A Mother’s Message to Her Sons About Stopping Rape
1:45 pm, March 26th | by Colette McIntyre
Every two minutes, someone in the United States is sexually assaulted and more often than not, the public, the justice system, and the media wants to know what the victim did to deserve it. It seem that the list of “rules” women must follow in order to not get raped gets longer every day: we are told what to wear, where to go, how much to drink (if we can drink at all), how sexy to look, how sexually active to be; we are told to be straight, to walk in packs, to be constantly aware at all times. Somehow it has become a woman’s responsibility to prevent sexual assault. we are trained to police ourselves and accept society’s patronizing tips on “risk management” and victim blaming.
But Magda Pecsenye, a Michigan mother of two boys, recognized that women shouldn’t be the only ones burdened with the prevention of rape; in her letter to her sons “about stopping rape,” Pecesenye flips the script, teaching her sons about the importance of legal consent:
If you’re ever in a situation in which someone is asking you for it and you don’t want to have sex with that person, don’t do it. And if you’re ever in a situation in which you want to have sex but the other person doesn’t ask you for it, don’t do it. It’s only good if you both want it, and can tell each other you want it, and are sure you both want it. Otherwise someone’s going to get hurt. And romance is weird enough without hurting other people when you can stop yourself (and you can always stop yourself — that goes along with having opposable thumbs).
She also urges her sons to refrain from being bystanders:
This letter is almost over but this next part is super-important: Not everyone you know has been taught all the stuff we’ve talked about. You are going to know people, and maybe even be friends with people, who think it’s ok to hurt other people in a lot of ways. One of those ways is sex. I know you’re going to hear other boys say things about girls, or sometimes about other boys, that means they don’t care about those girls’ feelings or bodies. When you do, I need you to step in. All you have to do is say something like, “Dude, that’s not cool” or something that lets the person saying something nasty know that it’s not ok. Remember that everyone wants to fit in. If you can take control of the mood in the room by letting them know nasty talk isn’t ok, they’ll stop so they don’t look like an idiot.
Remember how we talk all the time about how we’re the people who help, who fix things when there’s a problem or someone’s in trouble? You may get the chance to do that someday. Because those boys who say nasty things about girls may actually do something to those girls. If you are ever anywhere where boys start hurting a girl, or touching her in any way that she doesn’t want, you need to step in. If she’s asleep or drunk or passed out or drugged and can’t say “no,” you need to step in. Remember, it’s not good unless both people can say they want it. If a girl isn’t saying anything, that doesn’t mean she wants it. If she isn’t saying specifically that she wants it, then it’s wrong.
The entire letter is worth a read. It gives us hope that mothers like Magda exist; with more letters like this one, we can change the conversation on rape, avoid patterns of victim blaming, and begin to dismantle the rape culture that has been harming and oppressing women for centuries.