy is prepared for life.

    As I’ve said, the issue you’ve raised, although in the same ‘family’ (the belief of an entitlement to abuse), is a separate issue. What you’ve essentially done is to say, “No, you’re not allowed to discuss your issue unless you also discuss mine. You’re not allowed to try and find a solution to your problem unless you solve mine first.” I know this is not what you’d have meant to say and most likely won’t immediately see how what you’ve said can be translated as such. So try this: imagine you’ve just posted a similar letter to your neice, to explain to her what abuse is and why no-one has a right to abuse anyone else. Then imagine the comments. Imagine comments that tell you that you’re wrong in posting this letter because you didn’t mention *a separate issue*. That people who have experienced this *separate issue* will read and be offended by your letter, even though your letter isn’t aimed at them and probably not relevant to them. Would you be wrong making a post about one issue, a specific issue relevant to you, simply because you didn’t mention a separate issue that someone else wants to talk about? I’m guessing you’d suggest that they go and write about their own issue if they feel so strongly that it should be discussed rather than hijacking the comments on a post about a separate issue.

    The same is true even if it’s about the same issue but from a different perspective. This is letter is about a specific issue and from a specific perspective, that of a mother talking to her teenage son. If you feel a different perspective is more important then write about it and post it yourself, just not in the comments of this post.

    This kind of ‘hijacking’ angers a lot of women because it is seen so often. Look at any online article about the rape or abuse of women and you will see a torrent of comments by (some, not all) men wanting to talk about the abuse of men or the evils of girls and women who ‘change their mind’ (which must be all of us if the number of claims are to be believed). You might have a very worthy topic, but hijacking in this way simply gives us the message that you want to shut us up and talk about your issues instead, that our issues aren’t as important as yours, that we aren’t as important as you.

    That is why you may find women riled at the comments you make.

  38. This is one of the best comments I’ve ever read about male survivors. Thanks for writing it. I think that there’s a particular group of Men’s Rights Activists that basically ruin things for men like you, at least in the eyes of some feminists. It can be exhausting dealing with their constant “me too” attitude. It’s not that what they are saying is necessarily wrong (although many of their “facts” seem offensively incorrect) it’s that they seem to be much more invested in tearing down feminism than actually extending a helping hand to male victims. I’ve always believed that there are real issues that men face, sexual assault not being the least of them. We need more outspoken men who come from a place of real compassion and concern, rather than as a simple backlash against feminism. Again, thanks for sharing.

  39. Hi John, I think if you re-read my reply you’ll find that I agree that this letter alone would not be enough. Obviously, one letter can’t contain a whole history of the discussions we have had. I’ve always taught all my children that their bodies are *theirs* and that nobody has the right to touch them, whatever gender. I explained my reasoning for using a male in the scenario. I understand that many have found that problematic and I have read all their comments. I hope you can accept that I was writing in good faith. I’m sorry you see a homophobia that was never intended or implied. Our family has both heterosexual and homosexual members – equally loved and cherished. I’m sorry that you don’t see your experiences reflected in this letter, I can only sympathise with your past bad experiences. Thank you for sharing your opinion. Best wishes, FW

  40. Dear John.

    Why should it be child abuse Or rape and how can you even make a level of precedence over heinous acts such as those? How about making attempts to do away with both?

  41. Dear John

    This is a very gender specific response. I sincerely hope you’ll see why.

    By hijacking the comments of this post you’ve essentially said “No, you’re not allowed to discuss your issue unless you also discuss mine. You’re not allowed to try and find a solution to your problem unless you solve mine first. To carry on the discussion, it must be on my terms.”

    Do you seriously expect a single post to contain a full discussion encompassing all forms of abuse in the world? No, you don’t. You, along with several other men, have decided what you want to talk about and are in the process of derailing the original topic. This was a post on a versy specific issue, from a very specific perspective and simply because your issue of choice wasn’t addressed you’ve decided to hijack the comments. You’ve decided that if we are to discuss a topic, it will be on your terms.

