My entire life, I imagined having two daughters, so naturally I have two sons.
Biology is such a prankster!
I’ll never forget that 20 week ultrasound. My wife and I were flanked by both of our mothers while the technician waved her magic wand across my wife’s belly, flooding her insides with ultrasonic waves and producing images with the echos like some kind of scifi dolphin. When she said, “You’re having a boy”, I instinctively sighed and said, “Are you sure?”. Immediately, it felt like all four women descended on me.
“What do you mean?! You should be happy! You’re having a little boy! Boys are so much fun! You get to teach him how to play baseball and do all the boy stuff! Stop complaining!”
There is this strange parenting myth out there that raising boys is easy, fun, and carefree while raising girls is nothing but drama, rebellion, and fear. Sons are meant to fulfill their destinies while daughters are meant to be protected from other people’s sons until they are old enough to marry someone else’s son. What a strange way to raise children. What a strange way to live.
In recent months, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to raise boys, and I am convinced that it is one of the most important jobs in the world right now. On the whole, men have failed our God-given calling, and while it may be impossible to teach an old dog new morals, we parents can at least give the next generation a fighting chance.
Check the news. Cosby just got sentenced to prison for 3-10 years for one of the many times that he drugged and raped a woman. Another woman came out against Brett Kavanaugh for his sexually abusive behavior as a teenager. A grand jury released the names and details about 300 Pennsylvanian priests accused of all kinds of horrible abuse. Everywhere you look, someone is being accused of sexual abuse, and I think that’s fantastic. Let’s drag all these sins out into the light and expose them for what they are. They are sins. They are not normal.
Once more for the kids in the back of the class.
THIS IS NOT NORMAL!
If I hear one more person defend these monsters with some nonsense like, “We all make bad decisions when we’re young” or “Well they were drunk. What did they expect?”, I might just say some words that pastors aren’t supposed to say in public. When I was a teenager and a young adult, I also did some dumb stuff, I also drank too much sometimes, but I never sexually assaulted anyone or acted in a way that could be interpreted as sexually threatening. No matter how my overclocked hormones were flowing, I never forced myself on anyone, and I don’t deserve any praise for that. I also don’t deserve any extra credit for having lived 32 years without throwing someone out of a window.
Resisting your more destructive impulses is not some kind of pious ideal, it’s just baseline humanity. I don’t understand why this is controversial. We can reach for higher virtues later, but we need to make sure we’re all on the same page about what is the absolute minimum that is required to be a decent human being. Respecting a person’s bodily autonomy seems like a good place to start, right? You would think so, but yet here we are.
There are plenty of men like myself who have nobly achieved the bare minimum of humanity, proclaiming from our keyboards our favorite patriarchal chorus, “Not all men! Not all men! Most of us are fine! It’s just a few bad guys! I’m on your side! Not all men! Not all men!”. It’s a nice song, but it lacks conviction. You don’t get a gold star for not being a rapist, and if you really want to be an advocate, change the narrative. When Brock Turner was caught trying to rape an unconscious woman, we learned all about his excellent swimming skills and were made to feel sorry for him that he lost his scholarship and now has to register as a sex offender all because of one bad decision. That’s the narrative that keeps enabling these men that you so proudly distance yourself from.
King David raped Bathsheba, killed her husband, and married her to cover it up, but what is the moral of the story? David wasn’t where he should have been and he let his urges take control. He made a mistake, apologized, and everyone lived happily ever after. Except they didn’t. No one thought to write down how Bathsheba felt about the whole thing, because the writer didn’t care. It was more important that David’s future not be harmed by one little mistake. Plus, it’s totally understandable, right? Boys will be boys!
I hate that phrase so much. Boys will be boys… What that really means is, “boys will be monsters” and I don’t buy that for a second. Boys will be how you teach them to be. Teach boys to respect human autonomy. Teach boys to be better than society expects them to be. Teach boys that hormones are crazy, emotions are confusing, and peer pressure is real, but there are healthy ways to express their urges and feelings. It is insulting to our humanity to treat boys like helplessly horny honey-badgers. Boys are capable of wisdom and restraint, but only if we stop protecting this toxic-conquistador-masculinity that pervades our society.
That means believing the victim, punishing the perpetrator, and calling a sin a sin especially if its someone in your political party or religious organization. They don’t get a pass because you like their policies. Men who get away with abusing women will abuse their power in other places until they are stopped, and boys who watch them get away with it will think that’s the way to get ahead.
Parents, raise your boys to break the narrative.
Boys, you are stronger and wiser than society says you are.
Men, use your power to protect victims, not violators.
Women, it must be so hard to be constantly vulnerable before anyone will listen. I see you.
Girls, I pray that our sons won’t force you to carry the full weight of this fight like we have.
Humans, we can do this. Together.