My son was the ringbearer in my brother’s wedding this weekend. The flower girl was, I think, the daughter of one of the bride’s cousins. To say they hit it off was probably a bit of an understatement; they were pretty close to inseparable at the bridal shower a few weeks ago and not much changed at the rehearsal or the wedding. I’d post a picture of the two of them, but I’m not about to post a picture of somebody else’s kid without her permission and plus I plan on using the word rape a lot in this piece and I don’t really feel like having my son’s photo associated with that in Google.
Here’s the thing. Everybody at the wedding was doing that heteronormative thing that people do when two little kids click and oohing and aahing about oh look at his girlfriend and all that nonsense all weekend. And that’s not at all what was going on. They were the only two kids there of roughly the same age, so they played together. Like kids do. That was it. But there were a couple of moments over the weekend and at the shower where I kind of had to pull the boy away and remind him that no, Kayla doesn’t have to play with you right now if she doesn’t want to, or don’t hold her hand if she doesn’t want to hold hands, or Kayla’s doing something else right now, I think you should leave her alone for a while, or even no, Kayla doesn’t have to sit with us at lunch, she can sit with her mommy.
Sometimes these things rolled off of him. Other times he got upset about them. And I can already see some of you getting het up about talking about a four-year-old in terms of teaching consent. No, my son doesn’t know what sex is yet. My son doesn’t have a concept of girlfriend. He knows that girls have a vagina; that’s just a word to him. It doesn’t mean anything yet. He’s four. And yet we still ended up in a situation– perfectly innocently, mind you– where at one point I told him to cut it out because he was being creepy and at another point my wife and I jointly explained to him what mansplaining was. Because he was doing it.
He’s four. And he still needs to be taught how consent works. Because when kids aren’t taught that other kids are people, that they are unique beings with agency and their own wants and desires and needs and rights, and specifically when young boys are not taught that young girls are unique beings with agency and their own wants and desires and needs and rights… well, you get this piece of shit:
And when you’ve raised your kid to be a dumpster rapist, and you’ve named him Brock Turner, for fuck’s sake, a name that if I were to work it into a script as the name of a rapist I would expect someone to tell me to make it a little less obvious, a name that is only slightly less rapey than naming your kid Ray Pist… well, when you’re that guy, you write dumb shit like this:
I’ve got a lot of responsibilities as a dad, right? One of the most important ones is to make absolutely certain that my son does not turn out to be a dumpster rapist. Because I hate to break it to you, son, but if the day comes where two other dudes find you raping an unconscious woman behind a dumpster and then tackle you and hold you down until the cops arrive? Your daddy is not writing this letter. Am I wholly unsympathetic toward the elder Turner? No, not entirely. He’s going through some shit right now. I’m sure he’s in pain.
I just don’t care.
If you don’t want to be known as the dumpster rapist for your entire life, one way to avoid that is to not rape people behind dumpsters. And if you don’t want to have to write letters where you explain tearfully that your son doesn’t like ribeyes anymore and there are too many potato chips in the house, you should probably raise your son to understand that women are human beings. Because here’s the thing: I don’t believe for a second that this is the dumpster rapist’s first assault. Not for a second. It’s just the one where he got caught. And based on that letter, I am casting some side eye at Dad as well.
We spend far too much time teaching our daughters how not to get raped. It doesn’t actually work; women don’t get raped because of how they dress or walk or what they drink or where they go or who they trust. Women get raped because men rape. If we want to stop rape, we stop rape by teaching young men that women are people, by not raising them in such a cocoon of privilege and internalized misogyny that they can even look at a passed-out woman and think to drag her behind a dumpster and force parts of our bodies into theirs. This young man did this because he was raised to believe that the world was his and anything he wanted but did not have, he could simply take. He knew what he was doing was “wrong” at least on an intellectual level because otherwise he wouldn’t have tried to hide while he was doing it. He just didn’t give a fuck.
Teach your sons about consent, goddammit. Start at four. Start at birth. Because rape culture is everywhere in this country, and it’s going to seep in no matter how hard you try to keep it out. It’s in the fucking air and in the water. And the only way to stop it is to teach your sons about consent and to teach them about consent early. It’s the only way this ever gets better.
And for fuck’s sake, don’t ever name anyone “Brock Turner” ever again.