Joan's Blog

"Watch Me Pull A Rabbit Out Of My Hat"
JANUARY 18, 2013 12:50PM

Teach Your Sons

Rate: 33 Flag

When my daughter went off to college three and a half years ago, I knew there would be things out of my control. I remember college too.

And because I knew there would be things out of my control, I gave advice.  Alcohol lowers your inhibitions. Alcohol clouds your judgement. Alcohol makes you more vulnerable. 

Mom, I know. 

I put in my two cents about what she wore. Maybe that one black dress is a little short, Lovey. 

Mom, it's fine. 

Promise me you won't walk across campus late at night alone. 

Mom, I won't.

There is just so much I can do or say. Should my daughter and her friends not drink anything at parties or at a bar? Should they be dressed in turtlenecks and skirts to their ankles?

What should they be doing to avoid getting raped? 

The answer is clear. We need to teach our sons not to rape.

All the responsibility and shame for this heinous act falls on the woman's shoulders. Don't drink, dress modestly, walk in groups.

At 4 am my phone rings. I hear sobbing in the background. I hear my daughter say, Talk to my mom, just talk to my mom... 

It's Linda,  Mom. She can talk to you right?  She needs to hear it's not her fault...  

I know Linda's story. After the young woman at Amherst wrote about the treatment she received after her own rape on campus, Linda agreed to be interviewed for an article about her rape. It broke my heart when I read it.

Four am. Everyone is safe, but my daughter is worried that Linda isn't going to stop crying. Linda can't stop blaming herself for the rape. I am touched that my daughter thinks a complete stranger is going to talk to me.

Linda can't say anything to me because she is sobbing. They've been to a party, and  it has triggered the memory of the rape, the fear and the shame. 

Talk to my mom. 

Linda sobs into the phone. It's my fault

Those three words haunt me. 

That's all she will say. Over and over and over.

She hands the phone back to my daughter. I ask her if she thinks she will harm herself in any way. My daughter says no, she is lying down with her dog and calming down. 

I remind her that Linda needs to go to the ER if she wants to harm herself. I hate saying that, because it was the hospital and the university that helped shame Linda into the state she's in now.  After the rape, she was transported by campus police to the local hospital where she was put into the psychiatric ward. 

Linda did nothing wrong.

Don't drink, dress modestly, walk in groups.

I'm tired of giving that advice.  I'd like to turn it over to the mothers of sons now.

It's your turn to give the advice.

Teach your sons not to rape.

It's your turn.






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To every rape survivor out there: It's not your fault.
We are blessed to have a son who sees women as his peers, thoroughly.

Done and done. Thank you.
Echoes of conversations with MY girl too. Thank you, Joan!
Having had enough physically abusive and emotionally cruel men in my life I second this call to moms of sons. Thanks for writing about this topic.
Such perfect beauty, pathos, love and fear in this, with just the right undercurrent of anger. I know this story from both sides and agree we must teach our sons that girls and women might dress to attract attention but Never to attract an attack.

Our son grew up with many girls as friends and learned from them the same thing. An even more powerful message.

As is this special, important piece.
I was raped at 5 and i still remember it to this day. Nothing was done to him as it was the early 50's and he was family. I wonder what his son grew up to be. Well done Joan!
So very Important and so very true. Not only are women tainted by the disgrace of rape, but they bear the responsibility for the children born or the heart break of abortion. Sons need to be 'carefully taught'. I also think that women must to avoid potentially dangerous situations where there there may be unsupervised use of alcohol and drugs. Having attended college during the Toga party/Animal House years, I know of what I speak.
I started talking to my son about all these kinds of things much sooner than his grandmother, my mother, was comfortable with. I wanted him to understand everything he was about to experience when it came to puberty, sexuality and sex. Our talks always ended with me saying the following: "A girl can get into your car butt naked and that still isn't an invitation to overpower her for sex. If she says "no" even while teasing and fondling you, you must hear "NO!" Joanie, I really believe most parents do teach their sons not to rape. I just don't think they talk to them frankly enough.

Young men believe they lose their minds when they become sexually aroused. They encourage each other to think that. That's how girls have come to believe that they are completely responsible for whatever happens...'cuz the guy is out of his mind on testosterone and "can't stop himself." BS!

On the other hand, adolescent males who rape have other issues that come into play in a rape scenario. Rape is an act of violence, not passion, as we well know. Combine drugs or alcohol, the pack mentality of a group of boys and opportunity -- a rape is far more likely to occur if one or more of the boys has emotional problems that produce rage.

Parents of both genders really need to stop being shy about educating their kids about what arousal feels like, how to spot it in others, how to tell the difference between arousal and aggression, and when it's time to get up and leave the room.
How awful that the girls must always bear the onus of responsibility and blame for things that are done to them. It brings to mind "Reading Lolita in Tehran"--I highly recommend it, if you haven't read it, Joan. How unjust we are as a society to always cast blame upon women, even we in this great, "liberated" country of ours.
If only mothers could make that much difference. I know of many wonderful parents whose children are bad seeds. To some extent it's luck and nature. That said, parents of sons are obliged to present good role modeling and strong advice to respect women -- and all people.
Any mom whose daughter would react to this situation by needing to put the girl on the phone with her deserves a Mother of the Century award. Truly.

