Is 3 too young to teach boys not to rape? I don’t think so.

This is a quick hit, because lately all I can think is “ao@*&#dg;9760iuehTAE” when I sit down to write. I’m sure this deserves to be fleshed out.

Last week Zerlina Maxwell went on the Hannity show and tilted the world off it’s axis when she said stop telling me how to not be raped, and start telling men not to rape. (The whole linked clip is worth watching, but she speaks at 2:35.) She followed up today with a piece at Ebony, 5 Ways We Can Teach Men Not To Rape.

I think about this a lot. I think about it more since about 2 years ago when I overheard a dad at the park encouraging his 3/4yo son to go give another little girl a hug, and upon hearing said little girl’s mom say, “She doesn’t like hugs, he better watch out,” continued to encourage his son because, “Oh, she’ll be fine. Someday she’ll like it.”

I am raising a son, and you can damn well believe that I am laying a foundation, at his current pre-school age, so that he doesn’t become a rapist.

He’s being taught to ask his friends if they want hugs from him, and he’s being taught to respect it when they tell him, “No.”

When he gets older he will hear his father and I critically examine sports announcers on our television. He will attend women’s sporting events.

He will be taught that “bitch” is not a word we use in our house.

He will see and hear his parents speak up when we witness rape culture.

He will be taught that all people are valuable, and that listening to the experiences that other people have had, and learning from them, will make him a better person.

We will teach him these things so that, if we do it right, he will be an ally against rape in his chosen community.


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9 responses to “Is 3 too young to teach boys not to rape? I don’t think so.

  1. Ezekiel Reis Burgin

    Yes. This! I did a weekly read-aloud in my community for a year and made it a point to NEVER force a child to interact with me or anyone else (including telling me their name, let alone hugging someone) as a way to create a culture of consent. Likewise I avoided books that had lack of consent as a positive (I was very disturbed when a librarian told me one of her favorite new books was “A Visitor for Bear” which is basically a long-form story of forcing someone to interact with you because you know “best”).

    When feminists talk about teaching children not to rape, it’s so often misconstrued as us going around to 3 year-olds and being age inappropriate/just saying “don’t rape,” the truth is, we can create a culture of consent just the same as we can uphold the rape culture, it just takes a little more thought.

    • I’ve never heard of the book you mention (thankfully!) and I think you’re right on about how people think teaching young children not to rape means we’re making them watch “The Accused” or something.

  2. I think about this a lot too. It literally makes me cringe when I think how we accept and tolerate breeches of autonomy from our boys, something we would never encourage for girls, nor should we. Or even how we demand our children to relinquish their bodily autonomy. Affection is something we can choose to give or receive, and we can teach this from the very beginning.

  3. All of this, the comments and more. I get incoherent with anger at all the crazy stuff I see. When I have children I plan to raise them in the same way. Regardless if my child is a boy or a girl (or a child who is gender queer) they will be told to respect peoples boundaries, to respect when someone says “no”.

    They can listen to their mother at a young age so surely when they get older they can understand another grown up woman too.

    • Giving children the freedom to have their boundaries respected is huge. It’s, sadly, unusual. And not from some nefarious interest of parents, it’s just the way a lot of people were raised – with the “parents know best” attitude that doesn’t offer children a lot of space to define their own best.

      Thanks for reading!

  4. AE

    The underlying assumption being made is still that the natural tendency of a male is to rape. The opposite of a bad idea, is sometimes still a bad idea.

    Teach him to value himself.

  5. CanadianErin

    I agree with all of this, but I have to also add this:
    WE are at fault, as parents, when the example we set for our children when they are small is that “No means yes if you bug me enough about it”. And it picks my ass, because a HUGE number of parents do this every day and they don’t stop to think about what that truly says to a child learning about how to behave or what means what in the world.
    Pay attention the next time you’re in a grocery store — child says, “Mommy I WANT!” and grabs a chocolate bar. Mom puts it back & says, “No, we’re going home to make supper”… kid continues to grab, mom puts it back one or two times, MAYBE. But 98% of the time, the 3rd or 4th time that child says “I want”, mom or dad gives in and says, “Fine”. I guarantee you there are people reading your blog entry, maybe even my comment, and they JUST did that.
    Or at the park/playground, “It’s time to go, Timmy”, but Timmy says, “AWWW I wanna stay!” & parent says, “No we have to get going home now” and Timmy pitches a fit… parent gives in & says, “Oh, okay we’ll stay we’ll stay, just calm down, go play, it’s okay, don’t cry or scream”
    What does that teach children?
    My daughter was raised that no MEANS no.
    It does NOT mean “Keep bugging me till I say yes”.
    It does NOT mean, “No until you punch me, then I’ll say yes because I guess you REALLY want this; it means a lot to you, I guess”.
    It does NOT mean, “No. Unless you cry & stamp your feet & wail, then it’s yes.”
    It does NOT mean, “No, until you tell me you don’t love me anymore, THEN I will be afraid that you won’t love me, so if it’s going to make you hate me, THEN it’s yes.”

    I do NOT understand why, oh why, a simple “no” is soooo hard for parents to stick to! It’s good for kids to learn the difference, and sometimes, just to set the example, I said “no” for no good reason other than to say no. And now that my daughter is in junior high, she knows damn well that if SHE says “no” then there will be hell to pay for whoever doesn’t respect that HER no also means no, not just “keep bugging me till I give in and say yes”. We are also discussing the fact that she has the right to say no and she has the right to expect to be respected physically, mentally & emotionally. A young man in 7th grade was arrested at the end of the school year, charged in part with sexual offenses — how much do you want to bet that his parents never meant no when they said it?? Of course, rape has been happening since the dawn of time, HOWEVER, it seems to be that the Generation X & Y (and whatever followed those) seem to be the most blatant about not only doing it, but bragging about it, getting away with it, and not respecting the words no & yes.

    Sorry, I didn’t mean to write an essay in your comments, it’s just really difficult to find people willing to acknowledge that there is something terribly WRONG about what we are teaching our children. We ALL need to make some changes in how we parent our children or nothing is ever going to change for the better!

    • You make really a really excellent point. I know I’m guilty of “giving in.” I hadn’t really thought of it as it relates to this context. Thanks!

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