    This kind of ‘hijacking’ angers a lot of women because it is seen so often. Look at any online article about the rape or abuse of women and you will see a torrent of comments by (some, not all) men wanting to talk about the abuse of men or the evils of girls and women who ‘change their mind’. Hell, just look at the comments to this letter. If an issue or topic is so important to you, write about it yourself! Don’t demand that someone else write it for you! And don’t tell us not to write about it from a female perspective! You might have a very worthy topic, but hijacking in this way simply gives us the message that you want to shut us up and talk about your issues instead, that our issues aren’t as important as yours, that we aren’t as important as you.

    Perhaps you’re under the illusion that this is a conversation. This is no conversation. Truly look at all of the comments, mainly from men. This is no conversation. Not when this occurs on every single post or article about the rape & abuse of women.

  42. And what about children who are raped? This is most often done by male caregivers.

  43. I agree completely with your comment that “Consent needs to be clarified in society in general” and your understanding of where this letter was focused. Had I been asked to write about consent generally – rather than share a letter already written – I’d have expanded my thinking on consent in exactly the way you talk about. This was never an attempt at point scoring, or denial. I really, really appreciate the people who can see that. Thanks again, FW.

  44. Yeah, and how about women hijacking article ” Five this women dont know about men” ???

  45. “This kind of ‘hijacking’ angers a lot of women because it is seen so often.”
    “You might have a very worthy topic, but hijacking in this way simply gives us the message that you want to shut us up and talk about your issues instead, that our issues aren’t as important as yours, that we aren’t as important as you.”
    “That is why you may find women riled at the comments you make.”

    One of the major problems is that these articles are pretty much always, infact I’ve never seen the reverse, talk about males abusing females. It is so incredibly rare to even find an article of a female telling other females to stop raping and abusing men but there are oodles of articles of both men n women telling men to stop abusing women. The hijacking is bad but so is the absolute silence that is defeaning on male issues. The silence that sends the message that the violence against men is not as important as that against women, that we men are not important as women, this is why those men are riled against yet another article telling men to stop harming women when it’s a very 1 sided discussion.

    Women have a social backing of support, violence against women campaigns are extremely popular to the point they get major government funding yet in Australia I cannot remember ever seeing a single bit of awareness campaigning with gov support that ever showed a female abuser, male victim.

    This is a site for men, yet I have not seen a consent letter written to a daughter on it, and I haven’t seen one written at all actually yet I’ve seen a few written with the male = perp, female = victim style mentality.

    The “one issue” you talk about nearly becomes the ONLY issue discussed relating to abuse. In the public toilets for men there are “Violence against women, Australia says no” type posters, I’ve seen the ads on TV for it yet never seen a female perpetrator, male victim put forward on a campaign on tv, posters that has had a huge backing. There are campaigns asking men to stand up against violence against women, find me a single campaign telling women to stand up against violence against men?

    There aren’t many places men can actually discuss their issues AND get major coverage, I regularly see the hijacking you describe but what I see are men who are feeling so forgotten that hijacking is their last resort, that they feel so left out of the discussion, that society really doesn’t give a damn about the violence men go through by women especially.

    Do you understand why I start to get annoyed seeing yet another bit of info on male perp female victim type issues? I sit here on white ribbon day wondering if women would actually take the oath and not hit/abuse men on ANY day.

    Will I live to see the day I see a single woman, a single feminist even write a letter like this to her daughter telling her to take into account consent, etc, post it online and get large numbers of viewers? I’ve read countless articles telling me, a man to not rape women, not abuse them, but not a single article telling women to show the same respect to men. Stats prove it happens in significant amounts so we can’t just hide behind “it rarely happens” as an excuse. Has no single woman ever considered writing an article telling women not to abuse men? (If so can someone show me them?)

