Wednesday, June 8, 2016

PLEASE teach our boys.

The news surrounding the Stanford sexual assault case has had me in knots the last several days. I know this hit the news so hard because of the letter the victim released (that is absolutely gut-wrenching, but brilliant and powerful) and the fact that the judge gave him basically a slap on the hand for such evil behavior. However, I really can’t get past the fact that this assault happened at all. It’s so incredibly common, and happens on every college campus. It’s almost expected.  Think of the lovely SAE boys a couple years ago who were caught on campus using the N-word with glee…the girls on that campus referred to that fraternity SAE as standing for Sexual Assault Expected.  Think of the prep school in New Hampshire where a kid was recently convicted of raping a 15 year old freshman (high school, mind you). It was a tradition at that school for seniors to find a freshman to bang, and there was even a location where it commonly took place. They even had a cute little name for it that I can’t remember, but it was basically a shed. This kind of thing happens ALL THE TIME, but the Stanford one has certainly stuck with me.


I drank a crapload in college. And high school. And after college until I quit entirely. I was in stupid, dangerous situations all the time. I never blacked out, but I have definitely been drunk enough to be totally incapacitated, unable to walk on my own, dizzy, sick, and ridiculously foolish. I had a pair of jeans in college that we named the “vomit jeans”. I’d imagine I don’t need to explain the reason for this in detail, but said jeans earned their moniker over and over and over again. I had jeans that were ripped at the knee, not because it was cool like it is now. I had ripped jeans in 1989 because I fell quite often. I was in so many situations that were insane, and not just at my own college. Marymount, UCSB, Cal, SFSU, UOP. Dozens of bad decisions, and dangerous settings. And as far as sexual assault goes, nothing ever happened to me. This isn’t due to the fact that I was careful and mindful of my surroundings. It isn’t due to the fact that I was a good, self-respecting girl. Nothing bad happened to me because I was lucky as hell. Nothing bad happened to me because I happened to be with boys who understood the words “no” and “stop”. I want to find the parents of all the dumb boys I kissed drunk at parties, and thank them because I was a complete idiot. But no amount of drunkenness and bad judgment ever means that a girl deserves to be violated. EVER.  Alcohol clouds judgment, absolutely. But it doesn’t make you rape people.

There seems to be a culture that encourages seeing females as bodies only. Apparently that’s all we have that is of any value. Women are to be used at will, and that mindset is accepted by so many. When Maddie was in 6th grade, she had twin boy classmates. They’d gone to school together since Kindergarten. The dad was very invested in the notion that these boys were super athletic and would get full scholarships and eventually play pro ball. In the 6th grade, at some school gathering, I overheard the dad talking to him. He told his 12 year old sons to be careful around girls. This was the reason why:  “You have to be careful, because these girls can talk you into anything. Next thing you know, one of them gets knocked up and your chances for a scholarship are ruined.”  THAT was his concern, these evil sirens who suddenly “become” knocked up and could potentially trap his darling boys. It made me absolutely ill. This is also the dad who got his sons a stretch limo for 6th grade promotion. SIXTH GRADE.  It was so completely absurd I still can’t quite get over it. But that was the mindset, they deserved it ALL, limos for accomplishing absolutely nothing, and cautionary tales about potential sluts. This is a mild example, I realize, but it’s a real one. What about maybe not engaging in sexual activity before college, or if they do, taking some goddamn responsibility for it? What about them not hearing that the sun shines out of their ass every day? That they’re sooo special and amazing? How about letting them fail sometimes?

This entitlement parenting has got to stop, you guys. We are raising monsters. They have GOT to understand and accept that they aren't always going to get what they want.

Dads have a very important role to play here. Moms do too, of course, but it’s different when boys hear a message from their father. Males possess a sex drive that we don’t have, and it’s not their fault, God made them that way for a reason. Maddie complains about it all the time, the things she hears from her male peers. “Mom, it’s all they think about! What’s wrong with them?”  Yes, it is all they think about, and there’s nothing wrong with them. They’re teenage boys. But dads are the ones to teach them restraint, and honor, and respect. They are the ones to explain that while it’s natural to be terminally and insanely attracted to girls, they are people too, worthy of human decency. They are the ones who need to be super explicit in explaining exactly what consent is, and what it is NOT. Teach them that humping a unconscious person isn’t “20 minutes of action”.  I’m upset at the leniency of the sentence, but I’m thrilled he was convicted. I only wish the dad had to go too, since he thinks the tragedy here is that his son no longer enjoys his rib eyes.

