Sunday, July 6, 2014

Why I talked to my 9-year-old son about rape

Rape, in all respects, is a dirty word. It's not just the act that is dirty or despicable, it's the way the majority thinks about it or even the minority.

There are people out there who think that rape is a woman's fault because she was "asking for it." Others want to pretend that it doesn't happen at all. Or some, such as myself, want to be a positive change and correct the problem before it starts.

I know that the only way I can stop rape is by going to the source -- men. (I'm not saying that women don't rape too, but the majority (98 percent) of rapes are conducted by a man.)

As the mother of a boy, I know that it's up to me to discuss it with my son and explain its detriments. I understand that my talks might not make a difference, but if there's chance then what's the harm of trying.

When my son was nine we had "the talk." At the suggestion of my sister-in-law we had the conversation in the car where he couldn't run away from embarrassment. It was dark, so we didn't even have to see the other's face.

We talked about sex; I told him that I wished he would wait until he was an adult to make the decision, but ultimately he was going to choose when the time was right. But, if he did it before adulthood to at least love the person and use protection. He had some questions about sex.

"Mom, is sex coitus," he asked. (We watch the Big Bang Theory) "Yes, it is," I replied.

I told him that people who love each other use sex as a way to express their love, but other times sex can be used as a weapon to harm.

Because I don't know if my son will be straight, gay or bisexual, I told him that sometimes boys like boys and girls like girls.

His response was an annoyed one.

"I know, Mom," he said.

See, we've had the conversation about not being afraid to love someone no matter their gender. (I know there will be people out there who will think that I am pushing my son to be gay or giving him that option. To calm you fears, no, I am not pushing him to be gay and yes, it is an option and I will love him the same no matter what -- that's important for him to know.)

When we were talking about sex I explained how it worked in the easiest terms I could think of -- electrical equipment.

I said, "you know how sockets on the wall have holes for the plugs? Well the holes are female and the plugs are male."

"I get it, you don't have to say anymore," he barked.

I had embarrassed him, but he couldn't see me and I couldn't see him so we moved on to the next topic at hand -- sex as a weapon, aka rape.

I said when you get older you will have urges to kiss, and when you're much older you will want to have sex. Here's the thing, you don't get to choose if you are going to kiss someone or have sex with them.

He seemed confused, so I clarified.

"There might be a time when you're kissing a girl and she decides she doesn't want to kiss anymore," I said, "you might really want to keep kissing her, but you shouldn't because at that point it is no longer up to you."

"The girl is allowed to change her mind and decide she doesn't want to kiss anymore and you should never force it on her," I added.

"When you are older there might be sex involved and if you force her after she says no or after she decides she doesn't want to continue that is date rape and you can go to jail," I said.

He understood.

But, being me, I didn't stop there. We hadn't talked about rape of the unsuspecting.

I explained that there might come a time when he really likes someone, but that person might not like him back. I told him that was normal and happens to people all the time, but he doesn't get to choose to kiss them or have sex with them, because it's not his choice to make.

This conversation happened a little more than a year ago, but it hasn't been the only time we've discussed it. The topic arose again when we heard on the radio news that members of a fraternity had allegedly marked, drugged and sexually assaulted women who were either too drunk on alcohol or messed up on date-rape drugs to fight back or say no.

This led me into the conversation of taking care of your lady friends if they've had too much to drink, but never kissing or having sex with them because: a.) they are inebriated and b.) aren't in control of their situation.

We talked about getting a taxi or driving the intoxicated person to their home and helping them in and then sleeping on the couch or leaving. And, if he had also been drinking, to never get behind the wheel of a car and to call a taxi or a friend.

I know not everyone's child might be mature enough for these conversations at nine, but mine was. As mothers and parents, it's on us to help our children make informed and correct decisions and they cannot do that without some guidance.

I hope this helps you with your own conversation.