Open letters are popular recently. Maybe people are writing open letters instead of sitting down and having conversations.
Well I intend to do both.
You’d think there wouldn’t be any need to tell a man “hey, don’t rape anybody”. But recent events have made me think that maybe we should be clear and firm and explicit about this.
I have sons. This year they’ll be 14 and 16. Now isn’t the best time to write this actually because I’m so angry with them that I’m not talking to them, unless I have to. I don’t even want to be in the same room as them.
Why? Yesterday a drink was spilled and a petty argument broke out between them over who was going to clean it up. Of course that wasn’t the only thing that has led me to give them the silent treatment.
I’m just giving them space and time to evaluate the situation and why I’m angry and what they should do to rectify the situation. Starting with wiping up the fucking spilled drink.
And here’s the thing. I know it’s a big leap, but you can’t undo rape in the same way you can mop up a spilled drink.
To go on record bleating about how your rapist son doesn’t eat snacks and more, while simultaneously blaming his victim for being drunk, smacks of the worst kind of ignorance and monied privilege.
Trust me on this. If one of my sons had just been found guilty of rape, I would not be writing letters in their defence. I would not be complaining that their life had been ruined – I would be offering to drive them to jail myself and slamming the judge for giving down such a ridiculously lenient sentence.
With that in mind … to my sons …
Hey boys, now you’re on the verge of manhood, there are some things I need to say to you.
I guess as parents, we often spend our lives reminding you of all the things you should be doing – eat your greens, brush your teeth, do your homework, get your stuff ready the night before, not in the morning when we should be leaving (God that one just doesn’t go in, no matter how many times I say it) be kind, be polite (manners mean everything and cost nothing), be yourself.
We don’t tend to spend too long telling you specifically all the things you shouldn’t be doing.
So here we go. This list is neither comprehensive not exhaustive, but these ones are the important ones to avoid.
1. Don’t rape anybody. Ever. Learn about consent. If it’s not a clear “yes” then let’s assume it’s a no and act accordingly. Don’t ever force yourself on someone or try to coerce or persuade them to do anything they’re not comfortable and happy about. Where is the joy and fun in that? Always imagine yourself in their position. We’re not a religious family so I’m not going to get all bibical on you, but this is one scenario when ‘do as you would be done by’ really comes into its own. Words to live by. Treat people with the same compassion, care and respect you would like to receive. You never have a “right” to sex or indeed to any physical contact that is not freely given. Remember that. Be decent men. Rape is not decent.
2. Do not take revealing photos of another human being without their express permission and consent. (There’s that word again. Consent. Consent is your friend. Get to know it. Honour it. ) and if anyone does allow you to photograph them in a way that they probably wouldn’t share with anyone else – don’t YOU share those photos with anyone else either. That’s a betrayal of trust right there. Don’t do it. I did not raise you to behave in that way. If someone gives you their trust, do not let them down.
3. Drunk/drugged people can not consent. To anything. (There it is again. Consent. Consent. Consent. I’m gonna keep saying it until I know you’ve got it. Consent.) you wouldn’t get into a car with someone intoxicated. Don’t even consider getting into bed with someone so drunk they don’t know what they’re doing. They will not be in a fit position to consent (a drunken yes is a maybe at best, and anything that isn’t an unequivocal yes is a no, remember?) and you should not even consider taking advantage of this. That’s what rapists do. Don’t be a rapist.
4. Don’t kill, don’t steal, dont cheat in exams. You already know all that but I’m throwing it in here for the absence of any doubt.
5 Don’t rape. Yeah. I’m saying it again, because it’s important. Imperative. Crucial. Because lines are blurred. Because there will be peer pressure. And societal pressure. And vile men who judge women on how they dress and act. I don’t want you to be influenced by any of this. Be your own people. Know what is right and wrong. Rape is wrong. Always. Have respect and always make sure you have consent.
Rape ruins lives. Rapists ruin lives. Don’t rape. It’s as simple as that.