    If society as a whole, and especially anti-abuse activists really showed a proportionate level of support towards men’s issues then these hijackings probably wouldn’t exist. Try to imagine what it feels like to be largely ignored by society and then read stuff asking you to protect n support the other gender whilst there’s pretty much very little of the same asked of that gender towards you. When it feels more about chivalry than about truly ending abuse, that is a huge problem. It’s not the authors fault, nor do I want to see these articles stop, but what I can’t understand is the EXTREME disparity in care of one gender over the other’s vulnerability? I could understand maybe half, maybe a quarter ratio of the female-articles to male but currently it’s more like 99% in regards to abuse and especially disproportionate in the government support. I truly hope I am wrong and I am just unlucky with what I see n read.

    The level of silence these men feel is incredible, and I myself find it very troubling that we have so much activism to end violence yet it’s disproportionately supporting one gender whilst largely ignoring the other. Can you imagine what it’s like to be utterly shocked when a newspaper actually discusses male abuse victimization for instance yet expect and see regular discussions of violence against women.
    Hijacking is bad, but it exists for a reason. Maybe people should tackle that reason? Why would they need to hijack if there was decent support for both genders?

  46. Mr Supertypo says:

    I dont know how bad the hijack’s really are. Sure they are annoying, but in this case they exist for balancing a issue. The issue is silence and tabu, witch is worse than a simple derail.
    So in this case the derail on male issues are a good thing, actually it can be even interpreted as heroic. Because you oppose a system a culture who tries to silence and erase you. Imo the only way is to put a parity 50/50 on the gender abuse topic, that might be enough to eliminate or at least to minimize all the hijacks issues we see around.

    How would you feel if you are abused but not allowed to speak up and if you do, you get silenced by a angry mob? think about it. See the more tabu’s around gender topics (or any topic) there are, more MRA/Feminist/others we will see. But why? because certain topics get silenced and ignored, like female on male rape. Therefore the opposing force hijackers/MRA/feminists/etc they try to break a dark veil of censorship who are oppressive to the majority of humans. And thats a good thing, and I have a hard time understanding why we all dont support them. We should all speak up, and we should all join in support of the people who scream for help, rather than tell them to suffer in silence.

    There are xxxxxxxxx number of articles, researches, statistics and more on male vs female rape. Why isnt almost anything on female on male rape, seriously, why? why the silence, why the denial?

    About the letter, I cant speak for Eagle, but im sure if one of the regular guys will type a similar letter, they will do it more balanced. Because they have been ignored and ridiculed one time to many, and they know how it feels.

  47. Women commenting on one article entitled “Five this [sic] women don’t know about men” is hardly camparable to every single article about the abuse and rape of women being hounded by men telling us we can’t talk about that unless we talk about everything from their point of view. I’m perfectly serious when I ask you to look at any such article by women. The subsequent written abuse we receive online is extremely personal and vindictive and it is meant to shut us up as a gender.

  48. It’s more than one article btw, quite regularly there are derailing comments on this site and men’s sites. Disproportionate single-gendered activism without a counterpart ends up creating a lot of this issue.

    I see a lot of the hijacking on those articles and the majority I see are “whataboutthemenz” which isn’t to shut women up but to say “Hey, why is there so little attention to men, PLEASE help support us too” and has more to do with disproportionate levels of awareness for violence against women. The way to fix it is to support both men and women fully in anti-rape, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize it’s heavily gynocentric at the moment.

    It’s not GOOD to derail like that but it’s a definite sign of how many men feel utterly ignored n unsupported. The way to fix this is to actually have decent quality articles regularly showing both women’s and men’s issues, (and of course articles of the rape victimization of men to NOT have the typical “butwomengetitworse” tripe). This is the huge problem with HEAVILY gendered activism for issues that affect both genders, unless both genders are supported you’ll get people feeling very left out of the convo. White ribbon day brings out a lot of this because it’s setup as asking men to stop abusing and speak up on the abuse women whilst NOTHING is said to the women to stop abusing men n speaking up on the abuse of men.

