Many people were upset with some of the news coverage surrounding the Steubenville rape coverage because they felt as if the media was perpetuating rape culture. While I agree with their assessment, I believe the problem is deeper than the media. Many boys are being raised to view women as little more than sexual conquests.
When I was in high school, it was quite common to hear guys talking about “running a train” on a girl. For those who are unfamiliar with this term, it means several guys take turns having sex with a single girl. When I look back on those days, I’m appauled by this blatant disrespect for women and general acceptance of sexual abuse. But I rarely heard anyone speak out against it. In fact, several men in our community encouraged their boys to have sex with as many girls as possible.
Things got progressively worse at college. Instead of merely hearing about these incidents, I was invited to participate. On one occasion, my friend convinced one guy to lure a girl into his room and seduce her while he hid in the closet. When the girl was undressed, my friend planned to jump out and photograph the girl. With the photo, he planned to blackmail the girl unless she performed oral sex on him and his friends. Another friend and I expressed our horror at his plan and told him that we would not be a part of it. His response was, “Why are you worried about that b****? She’s a freak anyway.”
Another time, my roommate planned to bring a girl into our room to have sex with her. He told me to hide under the bed, and we’d take turns having sex with her and she’d be none the wiser. What’s sad about this scenario is that my roommate was actually trying to strengthen our friendship at that girl’s expense. I declined his offer and told him that I’d rather not be included in any of his future conquests.
In both of these scenarios, I wish I had been more direct with my friends and let them know that these actions were in fact rape. Now that I have sons, I intend to make amends for these missed opportunities.
I’ve already started talking to my sons about sex. I want them to have a healthy understanding of their sexuality so they can defend themselves against machismo attitudes. Although my sons are only five and nine, we also have regular conversations on violence towards women. I’ve seen several women I love harmed by physical and sexual abuse. I refuse to allow my sons to believe that these acts are acceptable.
As fathers, we must teach our sons to respect women. This culture of disrespect can only be reversed by strong men taking a stand. We must model appropriate behavior and teach them that their manhood is not tied to their sexual conquests.
Most of all, we have to reinforce the notion that “No” means “No.”
Question: How can make “rape culture” a thing of the past?