After Brock Turner, When Should We Talk To Our Sons About Rape?

Booking photo of Brock Turner released by Stanford Department of Public Safety, originally released to Boing Boing.

Local writer and blogger Maddie Wallace explains why the recent case of Brock Turner prompted her to talk to her sons about consensual sex and rape.

In a week that has seen the internet afire with condemnation of the Stanford rape trial judge’s lenient sentencing of Brock Turner, I decided to sit down with my sons and talk to them about consensual sex.

Maybe you think they’re too young at 9 and 10?

Maybe you also think Brock Turner was a gifted swimmer – god knows it’s been reported enough throughout the case – who made a drunken mistake? If you do, you’re wrong.

In the society we live in, it’s not too early to start talking to boys of this age about rape, rape culture and exactly what consensual sex means. It’s not too early to make them understand that being an entitled dickhead with a penis is not how they should be aiming to grow into men. It’s not too early to instill in them a healthy respect for women. It’s not too early to help them negotiate the difficult path of puberty they face in the next few short years. It’s not too early for them to hear this from their mother. It’s never too early.

Perhaps if someone had sat Brock Turner down at an early age and explained to him that forcing himself on an unconscious woman is wrong, we might know his name for other reasons. Perhaps if Brock Turner’s parents had communicated clearly about consent, rape and respectful relationships, his victim wouldn’t have had her life ruined. Perhaps if he understood that an unconscious woman is not his to take, his victim wouldn’t have had to relive her horrific ordeal in a trial that saw her painted as drunk and promiscuous.

When I asked my sons if they know what rape is, they surprised me by saying yes. And then they clearly defined it. We talked about different situations they might find themselves in as they start going out when they’re older, and they clearly understood what might be wrong about forcing themselves on a girl who hadn’t said yes to them. I explained that having a penis doesn’t mean they are ever allowed to make a girl have sex with them and they looked horrified that people even do this. Horrified. We talked about the situations they might find themselves in with girls in the future and what is OK and what is definitely not. They were engaged and told me they thought it was good they could talk to me about all this.

When I searched the internet for ‘how to talk to your sons about sex’ I was surprised how many sites were dedicated to fathers. Perhaps if Brock Turner’s mother had sat her son down and explained that women are not an object, then another mother wouldn’t have had to stand by helplessly and watch her daughter’s life crumble.

It’s heartening that the two Swedish students who interrupted the rape and apprehended Turner clearly understood that what he was doing was wrong. It’s heartening that there are many, many men out there who understand that rape is wrong. It’s heartening that even at a young age, boys can have conversations about this and show that hopefully the next generation will grow up with more respect for women and more respect for themselves.

Brock Turner is a rapist. He’s not a gifted swimmer. He’s not a talented student. He gave that up the night he attacked his victim. He gave that up when he decided not to plead guilty but to drag that poor girl through a disgusting trial, a trial that saw his lawyers attempt to perpetuate the rape culture in which we live by suggesting his victim was in some way responsible for his actions because she was drunk. But if we start talking to boys about this when they are still boys, hopefully they will grow into the men we need to see in this world, and one day we’ll see an end to this disgusting cycle of abuse.

This article was originally published on Maddie Wallace’s blog, Mum vs Sons under the title #NotTooEarly.