    The trolling however and abuse part I would agree as trying to shut people up on the matter. It’s just a sad situation all round. Many men feel they aren’t heard on their pain, many women are annoyed some of those men comment on the articles derailing them and sadly one gender gets massive amounts of attention in such articles as the articles for men are rarely written n furthermore actually seen by many so you end up with a topic on DV or abuse will probably end up with a bunch of various discussions going on. Although quite frankly a lot of articles end up with comments that don’t actually discuss the article and go off into separate discussions, I see that A LOT because the comment sections like this one can handle multiple discussions so it doesn’t bother me as much as single-list comments like facebook. Probably better off with a forum style discussion where someone can raise a new topic and have it discussed there as there are discussions on this site for example which seem to continue on waiting for the next article remotely similar to the last.

    I suggest maybe pointing them to this site and other sites that suit male-interests, toysoldiers blog is great for male issues surrounding abuse. Try avoid snark as that just starts more fights, but ignoring them or saying “That is a big issue, yadda yadda, this site would be more suited to that discussion or this article here”. Many derailers simply want to be heard I think and actually have male issues acknowledged instead of snarked at and pissed on, Jezebel is especially bad for causing angst towards feminism for instance. Personally I’d love to see a site that has a 3tier system comment setup where you click 1 for female, another for male, and another for crossover/bothgenders issues relating to article. That way all bases are covered and you’d gain far more info since many issues do cross over to the other gender. But that’s my theory on how to help avoid derailing.

  49. @ John: Women commenting on one article entitled “Five this [sic] women don’t know about men” is hardly camparable to every single article about the abuse and rape of women being hounded by men telling us we can’t talk about that unless we talk about everything from their point of view. I’m perfectly serious when I ask you to look at any such article by women. The subsequent written abuse we receive online is extremely personal and vindictive and it is meant to shut us up as a gender.

    @ Archy: Look, I fully support you when you say men should also receive support for the abuse they’ve received but you’ve essentially said that women can’t talk about the rapes that happen to us unless we address female on male abuse first. Is this equality for you? I’m a woman who has a lifetime experience of being told I will most likely be raped at some point in my life and that when it happpens I will have to accept some, if not all, of the responsibility. I’m a woman who sees things like the steubenville trial, etc and can’t believe that people still think my gender has no human rights. I’m a woman who has been in an abusive relationship, and not as the abuser. I could write about all of these things. What I can’t write about is female on male abuse because I simly don’t know enough about it to dio a good job.

    One thing I will also say about male on female rape: it happens far more often than even reported, it is commonplace and I think a lot of men don’t even realise that they have raped, it’s always violent and there are often physical injuries as well as the injuries caused by penetration. It is the only crime in which the victim is expected to take at least part of the blame, to accept at least some responsibility that she allowed herself to be raped. The injuries may heal but the psychological damage is life long. Write about female on male rape and abuse by all means, but don’t shower a torrent of comments on an article written by a woman about the kind of rape that is most likely to occur, about the kind of rape that we know most about because we are taught to expect it. This is a form of male on female abuse – look at any similar article on the internet and you will see the same thing – men telling women what they should be talking about instead, men who are basically telling women to shut up because they’re more important.

  50. “How would you feel if you are abused but not allowed to speak up and if you do, you get silenced by an angry mob?”

    I’m not sure if this is what you actually meant, if not – what do you think all of the hijacking by men is? It is essentially telling women that we cannot discuss an issue relevant to women, almost commonplace in society, unless we discuss it from your point of view, or simply telling us we should discuss something else that you want to discuss. Trust me, it is bad (the hijacking). Absolutely any woman that sticks her head above the parapet is shot down. It’s as if we’re not allowed to discuss more than one topic in the entire world, these men feel that they must shut down any discussion by women of issues that affect us in order to make us discuss their issue.

