Do me a favor, will you?
Don’t sell my sons short.
You, world, you sell them short each time you assume they’re going to act like Neanderthals simply because they are in possession of testicles. You do it every time you insist they’ll be distracted by the first spaghetti strap that crosses their line of vision or an extra inch of thigh skin. You do it every time you restrict someone else in response to an embarrassing pubescent erection, which let’s be honest is just as likely the result of the wind blowing the wrong way as it is to an object of affection walking by.
You keep selling them short. You presume that somewhere, embedded into the XY chromosomes my sons carry, is a short-circuit which prevents them from telling right from wrong, from conscious choice and decision-making, from weighing the options and coming down firmly on the side of acceptable.
But the animal kingdom! You cry. But biology! Precedent! You cry, cry, cry me a river as if human beings and society has not been a constantly evolving game of hit or miss all along.
So please, don’t use elephants in the wild to assume that my sons won’t be able to appreciate the sexuality of a peer without losing their shit and flunking algebra.
They are boys, not single-celled organisms. They are eminently capable of reason and ability, in possession of a morality and a conscience. Don’t give them an easy out or a ready excuse by claiming, repeatedly, they can’t help it.
They are capable of so much more than that. Let them show you.
Men are not static creatures. My boys are not static. They are dynamic. Society changes, we progress. What do I expect, world?
I expect that as a whole, we have moved beyond “Well, what do you expect?” and on to “I expect better.”
Don’t tell them not to cry. Don’t tell them to man up. Don’t tell them to grow a set. The need to cry, to empathize, and emote. It is not shameful or womanly — it is human. They’ll be men by virtue of growing and maturing into larger, hairier versions of themselves. Don’t sell them short by handing over a definitive list of rules and regulations they need to meet in order to be men. Allow them the freedom to define themselves.
The majority of men don’t rape, don’t grope, don’t assault or assume. The majority of men understand consent. The vast majority of boys and men manage entire lives without uploading nude photos because they have been taught it is not right or something inside them realizes it is not. If men truly were programmed to do those things, if that’s just what men “do,” does that mean all the men who don’t aren’t real men but imposters, traitors to their DNA?
Don’t sell my kids short just because they happen to be boys. Don’t assume they don’t know their way around a conscience.
Don’t give them the easy out of “boys will be boys” or “men will be men.” Not only are you excusing behavior, you’re also excusing me from my job of parenting them to know right from wrong.
Boys and men capable of managing their own emotions. Let them. If a girl walks by and her spaghetti strap distracts a boy or man? It’s up to the boy or man to change their behavior, not to force the girl to widen her straps. Every time you assume a boy or man can’t manage those feelings, you are not only taking something away from a girl or woman, you’re also taking something away from a boy too: the ability to manage his own emotions and actions.
Don’t sell my boys short. I have taught them — I am teaching them — to tell right from wrong. That respect is not limited to sex or gender. That just because someone else does it, it’s not okay. That if it makes them question the devil standing on one shoulder, it’s most likely wrong.
We all make mistakes. We all utilize poor judgment from time to time — girls, boys, men and women. But don’t sell my boys short by excusing that capacity for judgment in the first place.
I hold my sons to incredibly high standards. You should too. Not just my sons. All the sons.