Our son is only 11, but he has always been good at standing up for other people and shutting down bullying when he sees it happening. He is small for his age, and I worry about him sometimes, but his bravery in this astounds me. Today I talked to him about what happened in an age appropriate way, making sure he understood exactly what rape is. I talked to him about respect, and about protecting the girls he knows. I talked to him about consent, and always making sure that if he ever wants to hug and kiss someone, that's it's okay with them. It was a strange and awkward conversation, and I'm sure Mike will need to follow up. But I wanted to emphasize the heroes, and that THEY are the ones I want him to emulate as a young man. 

The heroes in this story, those two young men who chased down that asshole and held him until the cops came? Just, thank GOD for them! If they hadn’t come along, that kid would have left her there with the trash cans. Passed out and naked in the dark, by herself. Someone else would have found her, or she would have eventually regained consciousness herself, torn apart and totally confused and terrified. And they never would have caught that kid. He would have gotten away with this total atrocity, and he would have done it again. Thank GOD for those guys.  I’ll tell you what, I know a LOT of good guys like them. I can think of kids in high school I’ve worked with who absolutely would have done the same thing. I think of the young men in our youth group at church, and the amazing, upstanding people they are becoming. None of these kids are perfect, that’s what adolescence is for, to make a lot of mistakes under the wings of your family and teachers so they can help you figure it all out. But there is not a single young man I can think of who would ever do such a thing to a girl. In fact, every single one of them would have chased down any evil bastard who did. Some of the kids I know probably would have beat the living crap out of them too, and while I hate violence, that would be okay with me. It’s not enough to teach our boys what not to do. We have to teach them to be the heroes, to stand up for people who can’t do it for themselves (like naked unconscious women laying on the ground by dumpsters). We have to teach them to speak up when the chatter in the locker room becomes out of control and disrespectful. Guys listen to their peers, they need to lead the pack.

When I was 19, I was home from college for the weekend. My best friend Renee and I decided to do our standard "driving around route". Over by our old high school, down by the Rose Bowl, and over to La Canada, a more affluent suburb next to Altadena where we lived. That night, La Canada High was getting ready for their homecoming game, so there were a ton of kids out and about. We were driving behind a kid with a passenger, and we saw him go out of his way to swerve and hit a yellow lab that was in the street. It was truly horrible and I was driving. Renee yelled, "Follow him!" and I did. We followed these kids down where there was a dead end, and I will never forget this:  The driver was laughing. The passenger looked like he had just been kicked in the gut. We yelled, "You just hit that dog!"  We managed to get the license plate, and since there were so many kids around, they knew who the driver was. We called the number on the dog's tag (he lived), and we waited until the police came. This case actually went to court and we testified against the kid. The poor owner of the dog had left the gate open in a rush because she was heading to the hospital because her husband had just had a stroke. The passenger also testified against his friend, saying he made it clear he wanted to hit the dog. The defendant was never in the same room we were, we never got to see him. What we did get to do is hear the mother HOWLING in the next room when they found him guilty. Screaming and crying that he'd never get into law school now, his future was ruined. I remember saying to Renee, "Shouldn't she be more concerned that her son is so twisted that he wanted to hurt an animal for fun?"  La Canada is a wealthy community, and that kid thought he could do anything he wanted to. But guess what? Because WE were watching and chased him, and because his friend was brave enough to testify against him, that little punk-ass learned (I hope) that he can't do whatever he wanted with no repercussions.  We stood up and called him out when we saw someone doing something wrong. I am proud we did that. We were trying to look out for a living creature that was unable to protect itself under the circumstances. 

But that was just a DOG. This young lady who was at Stanford that night is a human person, whose life has been wrecked far beyond three months in county and the inability to enjoy her favorite foods. We can't change what happened, and we can't fix our jacked up justice system overnight. But we CAN make a focused and concerted effort to bring up our boys better than this.

They deserve this from us.