    “im sure if one of the regular guys will type a similar letter, they will do it more balanced.”

    Then why not write it? You do not need to shut down and stifle dicussion of one particular topic in order to discuss another. Far too many complaints from men are that a woman hasn’t written about things men experience or from a male point of view. Who exactly is more equipped to do that, the female writer or the men complaining?

    I will say that I don’t think they’d write a completely similar letter and therefore ‘balance’ would be questionable – this is a mother talking to her son after watching the Steubenville trial. Women have different life experiences from men and male on female rape is a societal norm, we’re raised to expect it and that it will, at least in part, be our fault. The Steubenville rape would not have happened as a woman on man rape (as men have described here – this is the only knowledge I have of it so forgive me if I’m wrong) – even if it were physically possible in that passed out drunk/drugged state, these boys were in a very privileged position. Society tells them that they must behave in a certain way to be ‘real men’, the town praised them because of their football player status, adults who should have been responsible offered to protect them and the police were only forced into action, despite the evidence being freely available, by an internet campaign when people realised they were going to get away with it. The girl has been labelled everything from a slut to ‘one of those girls who change their minds when they sober up’ – all this despite the evidence and the ruling. So much of this is dependent on the gender of the victim and the rapists. That’s why this was a male on female rape letter and discussion. To then say “But you didn’t talk about…” is ridiculous. Yes, other issues need to be discussed but don’t shut one discussion down simply because it’s not what you think people should talk about. Derailing one discussion to make it something else is not heroic, it’s just another example of men trying to shut women up.

  51. “im sure if one of the regular guys will type a similar letter, they will do it more balanced. Because they have been ignored and ridiculed one time to many, and they know how it feels.”

    I think this is an excellent idea. I was asked to share a letter that was already written. It was never -ever – my intention to silence or deny other’s experiences.

Trackbacks

  1. […] A Letter To My Son About Consent Watching parents cry over their son as the Steubenville rape verdict came down prompted this mother to write a letter to her son. “The horrible truth is that as long as parents anywhere allow their boys to think that their wants are more important than other people’s rights this will continue to happen,” she says, explaining to her son that “making sure the sex you are involved in always involves complete consent will be the best gift you can give your future self.” Now that’s motherly love. […]

  2. […] A bit heavy, but important. Speaking of which – http://goodmenproject.com/ethics-values/a-letter-to-my-son-about-consent/ – my friends and family have been sharing this letter and I think it’s pretty […]

  3. […] of young men who are cold, heartless animals. Too harsh? I don’t think so. This letter from one mother to her son about consent gives me hope. It is not enough for moms to talk to their daughters, these conversations must be […]

  4. […] also want to share with you a very well-written and well thought out letter from a mother to her son on the nature of consent: just one part of a series of conversations she’s had with her son over the years, but now […]

  5. […] A Letter To My Son About Consent […]

  6. […] more about boys and teaching consent here and here. […]

  7. […] A Letter To My Son About Consent — The Good Men Project […]

  8. […] The last one on the list is especially important: Establish clear consent. This applies at every stage, from sensitive topics of conversation to physical touch. Even handholding can be awkward and intrusive if you don’t bother to check if they’re up for it. “May I?” is a great question, and when said with a wink can be very attractive. Absence of a no ≠ a yes. This is my favorite article on the subject. […]

  9. […] the message home about women's rights. More should be done in the same vein as this article. A Letter To My Son About Consent ? The Good Men Project Perhaps you are right but that I don't see it? I tend to think that we don't have a rape culture […]

  10. […] A Letter To My Son About Consent — The Good Men Project. […]

  11. […] there are blueprints for talking to boys about consent. The Good Men Project is a forum for sharing stories, ideas, possibilities. It explores what it […]

  12. […] (especially boys) about healthy sexual behavior that does not include objectification of women. Finn Wightman excellently articulates what every boy needs to hear growing up. Indian parents would not be comfortable having this exact conversation with their children, but […]