To my future son,
You may or may not ever exist. I don’t know. The concept of having kids anytime soon to me is almost laughable, as is verified by my future boyfriend and future flourishing writing career.
Still, future son, there are some things you need to know.
There are a lot of things you need to know. And with the Stanford rapist’s shortened sentence almost at its close, I think now is as good a time as any to relay them.
As much as it may seem men and women are equal in this society, honey, they aren’t. There are a million facts I could use to back this up and likely will throughout your lifetime until you begin to laugh when I’m around your friends, teasing me (even though deep down you’d better be proud and loving) and calling me a crazy feminist.
Feminists are NOT and never have been crazy, but we can get into that later.
But one facet of this inequality is difficult to describe to someone who has never experienced it. It is a deep chill that goes up your spine when you are in a parking ramp at night and you hear a sound, any sound. It is the way you duck your head quickly and decisively when a man makes eye contact with you on the train or subway, regardless of how friendly he looks. It is the way you quicken your step and pretend you are deaf, completely deaf, when someone calls out to you on the street. It is the way you check on your friends throughout the night to make sure they aren’t too drunk.
If none of these scenarios sound familiar to you, love, it’s because you’re not a woman. And as much as I hope and pray that by the time you read this letter everything will have changed, I don’t believe it will have.
You might be wondering what my point is, even though your adorable little sister, Juliet, is nodding along emphatically.
I need to talk to you about sex. Come back. Come back right now and sit back down. Yes, I hope you’re far too young for this, but that’s not the point.
I think you’re a wonderful person. I do. I think you’re strong and smart and brave, and you try to do the right thing. And I don’t believe you would ever take advantage of a woman, intentionally or otherwise. Still, we need to talk.
If a woman seems drunk, don’t sleep with her. Don’t do it. I don’t care if you’re drunk too, I don’t care if she begs you to in a slurred sultry voice, and I don’t care if your friends are egging you on. Politely refuse, tell her she’s gorgeous and you would be happy to have this conversation sober. She will have so much respect for you, love, I promise.
Ask a woman if she wants to have sex before you initiate anything. Yes, literally use those words. I don’t care if you think it kills the mood. Oh, I know, I’m so not cool. But listen.
If you have friends who happen to be women who ask you to walk them to their cars, always say yes.
If a woman is falling over drunk at a party, find her friends or offer to take her home. If anyone is pursuing her while she is in this state, please, please intervene. You could save her life.
If a woman is wearing a bodycon skirt, thigh-high leather boots and a bralette, she’s not asking for it. Maybe she put that on because it makes her feel sexy, beautiful, strong or like herself. She did not put that on as an invitation to be touched.
Please don’t judge women who have a lot of sex. It’s normal and healthy and totally OK. There is an enormous difference between having sex because you want to and having sex because you are forced to. It doesn’t matter how many partners a woman has had; if she doesn’t remember just one of them, she has been raped.
Women like to have sex. But to force it on them strips them of their identity, their honor and their freedom.
I know this conversation sounds heavy and unnecessary and over-the-top to you. I know you’re wondering why I’m crying right now. But the truth is, honey, I’ve known women who have had this happen to them. Once I even could have intervened and didn’t.
I want you to be the strong man I know you are. I want you to stand up for what you think is right. When your friends laugh about pledge parties and how the sorority girls get so drunk it’s easy to take advantage of them, I don’t want you to laugh back. I want you to tell them that it’s not worth it, that you can get a woman when she’s sober.
You can. You can get a playful, sexy, gorgeous girl who thinks you’re funny and interesting and smart. You can get this girl when she’s sober and alert and blushing a little because she likes you so much. You can sleep with her when you’re both ready, and excited, and so, so nervous that you’ll mess up. You can get her all on your own.
We live in a society that misconstrues what is OK and what isn’t. I want you to listen to the women in your life — not to society. Whether that is me or your sister or your friends doesn’t matter.
I want you to know what is right.
I love you.