To My Future Son

Dear Son,

There’s something you need to learn about your place in the world. Whether you’re straight, gay, transsexual, transgender, gender fluid– it doesn’t matter: you must be aware of rape culture and your role in it. Even if you don’t identify with the male gender, you’re born as a male, and that’s when it all starts. You’re expected to be masculine: rational, ambitious, violent, direct, competitive, aggressive, driven by passions, sexually charged, capable, a natural leader, combative, a provider, promiscuous, a protector, dominant, and able to get away with certain questionable things, since “boys will be boys.”

Your sex characterizes your biological differences from females, whereas your gender is made up of your socially-defined differences. Translation: gender means nothing, which in turn means that gender roles should mean nothing. But they very much affect how males and females act in their daily lives. What does this mean? Maybe you will find yourself or your friends talking about the ways in which your female friends or colleagues are dressing. Words that may be used about the women you’re judging: slutty, prude, weird, hot, sexy, gross, butterface, and whatever other words will be the “bees knees” with your generation. Whatever the words may be, you and your male friends may find it your right to criticize and belittle women. But it isn’t.

Why are people scared by feminism? Because they think it means women want to get rid of all males. On the contrary, we just believe that all men and women are equal. So if you’re not a feminist, you shouldn’t really be a human being. Yeah, I went there.

What does rape culture really mean? Long story short: there’s a social and cultural norm that accepts the fact that men will rape women and praise men who do not do so, when in reality, it just makes you a decent human being if you don’t. Ways in which rape culture can be seen on a day to day basis:

  1. Hollering at women on the street like they’re a piece of meat. I don’t mean starting a conversation complimenting her eyes and politely asking for her number– I mean something more along the lines of: “Hey sweetie, why so sad? Lemme get a smile…” or (while eating ice cream) “I wish I was that ice cream….” or “Hey did you dress up for me today” or “Where’s your fine ass going” or just blatant creepiness and total disregard of boundaries.
  2. Not feeling safe when walking home at night as a woman. From personal experience, if I see a group of men walking in my direction at a certain hour, I feel the need to either change direction, run, or find a more public area. Does that sound like a way any human being should be living? Right: you said no.
  3. That a woman was “asking for it,” dressed like a “whore,” a “drunk mess,” a “hot mess,” or that “he couldn’t help himself.”
  4. Women are more commonly sexualized than men in the media, especially in the U.S.
  5. The misconception that rape happens with strangers. Unfortunately, most of the time rape occurs from either family members, close friends, or acquaintances: people you know. People you would have hoped would never do something to lose your trust, or to hurt you in ways unimaginable, but they do.
  6. Your first response to hearing about a friend who was raped: “What were you wearing? Were you sober?”
  7. “I mean you’re beautiful, what do you expect?” Oh, so men have the right to touch me on a dance floor in inappropriate places because I’m a woman, not ugly, and dancing? Right, that makes perfect sense. (In case you didn’t catch that, that was sarcasm.)
  8. That men “have” or “own” their significant other– in this case, girlfriend.

I’m just touching on a few here and if you don’t believe me, check out what Huffington Post has to say.

And if you still don’t believe it, here’s a good way to sum it all up according to Sex and World Peace by Valerie M. Hudson, Bonnie Ballif-Spanvill, Mary Caprioli, and Chad F. Emmett: “Is preventing violent assault or murder part of your daily routine, rather than merely something you do when you venture into war zones? Because, for women, it is.” They go on by giving an activity for a group of friends or a classroom. So son, gather up a couple of your close friends and go through this list*:

  • I would never go jogging alone at night.
  • I get on a cell phone when I am in a cab, so the driver will know that someone on the other end will know if I don’t make it to my destination. If I am really nervous, I say the cab company’s name and the driver’s name into the phone. I do this even if there is nobody on the other end of the line.
  • When I leave the library or metro stop late at night, I put my keys in my first, with the points of the keys sticking out between my fingers. (I personally do this one every time I walk alone late at night.)
  • If the elevator door opens, and I see a man in there and he doesn’t get out, unless there are a lot of people around, I don’t get into the elevator.
  • If I have to drive home alone at night, I lock every door from the inside. (I also do this one almost any time I drive alone.)
  • I make sure I do not look into men’s eyes when I walk down the street.
  • I would never go hiking or camping by myself. (Ever hear about your grandmother’s close friend at Cornell? She went off on a hike alone and was taken by a group of bandits, found shot dead, in a position that seemed to suggest she died pleading for her life.)
  • If I am in an enclosed space with strangers, I make sure I identify a second way out.
  • I find my heart beating wildly when I have to park underground, especially after dark. (Happens to me all the time.)
  • My mom made me take a self-defense class when I was in high school.

If this is too much for you to take in son, take a breather and come back– because there’s a lot more to be said. What is rape and how do you prevent yourself from doing it?

Still confused? Here’s another one:

My favorite thing that was said in this video: If a person is drunk or on drugs– even if they’re pulling on your clothes– there is no way you can give consent without being sober… You can go to jail (paraphrased of course).

And I think this one is my absolute favorite:

Still have questions? Just ask me.

Warmly, and with lots of love,

Your mother

(Yes, this is totally future me.)




* this list was taken directly from:

Hudson, Valerie M., Bonnie Ballif-Spanvill, Mary Caprioli, and Chad F. Emmett. “Chapter 2: What Is There to See, and Why Aren’t We Seeing It?” Sex and World Peace. New York: Columbia UP, 2012. 22-23. Print.

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