I was a rape crisis counselor for a few years with a radical organization that did not believe in involving the authorities unless the woman suggested it and wanted to - which was almost never. Too often the police re-violated her with their inadvertant shaming, etc. Our whole system is whacked.
It saddens and angers me that this even needed to be said. But, it does and I wonder when we, as a culture, will stop the idiocy.
Hearing, reading these stories brings back the memories. No matter how long its been, I still have to remind myself... "it's not your fault."
Mimetalker, I pray that this girl will be able to remind herself too, one day. Bless you.

All of your comments (especially those of you with boys) make so much sense. Of course I don't think every parent with a male child has fallen down on the job. Thank you, Annie, Bea, Lezlie, Drema, Jonathan,Sally, Linda, Lea, and all of you who raised good men.

Seer, my heart breaks.
And to you, Mime, who raised good men. xox
Thank you for reading and commenting Lee.
And thanks to all the mothers of daughters who commented too~
I agree! Too much macho, acceptance of "boys will be boys" in our culture that leads to sexist behavior including rape.
Erica, I have the book on my shelf, but haven't read it yet. Thank you, now I will.

Christina, thanks so much for coming by~
Yes, Joan, absolutely. We all need to boost the signal on this important message.

To which I'll add... teach the men. Teach the lawmakers, the cops, the doctors, the administrators. Everyone needs to learn that "Nobody deserves it."
Ah, David, so true. Women say they felt raped twice~ by the police, the doctors and the justice system. Thanks you for adding that important piece.
so well done, Joanie. and the best advice for the gender which seems all too ften not to be the focus of attention. this is so good I couldn't wait for ths plane to land. sorry for the typos. :(. erg.
Thank you for that, femme. I knew I felt a beautiful shift on this coast... xox
Thanks for this Joan.
In tears. Sending you a PM to forward to Linda (hope it helps).

What a phenomenal piece. Needs to go VIRAL.

Rape, by definition, is the violation of a person's body. Whoever does that is a criminal. No one would feel it was their fault if someone broke into their house and vandalized and stole their stuff.
Rape is about power and anger, rather than sex. I am afraid and concerned by the media pot stirring of male anger against women. It resurrects attitudes that were becoming unacceptable, and sends a message that men have the right to be the deciders about our bodies. Rush Limbaugh's recent screed against the graduate student who sought birth control was one such example. The look in his eyes when he spoke of her, his utter lack of respect for women. Rape springs from that, not arousal or desire.
(((trilogy))) thanks for coming by

Christine, I appreciate your comment, and your pm has been forwarded. Many thanks~

Jackie, that's true. But we don't usually blame the victims of those whose house has been broken into. It's society at its worst...

nilesite, good, and thank you.

greenie, yes. Thank you for reading.
very well taken, joan. i am so sorry for linda. the best advice i ever got was from my older sister, given after i was surprised to find boys making passes at me. she said, and its a generalization but it has done the job of keeping me safe - "never think a boy only wants to go for a walk (or whatever). always assume he wants more, and then you make the right decision before you set out. and also, always make up your mind BEFORE you are in the moment, bc in the moment, one almost always chooses yes, and it leads to regrets." i followed her advice, and was safe. as for my boy, i am pretty sure he has that rule down pat. when a young lady he knew got raped last year, he was the one who convinced her that she needed to go to a therapist, bc it needs dealing with. i was proud of him for that.

thank you for this very obvious reminder.
daisyjane, thank you for raising a fine young man. xox
I see you addressed moms. Hopefully dads will take note as well. Rated/Tweeted
Eric, when I wrote this I was deep in the "mom" moment. But yes, yes, yes, I most definitely include dads in this. Absolutely. Thanks so much~
I agree completely. Particulalry in the aftermath of the last two months in India. Very powerful piece.
icyhighs, many thanks.
Amen! Very well-said!
I've already warned my two sons and my two daughters of the consequences associated with assault. No means no! And if a person can't or won't say no to a sexual act, it's still a no-no to engage with sexual intercourse when another is disadvantaged or diminished in any mental or physical capacity.

Rape is an act of regression wherein one party overpowers another with physical force and trauma. I've zero tolerance for any rapists and their survivors have my full support and I hope anybody who has treated a rape survivor, whether in legal or medical venues, learn that post-rape survivors will require professional guidance and counseling.
Thank you for reading and understanding, shebasilisk, Belinda, and Harvey.
Joan, I commented to you on the other site, but wanted to share this with you. It's lengthy but I think you will appreciate it:

Again, this was an important post, and very very well done.
onislandtime, I noticed this at the end:

"Rebecca Solnit has written a version of this essay three times so far, once in the 1980s for the punk magazine Maximum Rock’n’Roll, once as the chapter on women and walking in her 2000 book Wanderlust: A History of Walking, and here. She would love the topic to become out of date and irrelevant and never to have write it again."

I too, would love the topic of rape to be out of date and irrelevant one day too. Thanks very much for passing the article along.
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