The best way to address the issue of sexual abuse in this country is the education of our boys. It is true that the problem needs to be currently addressed by re-framing the conversation and educating men, but raising our boys to respect women is a vital step in eradicating sexual abuse in the future. So what should we be teaching our boys to prevent sexual assault and to help them understand consent?
1. Teach them that violence and aggression does not make you more masculine.
There tends to be a misconception among boys that to be empathetic and sensitive is to be feminine. We need to teach our boys not to fight with one another, not to feel the need to demonstrate dominance over each other. It is widely known that many men perpetuate violent behavior–towards each other and towards women–because they feel that if they are not behaving aggressively enough, they will be thought of as less than a man.
2. Teach them that they must wait for a “yes” and respect a “no”.
We need to teach our boys to ask for permission–whether it’s about eating food or taking a toy or hugging another child. We also need to make sure they respect it when we say “No,” “Don’t,” or “Stop.” In order to show young men that they are not entitled to women’s bodies, we need to teach them that they are not entitled to anything else.
3. Be an example of respectful behavior.
You can be an example of practicing consent by knocking on your child’s door before you enter, by letting them decide whether or not they want to hug relatives, and by letting them decide what they are going to wear. Fathers can also be a good example by treating the child’s mother with respect and not disrespecting women in the media.
4. Answer any questions they have.
We need to be clear with our sons about sex. We need to give them to space to ask questions and be educated about sex, contraception, consent, etc. It’s not enough to have “the talk” with your son. You also need to include a discussion about consent and how they can respect women.
The issue of sexual abuse in America is a complex issue, and there is obviously a lot of work to be done. But one thing that we can all do for the future is to have a more open and honest conversation with our sons and to do our part to teach them about consent and to teach them to respect others.