“The Talk, Part 1”: Teaching Little Boys About Sexuality In The #MeToo Era
In this modern age, in an effort to promote public discourse that resonates across boundaries, including across marginalized communities, we have witnessed how powerful it is to express our opinions and commentaries on social media. In just one click, anything can go viral. We all want to be heard — and social media comes in handy for people who want to speak their mind.
The Inception of #MeToo
Perhaps you’ve read about this somewhere on your social media account. The campaign that broke the internet and spurred divided commentaries from the general public — the “Me Too” movement.
The “Me Too” campaign has upheld its purpose — to elevate voices and reach the pinnacle of awareness — thanks to social media and the high-profile firings. As a result, widespread media coverage and discussion has transpired and led to various political debates which somehow, amazingly, changed the perception of many people — including parents — towards sexual harassment… Yay!
In the year 2006, the “Me Too” phrase was coined to empower vulnerable women through empathy — especially young girls and women of color. It was an effort to push women to graduate into a new level of understanding, concerning their human rights. It was meant to ignite momentum for women to speak up about their survival from sexual violence, in hopes of solidifying the movement, through building a community of advocates.
At that time, Tarana Burke, the woman who conceived the revolution, had one thing in mind: to instill progressive relevance about women’s rights, for the next generation. Almost two decades later, her crusade has amplified and remains loud and clear — more powerful and relevant than it has ever been before.
The watershed moment for the movement came in 2017, where the “Me Too” movement reemerged in full-scale, but more powerful, broader and revamped — it now had a hashtag, #MeToo! The undisputed power of the internet community’s ability to send things viral once again manifested its purpose, when the sexual abuse allegations about Harvey Weinstein came forth — which, in turn, helped amplify awareness around the #MeToo movement. Since then, more and more sexual abuse survivors, all across the world, have come forward, to speak up. Many of them were inspired and inspirited by those “brave hearts” who have gone before. And yes, the list goes on.
When Alyssa Milano — American actor, producer, and activist — tweeted a request to her followers reading, “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet,” it was meant to get an idea of the magnitude of how big the issue is. It was a simple tweet, but the reception from the audience was astounding and impactful, and incredibly candid.
It became a public discourse about men’s behavior towards women and the relative injustices that have gone unnoticed for too long. Just like that, a movement birthed as a grassroots campaign more than a decade ago, became a global effort against the pervasive state of abuse and harassment that women face at home, in the workplace and in everyday social settings. It impacted the world and proved its purpose — it’s time for EVERYONE to know better.
What the next Generation, Especially the Boys, Should Understand about Sexuality
Through the decades, we witnessed gender norms going through drastic changes but some traditional ideas are apparently a force to be reckoned with. One of the most prominent cases of this, is the concept of parental values for boys versus those for girls. In fact, with people’s ingrained perceptions towards unjust custody for girls, where they are all too often viewed as property, we end up overlooking the deeper aspects of these acculturated behaviors, which can result in harrowing future outcomes for our girls, often meted out by those they love.
With the existing parenting concept that most of us were raised on, too much emphasis is placed upon girls and women, when it comes to sexuality. Parents, by default, are more protective — and sometimes borderline controlling — towards their daughters than their sons. Although the reason comes from a place of love and protection, there is a subconscious bias in terms of how parents should treat children — especially when it comes to sexuality.
This is most likely linked to the deep-seated belief of patriarchal households that is stern with false ideology that a woman’s purpose is to be at home and take care of the family. That our society overemphasizes this, leads to girls being told directly or indirectly that they are solely wired for pregnancy and that feminine form means you are destined for a lifetime of harassment.
Meanwhile, the approach to our boys is way less responsible and begs the question, should we give them a little culturing about the reality of sexuality in the #MeToo era?
Ignorance about Sexuality Conspires Threat — For Boys
In breaking news reported by The Sun last November 20, a schoolgirl, 14, was shot dead by a boy, 13, because he wrongly believed she was pregnant with his child. Apart from the horrendous fatal fate of the young girl, the conducted autopsy later revealed that she was not pregnant at all! The teen boy pleaded guilty in juvenile court, according to The Sun’s report.
If you look at the case in a deeper lens, the fear of fatherhood and ignorance about sexuality had likely driven the boy to perpetrate the crime. The lack of sexual education also contributes to the major factor for the young boy to spiral down to violence.
In the #MeToo era, where the movement continues to disrupt systems that allow the proliferation of sexual violence, how can parents reroute and overhaul protection for their young men?
Addressing the Complexity of Sexuality through Strategic Parenthood
Comprehensive sexuality education is imperative, in order to empower children and youth with information that addresses their values, safety, and health, where sexuality is concerned. This discussion is commonplace in most households but often routes to the comfort of young girls. Lots of parents have been falling short in addressing the same matter for their young boys. We can’t dumb down the reality that lack of sexual education for boys often progresses to future violence or victimhood.
Fears about sexual assault and rape are horrifying imagery for every parent. No parent wants their child becoming a victim or a perpetrator of sexual assault. In this modern era, kids are growing progressively while being exposed to the ‘profane’ side of the internet. With this, the conduct of your child and their activities with acquaintances may lead to legal issues. Aggressiveness in adolescence can be harassment — and the #MeToo movement is here to warn you.
Parents, here are the crucial aspects of sexuality that you should be discussing with your little boys.
The Concept of Consent and Binding Respect
It’s not easy to talk with your kids about their sexuality. We live in a culture where ‘sex’ connotes censorship and secrecy — leaving the blurred lines as an invitation to take the risks. But, a handful of discussions with your boys about what’s right and wrong, shouldn’t come as a burden. Treat this as a talk therapy that is beneficial to both parties — parent and kid.
Please understand that teaching your kids about consent has nothing to do with sexual activities. It’s about teaching them to respect boundaries — and how to identify those boundaries. The ongoing horror of rape news that we see on an almost daily basis must be enough to shake a parent, or responsible adult, to their core. And as a responsible parent, it should be your autonomy to advocate for change, by mobilizing your children about its implications.
Early lessons about consent shouldn’t be an intimidating process and it doesn’t mean that you have to paint pictures of its brutality, which is panic-inducing. The following are concepts you must discuss in a lighthearted manner, with your boys, about the challenging subject of consent:
- Encourage them to ask permission before showing physical affection/contact.
- Encourage them to understand body language and facial expressions that denote disapproval.
- Talk to your child about the importance of “gut feelings” and instincts.
- Teach them to respect the power of the words, “NO” and “STOP”.
- Teach them that only a “YES” equals consent.
- Use lighthearted stories to segue to the importance of consent.
- Allow children to talk about and understand their bodies.
- Make them realize that their behavior can affect others.
Simply telling your children that sexual assault is wrong, is not enough. You can’t downplay the importance of sexual education, and this should start within the confines of your home. With proper knowledge and profound understanding, you are teaching your child to become a mature and responsible citizen in your community. Emphatic know-how about the importance of consent allows them to navigate smoothly on complex and sexually-charged situations in the future.