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Friday, October 22, 2021

‘I’m raising my boys not to rape – consent starts when they’re little’

In the wake of the tragic news regarding Sarah Everard, her kidnap, rape and subsequent murder I’ve felt compelled to share my perspective as a mother of two young boys.

A lot of the news has focused (quite rightly) on what men can do. However, I believe there is also space for everyone to examine what they can do in order to make a difference here.

More specifically, it’s got me thinking about what we as parents can do.

As parents of the next generation we hold a lot of power. A constant thread through my parenting has been how to integrate my political leanings with my parenting and how I can parent my boys in ways that will raise them to be good, kind, respectful men.

Here we have a prime example of where this sort of parenting is absolutely, fundamentally necessary. It has to start when they’re young and so many ideas are being formed.

One example I can give is the teaching of consent. Though sometimes all I want to do is tickle my children into oblivion, I know I need to listen to them when they say no. Even if it is hidden under hysterical giggles, even if it is obvious that what they mean is the opposite, I must stop.

When my son plays with his friends and then inevitably comes running to me to complain that they don’t want to play or they want to play something he doesn’t want to, I make a point of saying, he doesn’t have to do it if he doesn’t want to. My son is not entitled to his friends doing whatever he wants at the expense of their wishes.

It is my sincere hope that this stuff, though seemingly trivial right now, will form the baseline of more serious ideas later on. When that girl or boy says no to something, hopefully my son will cope with it with good grace.

This is just the start; later on we will deal with the nitty gritty, the stuff they need to do to make women feel more comfortable in public places, the stuff they need to do around the house to share the household burden, the expectations they need to have about their future partners role in their lives, the stands they need to take against injustice.

For now though, it takes the form of a light sprinkling of these ideas and parenting our children is as good a place as any to make a start.

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