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.”

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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. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. “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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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

  10. 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?

  11. 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.

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

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

  14. “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?

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. @ 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. “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.

  21. “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 […]