The news has been so charged this past week with important discussions around sexual misconduct. Because it matters. We want answers to a lot of really important questions. Why doesn’t she remember details? Why didn’t she report it when it happened? What’s “normal” teenage and young adult behavior? This, of course, isn’t the first time and it won’t be the last that we publicly sift through these important topics.
I have a lot of opinions about these questions, and I know you probably do, too. I hope you do. I also hope you’re listening to others and sharing your perspective and experiences.
Let’s also get this out of the way: I believe her. I know that lots of women (and men) have been hurt by sexual misconduct during our teen years.
But I also want to talk about what’s missing from our national dialogue: there are teenage boys who would never dream of doing the harm we are reading about or remembering.
Don’t – not for a second- believe that young men are not capable of the most tender, appropriate, loving ways. I have experienced these ways. And I am raising a boy with the firm and explicit expectation of tenderness.
How we talk about teenage boys and girls (or partners of whatever combination) and how they relate to one another emotionally and physically matters. Just this past week, the news and debate brought up hell for me that I had pushed way down. I’m not alone in that, and for some victims, the hell is experienced every single day.
More than ever, I want my son to know about and fight fiercely to end rape culture. I don’t, however, want the conversation to inadvertently lead our boys to believe that we do currently think they are wired to normalize misconduct, misogynistic language, and objectification of women’s bodies. Nope.
I have a teenage boy. I angst about the lyrics in some of the music I know he enjoys. He’s a huge athlete and a committed CrossFit jock with his dad, which gives him the brute strength to be a defensive player to fear on his lacrosse team. He eats like a damn dinosaur. Or something. He’s sometimes rude and tone-deaf as all get out.
He slept on my chest for the first 5 months of his life. Literally attached. He and his sister are part of the “My Body Belongs to Me!” generation. He snuggles his dog now in all the ways I know his dad and I snuggled him. I see him tenderly hold and care for little ones — our neighbors and relatives — and while she annoys every bone in his body, I know he loves and honors his sister. (When he gets out of line, I sure as hell know I’m responsible for telling him how impactful a brother can be on so much of a sister’s psyche.) He seems to really understand why I care about those lyrics so much.
I believe that he and his sister and their peers will lead us out of this ugly, ugly time. Kids, your parents, and teachers are watching you and will continue to challenge you when you cross lines. We will continue to talk with you about uncomfortable subjects so that you can prepare yourself for becoming the adults you want to be. We will remind you that there will be drugs and alcohol around and of the sorts of life-changing decisions that can be made should you choose to be under the influence. We will remind you that there is no longer a “boy will be boys” to hide behind.
In turn, you will remind us that young men are not inherently toxic. You’re not to be feared. You are loving, kind, wise and tender. You have feelings. You can and do get hurt. You can have conversations about bodies and are fully capable of making decisions to override impulses you may experience. You will understand that young women and men have not always been shown the kind of tenderness you’re capable of offering, and you will learn to navigate that with grace.
We’re mad as hell about things that have and continue to happen. We also believe you can and will do better. We expect you to. On this issue and so many more.
What’s your take on what you just read? Comment below or write a response and submit to us your own point of view or reaction here at the red box, below, which links to our submissions portal.
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