Raising Boys in the Age of #MeToo

I am so thankful that people are beginning to talk more openly about abuse and harassment occuring in places where there are power differences between men and women. After years of work with college women in the church, I am familiar with stories of abuse, molestation and harassment. Very little that is happening in the #MeToo movement is surprising to me. It is GOOD that these things are coming to light.

But it’s also depressing. And a little terrifying, as I’m busy raising 3 future men.

I’d really like to guarantee that these boys would never show their penis to someone at work. I’d like to know that they’d never use any position of influence or power to abuse or belittle women (or other men.) I’d like them to see women (and other men) as human beings, made in God’s image, not something to be used and abused.

Even writing this, I’m scared because I have no guarantees. Did Matt Lauer’s mom know she was raising a creeper (I think I am supposed to say alleged creeper – though I believe his victims)? Did Bill Cosby’s mom know she was raising a rapist (again, alleged, but…)? Did the mothers of any of the men headlining the news right now know what their sons would become? Maybe they knew, maybe they didn’t. I don’t personally know anyone who wants to raise a child who will show their unsolicited private parts to co-workers (or worse.)

I’d like to be intentional in all areas, but especially in this area. So I’m starting a list of things I think will help my efforts to teach my boys not to be creepers or abusers.

7 Things to Teach Your Kids if you DON’T want them to be creepers or abusers

  1. They are loved by me and by God, no matter what. I want to raise secure kids, who know their value and worth, because when we know our value and worth we can treat others as valuable and worthy.
  2. Sex and our sexuality are positive, good things. If I can help it, I’d love to remove any shame from my kids’ thoughts about sex and sexuality. I want to teach them to make healthy choices, but I recognize that healthy choices hardly ever come from places of shame and darkness.
  3. Sex and Sexuality is only one of many ways to connect with people. Sexuality is nothing to be ashamed of, but it is just one area of life and relationship.
  4. CONSENT. No one gets to touch you or require you to touch them if it’s not OK with you. I won’t make my kids hug people, or receive hugs from people. And you don’t touch people or ask them to touch you, in any way, unless it is enjoyable and desirable to both people. This goes beyond sexual touch to include hugs, tickling, rough housing, even jokes. If it’s not OK with both people, it’s not OK.
  5. You can be OK when someone says NO.  Simple, but everyone in my family is still working on being OK when we don’t get what we want.
  6. Those with power and influence are REQUIRED to use that power and influence to help others, not to increase their own power and influence (or get what they want.) In our house right now, this mostly looks like having higher expectations for older siblings. It feels unfair to them sometimes, but even at home we don’t get to use our bigger size or greater experience to make ourselves feel superior.
  7. Avoid p0rnography. We talked to all three of our boys about internet porn by the time they turned 8, and we will continue those conversations. We try to have these conversations with as little shame as possible, never expressing disappointment, and recognizing that sexual curiosity is totally normal. But I’ve seen too much damage caused by p0rn addiction, in men and women. It distorts healthy sexuality and changes the wiring in our brains to see people as objects without feelings, opinions, preferences.

I’m sure I’ll be adding to this list, and I’d love to hear your thoughts. These lessons have been simple and relatively easy in my boys’ younger years. For my oldest, and my younger two as they approach adolescence, it gets more complicated because I’m not always with them, and I have less choice over what is influencing them.

Parenting is hard, man. And ultimately they’re responsible for their own choices.

But I’d like to raise future adults who will be spreaders of GOOD and SAFETY in the world. We have all the creepers we need.

Photo in images by juan pablo rodriguez on Unsplash

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