In an open letter to parents of boys, writer and sex educator Carina Kolodny talks about all those cautionary conversations we're supposed to have with our daughters: Be careful how you dress, don't drink too much, protect yourself against creepy men. But then she asks, "Who are these 'creepy men' and where did they come from AND who in the hell raised them?" Oh -- that would be US! Creepy men start out as boys, and that means at least one parent somehow failed to teach their son not to be creepy. And so, Kolodny makes a very reasonable request: Talk with your sons about how they treat women and girls, all of them.
Okay, fair enough. But ... it's so awkward. What are you supposed to do? "Son, please pass the salt, and speaking of passing the salt, can we talk about sexual assault?" Awkward! Leave Dr. Seuss behind. Here are a few ways to start that "Don't Be a Creep" conversation with your son.
It's all about noticing the right opportunity and asking key questions. That way you can find out what your son already thinks before launching into a lecture that will make them roll their eyes and say, "I know, Mom/Dad!"
You’re watching TV and you see an ad with girls wearing skimpy clothes: How do you think the girls in that ad want to be treated by men? Would your friends treat girls dressed that way differently than girls dressed in long jeans? Why/why not?
You’re having a glass of wine with dinner: You know, I was raised not to get too drunk to behave responsibly, but I know not everyone else has been taught that. What would you do if a girl you know got so drunk she couldn’t move? Do you think drinking more than you meant to would ever excuse your behavior if you ended up doing something wrong?
You're listening to music in the car and the singer is boasting about his sexual conquests: Why is he so proud of having sex with so many women? What does that do for him? Can a grown man be cool/manly/awesome without having sex with a lot of women?
You hear someone use the word "slut" in any context: How come we rarely hear anyone call a guy a slut? Why are people uncomfortable with the idea of girls having sex with more than one guy?
You see or hear a news story about online sexual harassment: What do you think of girls who post sexy photos of themselves? Has anyone ever texted you a photo of a girl with her clothes off? (He'll probably say no ...) What would you think of that?
I confess, I haven't had any of these conversations with my own son -- yet. But I think I should, because if I don't, there's plenty of other people out there who will teach him to be a creep. And as a parent of a boy, I think it's my responsibility to help keep your daughters safe, too.
Have you ever had these kinds of conversations with your sons?
Image via Mike Baird/Flickr