I'm not a true "boy mom" because I have a daughter. But I have two boys. And as much as I empower my daughter and teach her how to use her voice and protect herself, I also know I need to teach my boys how to navigate the power our culture will hand to them over the women in their lives. In short, I know I need to teach my boys not to become rapists.
My oldest is only 11. He has no romantic interest in girls or boys whatsoever. I didn't realize I would be given the opportunity to teach him not to be a rapist so soon.
We were invited to go watch a movie with some friends. His younger sister's friends, actually. He and his buddy were the only older boys there. And after the movie, the boys hid behind a wall to try to scare some of the girls when they came out. Okay, whatever. I didn't think anything of it.
A few minutes later one of the girls was crying hard. I assumed the boys had scared her too much and went out to talk to them.
I was wrong.
It turns out, she had seen them hiding and they asked her not to tell her friends. In true girl-solidarity, she immediately turned to go tell the rest of the girls (go girl power!). But then the boys tried to block her from going back. My sweet child, the one I raise so carefully, used his bigger body to try to try to stop her, to control what she could and could not do. And he scared her.
Before you think I'm reading too much into it or I'm villainizing the boys... hold on. These are two good kids. They are sweet boys. But good kids make bad choices sometimes and that's when we have the chance to help them learn how to stay good kids.
If we put as much effort into teaching our boys how not to be come rapists as we do into telling our girls to be safe, I think we'd have some changes in society.
I took him home that night and we had a long, serious talk. He cried as he realized how scared he had made her feel. I told him "no means no" and "when she's not having fun, you stop." He has no idea that I'm thinking about possible future sexual partners (should he be straight). But he doesn't need to know that yet. We can start teaching our boys not to rape before they ever express any interest in sex.
What worried me most was the murmurs I heard in the room as the girl was crying. I heard "oh these boys" and "boys are like that sometimes." I imagine most of that comes from the knowledge that these boys really are good kids and that they really didn't mean to cause harm.
But here's the thing: my boys deserve better than "boys will be boys." I need our culture to not make excuses for them when they do stuff like this. Yes, he made a childhood mistake. But I need him to learn that boys are kind and gentle and empathetic. I need him to learn that boys DON'T use their strength or size to get what they want, especially not from girls.
So please do me and other "boy moms" a favor: hold our boys to a standard that's higher than our current rape culture. They need that as much as our girls do.