I grew up in an all-female home and we had lots of talks about all kinds of different things, but when sexual abuse entered into our lives and was committed by someone we all loved and trusted, it wasn’t talked about. Like, at all.
Instead, it was excused, swept under the rug, hushed and shamed like some kind of mistake that should be forgiven without consequences to the pedophile who committed it because he was a “respected” family member.
I was the person who was silenced. Me. I was the one who had to try to navigate, on my own, how to soak it in, recover, and be okay while the person who did these things to me (and probably many others) got a fucking get out of jail free card.
This happened because what happened to me was too uncomfortable for other people to think about and deal with. So, they didn’t.
They also let me know through their actions that having me around talking about it was too much for them to deal with too. Again, I was the one who paid the consequences for something I didn’t do — something that was done to me.
This is how sexual assault, misconduct, and abuse works too many times. The person at fault is held up to anything they have done. The person who was assaulted or abused has to climb mountains while they are bleeding from the inside out just to make it through each day. It is left up to us to give it a voice, to share with others what it can do to our mental health. Many of us have to fight so hard — too hard — and then we give up.
We are told we should have said no; we should have screamed and kicked; we shouldn’t have gone up to their room or let ourselves be alone with them. We shouldn’t have flirted or worn that dress. We shouldn’t have been showing cleavage or thought for one second showing that much leg was asking for anything else.
We are told we could have stopped it, and we’ve been punished by everyone’s denial because we didn’t.
We are taught from a young age to do what adults say. It doesn’t matter if they are family members, teachers, or friends of our parents.
When it comes to the workplace, we are told to respect our higher-ups and take direction without question. And if we rat on them for anything, whether it’s about them stealing money from the company, lying, or asking us into their office where they close the door and make us feel uncomfortable, it’s usually made really clear that it’s our word against theirs and we have zero merit.
This doesn’t happen overnight. Men don’t magically become slimy assholes once they reach a certain age or level in their job. The ones who are responsible for sexual misconduct or assault have always been doing it. And they have been brought up to believe there’s really nothing wrong with it.
I have two teenage sons and they are going to be taught differently — and it’s up to me to give the lessons.
One quarter of women say they have been sexually harassed in the workplace and almost half of them leave their careers because of it.
I wonder how many men have been forced to leave their job because they felt unsafe?
The men in this world have a secret “Boys’ Club” that isn’t so secret anymore thanks to women (who have had to do the heavy lifting, yet again) who have had enough of the fucking shit and are trying with every shred they have left in them to put a stop to it.
Raising boys to explain “blurred lines” (as people like to call them) that aren’t blurred at all is our damn job as their parents.
Consent means consent. It means you have asked the person you want to be intimate with if they feel the same. It means if you are doing something with them — even if you are in the middle of it — and they seem uninterested, in pain, or upset, you stop and talk to them.
It’s teaching them that no means no, always. And that even when someone says yes, they are allowed to change their minds whenever they want.
It’s telling them, over and over and fucking over, that someone who is intoxicated or under the influence of anything, is not in the position to say “yes” — and they can wait until they are sober to have a conversation.
No dick is more important than someone’s consent. It is not hard to understand.
People know when they are taking advantage of someone. Fuck, our kids know how to manipulate us at a very young age, so the excuse “I didn’t know they weren’t into it” shouldn’t hold up. Ever.
There are a lot of shows and books out there that are great resources for talking with your kids about consensual sex. I find with my teen boys, talking to them and with them about these things (which I do) isn’t good enough. I have to show them, and I have to show them in a way that will make them fucking get it.
Watching The Morning Show (which is on Apple TV and in its second season) is the perfect example of this. Mitch Kessler (played by Steve Carell) makes me ragey in a way no other character has ever made me ragey. I want to smash my screen whenever I see his face.
Carell plays the male co-host in the number one morning show who loses his job because he was reported for sexual misconduct. This man literally thinks he’s done nothing wrong and that these women reported him because they were upset he moved on to someone else.
Without giving too much away, this brilliant show brings a shining light on the secret male culture that has gone on way too long that I want my sons to never be a part of.
It shows how men use their power to manipulate women in the workplace, then turn it around on them by acting like they had no idea they weren’t into it.
The reason I think our teenage sons need to watch this show is because these women aren’t kicking and screaming. They aren’t yelling “no.” They are put in a horrible position, and it’s very clear they want out of it. When they report the incidents or ask for help, they are silenced and then Kessler is protected for a really long time.
The talks we have with our kids about sexual assault, abuse, and misconduct should never end. For me, this show hit home in a way no other show on the subject had. I knew as soon as I was halfway into the first season my sons had to watch it, because it paints such a clear picture about the sick-ass twisted Boys’ Club culture that is out there — and that will continue to be out there if we don’t start talking to our sons about it.
Because remember this: If they aren’t hearing about it from you, they are hearing about it from someone else. Is that something you really want in someone else’s hands?
I didn’t think so.