Just this week there were two news stories about our young men that gave me chills...and not in a good way. First story: A Boston University Fraternity sends out an invite for a "Black-Out" party. For those of you who think this means the guys are going to pull down all the shades and have a party in the dark, you would be wrong. No, this is a party where the goal is to get girls to drink too much and "black-out" in hopes of "persuading" these young women to engage in all manner of humiliation and sex. And if you don't believe me and think that these "nice boys" were only kidding, read the article below and see the link they included in their invite to whet the appetite. Do I sound disgusted? You bet I am!!!!! And so should you!
Now if that story wasn't enough, here is the second story: Curt Shilling, a former Red Sox player is a proud father. His daughter was recently accepted to her college of choice. As many proud parents do, he posted his pride on Twitter in a very sweet and loving way. I'm guessing he was expecting congrats and good wishes. Instead he received a barrage of disgusting sexual tweets, men insinuating themselves into sexually humiliating scenarios with his 18 year old daughter! As you might imagine, Curt reacted with a father's wrath. With some sleuthing, Curt was able to track down and publicly identify these perpetrators, and now they have paid the consequences for their bad behavior by getting expelled from college and fired from jobs. Good for Curt!!! Read the stories below, and then we'll talk!
OK, what the hell is going on here? This is not "boys will boys" stuff. I have asked a number of men who grew up in pre-Internet times whether humiliating women ever played into their drunken fun as young men. These are guys went to good schools, participated in frats, and loved a good time. But not one of them could recall incidents where the humiliation and the sexual degradation of women was ever ever ever part of their fun. Something majorly significant has changed!
These kinds of stories are now part of the social narrative. Where are boys getting the message that this is OK? I know they are not getting it from their parents. I can't think of any parent who would espouse this as a great way to behave with women. Researches and I agree that it starts with the Internet. Your kids can access the Internet on their smartphones in the privacy of their own rooms, on the bus, in the back seat of carpool, at sleepovers, sports games, eating pizza at the local dive, in the school library "studying" etc etc etc,you catch my drift? Boys especially are accessing and watching porn at earlier and earlier ages. I heard a story from a parent where her 11 year old son was on a community ski trip. Sitting on the bus with his buddies, one of the boys gets on his phone and finds some very graphic porn to keep them entertained on the 2 hour sojourn to the ski area. I'm guess singing 100 bottles of beer on the wall is no longer bus ride entertainment, but porn...definitely! This 11 year old had never seen this kind of stuff before, and was beyond upset. The other two boys, seemed to be porn veterans.
Remember that the teenage brain is in a great growth spurt, with new kinds of stimuli making new permanent connections in the brain. Imagine that malleable brain being barraged with regular images and verbal commentary that center on the humiliation of women. Connections get made, and the norm of what women like and want gets burned into their little brains, UNLESS it is countered by a different message, shared as regularly and consistently as the porn they can access 24/7.
That would be your job. Make these two news stories, and any other stories that come your way about sexual assaults at colleges and high schools. (that won't be hard, stories galore these days about that) Read them aloud, discuss, and strategize with both your girls and your boys. What they would do if they were in a situation where they were asked to engage or even just observe this kind of sexual harrassment happening. Understanding that your teen feels vulnerable and might feel uncomfortable to stop it alone, you will need to help them come up with strategies that help them to save face but can also help a friend stay safe!! They can always leave and go to the bathroom, and text you a safe word, that you know to mean help! They can grab two or three other friends, and agree together to stop a situation that is getting out of hand. After all there is safety in numbers. But most importantly they need to hear from you regularly that the degradation and sexual humiliation is NOT what women want. Though the message might get confusing with the book and movie 50 Shades Of Gray being so popular. But try you must!!! if you are a mom who mostly reads my blogs, please, please, please get the men in your life on board with this. Have them read these articles, this blog, and make sure that the message they are giving their boys is that showing respect for women in their sexual life, social life and moral life is of the utmost importance.
OK I've ranted long enough, clearly I am passionate about this, and so worried about our boys for the future. I leave it in your good hands.