Have you ever spoken to your son about consent? The best time to teach boys to be respectful of others is when they are young, says this post.
To be honest, I don’t know where to begin. I strongly believe this is a discussion we must have. But, is eight too young for you to understand? Is any age too early to be introduced to the ways of the world? Many of my friends argue that I am being hasty. In time you will understand, they say. I disagree. I feel we must be explicit and discuss this openly.
As a society, we have a habit of brushing all things tough under the carpet; sexual harassment and abuse being one of our prized secrets. I don’t blame your grandmother for not speaking to me about this. She perhaps didn’t have the language.
I had my first experience when I was 11. The range of experiences since then have varied from groping to spitting. I won’t go into the details but believe me, the city I lived in didn’t matter. Don’t believe the mainstream ideas of how some cities are better, some clothing less provocative or some types of women less exposed.
I would hope that the space we have created is one where we can talk about anything. You are a wonderful human being. But it is hard to protect you from the ways masculinity functions. I am bound to fail a little. Remember these words then: Consent is everything. Especially when someone tells you, you have power over another person’s body. Don’t listen. Particularly when you feel pressured to behave in a disrespectful manner. Think again. Society will fool you into believing that assertion of masculinity is part of your male identity. Tune them out. Everyone has a right over their bodies. Cat-calling isn’t about compliments. Touching someone without their consent is violence.
Often, we in society working to end violence succumb to talking about violence in the binary. Women aren’t the only ones subjected to violence. Anyone who falls outside of the assigned male and female roles could be subjected to mockery and harassment.
I want you to learn as early as possible that the world is full of all kinds of people. This is one of the most wonderful things about the world. Open your heart and mind to their existence. Don’t shy away from the idea that someone you care about deeply or even you could be subjected to harassment as well. Learn to accept everyone as they are, in all their glory. People around you might mock and laugh at that person outside the strict binary. Disagree with them. Disagree with them vehemently.
I have in writing this letter put a lot of pressure on you. The path to resist these temptations, checking of our privilege isn’t an easy one. In fact it is absolutely tumultuous. But we must try.
Fighting violence is an ongoing struggle and I hope you will join me on this path.
Love and strength,