In about four months, all my kids will be teenagers (child three is six months away…), so, as a responsible dad, I have had to have various versions of “The Talk.” I’m okay with it. I’m not some sitcom dad, squirming around in discomfort and using incomprehensible metaphors. I’m fine talking candidly to my sons or daughter. For my boys, Donald Trump made this a little easier.
I tell my kids straight up that when it comes to sex, they can get a disease or get pregnant. I also try to depict the more complex aspects of sexual exploration and development, which is that sex can link you to someone emotionally in ways you cannot predict, ways that can be unproductive, consuming, and sometimes even dangerous.
Still, as do most of us (consider the 2,000-year history of love poetry), I’ve struggled to articulate some of the more intangible characteristics of the discourse around human sexuality.
Donald Trump handed me an assist with his bawdy comments.
In a piece in the LA Times (and much reposted), “It’s the fathers of sons who can fix misogyny,” Steven Weiss analyzed the widespread indignation about Trump’s comments, but he went a step further. Of course, rightly appalled (male) figures did step forth to respond to these misogynistic comments, often anchoring themselves by identifying “fathers of daughters.” But, Weiss says,
Fathers of daughters may well feel a personal sense of outrage — but it’s the fathers of sons who could, ultimately, do something to mitigate or end the misogyny that still taints our culture.
“We know what boys will grow up to do,” says Weiss, citing a terrible string of statistics about harassment, stalking, and sexual assault. He says, “If men wait until they have girls to join the cause, they’ll have spent decades perpetuating the culture of male privilege.”
So, in light of Trump’s comments, I was and will be able to talk to my boys in new, and I think powerful, way. I can hit them with this: “And another thing. Be about respect. You know those comments Trump made? The sexual assault part is obvious enough. But it’s not just that. I don’t want you engaging in trashy locker room boy talk. I don’t want you engaging in pathetic ‘conquest discourse.’ You’ll lead your life, and whatever happens sexually between you and someone else is for you two only. It’s not news to be broadcast. That’s what respect is all about, and that’s what I hope you’re about.”
While they might blush and avert their eyes when I talk about STDs and infatuation and making me a grandpop prematurely, I also hope to help them understand the less tangible aspects of the talk that surrounds human sexuality and has been used as a tool of male control. Thanks to Trump, I think I have a new to help them consider how they should, and shouldn’t, not just act but speak. We can’t, as Weiss says, leave it up to “television and locker room buddies.”
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