Teach Boys Not to Rape

Benny (4yo) and I were just wrestling and tickling. I had him pinned and was chewing on his leg when he giggled and screamed “Stop!”. The dog jumped up and barked, so I didn’t hear him. I started to give him a zerbert on his tummy (Benny, not the dog. That’s weird.) but he grabbed my hand and said very firmly, “MOM! I said stop an bren someone tells you to stop you breespect dem!”

I apologized and said he was right, I should have stopped horse playing the first time he said stop. I told him he always has the right to be the boss of his body, and that all kids have that right.

There is a national debate right now about the idea of teaching boys not to rape as a viable why to stop rape. That should be a full stop, not sure why there debate. This all coincides with the criminal trial in Ohio of two high school students accused of the heinous rape of a drugged and unconscious girl.

We teach boys not to rape by starting in our homes and starting when they are small. Scratch that, they don’t need to be small, just start talking. I’m not going to talk to my preschool aged son about rape and Rape Culture. Instead, I’m going to teach him a foundation of respect for himself and for others so that when the day comes that we do have that talk, he understands to his very core that every person has the right to expect respect for their body, and to trespass against that is entirely wrong.


I show him that I respect his control of his body by stopping horse play when he says enough, not forcing affection and not using physical force as punishment.

I teach him how to act respectfully by never condoning, never excusing brutish or aggressive behavior because “boys will be boys”. He will own up to his actions.

His father, grandfather, and uncles will set the example on how to treat the women in your life with love, equality and respect.

When he is older, I will sit him down and talk to him about how to respect a partner during sexual situations, that he always has the right to be respected during sexual encounters and the consequences for using his body as a weapon.

I will not grow him into a large boy, I will raise him to be an honorable man.



Other posts on this topic:

Raising Boys to Men by mum2beautifulboys

On Steubenville High School and Teaching Boys Not to Rape by Avital Normal Nathman

Steubenville: We’re Sick and Tired of Rape Being Treated Like an Unavoidable Joke by Soraya Chemaly

PETITION: National Federation of High School Associations: Educate High School Coaches About Sexual Assault


  1. Well said

  2. This is great, Melissa! Thank you so much for writing it. We talk a lot to our girls (always have) about the need to “protect” themselves and be on the lookout for untrustworthy guys and to avoid sketchy situations. But there’s rarely any discussion in families, at school, or in the wider community that talks about teaching boys not to rape. As if it’s up to the girls alone to “manage” this crime. Geez! So, thank you for the education you are giving your children. fyi. Here’s a blog I wrote 2 years ago, after CBS news correspondent Lara Logan, suffered a sexual assault in Tahrir Square in Cairo. http://blog.anniefox.com/2011/02/15/what-do-you-tell-your-kids-about-rape/

    • Love your post, Melissa post on horseplay sending a strong “teach your children well” message. Also like your socio-emotional talking points Annie, thx for both…

      Since we all know boys are exposed to zingers via ambient msgs as they grow, I’m adding one more on the pop culture issues and marketing mayhem in the media sphere positioning the sexualization of girls as boy toys and breaking the boys’ “Bro Code” culture long before adolescence http://www.shapingyouth.org/the-bro-code-media-masculinity-misogynistic-misfires/

      There are mega-cultural forces in play that we need to SEE (ahem, +seethe) to switch ’em and flip ’em toward a HEALTHIER version of masculinity to reject these kinds of market forces permeating ads, locker rooms, play yards…(e.g. “Step 1 Train men to womanize. Step 2 Immerse men in porn. Step 3: Make rape jokes. Step 4: Obey the masculinity cops.”

      Great piece, Melissa…that last line of your post needs to be a graduation greeting card btw. 😉

    • Hi Annie!
      Thank you for the kind words, and your link. I remember feeling sick when I heard about Lara Logan’s attack, too.

  3. Leora Williams says:

    Teaching boys not to rape is only half of the issue. The other half is teaching girls to embrace their sexual power over men. Don’t grow your daughters into large girls who say “Not until marriage” or “Do you really love me?” Raise them to be smart, cunning women who embrace sex without fear, shame, or regret.

    There will always be a sex culture. That is inevitable. Until both genders face that issue squarely and properly, it will continue to be a rape culture.

    • I am all for teaching girls to embrace their bodies and their sexuality, but what do you mean when you say “teaching girls their sexual power over men”? I would prefer a world in which sex did not involve a power dynamic of one person being “over” the other at all. And are you implying that women who choose to wait until marriage or a loving, monogamous relationship for sex are behaving like “girls” or are immature in some way? That makes virginity a litmus test for adulthood, which seems just as bad as making virginity a litmus test for purity or worth.

    • ‘The other half is teaching girls to embrace their sexual power over men.’

      I disagree completely with this. I think girls should embrace their sexuality, yes. But I think the concept of anybody having sexual power OVER anybody else is despicable. We don’t teach boys to embrace their sexual power over women, why on earth would we want to do the reverse? A culture in which some members have sexual power OVER other members is always going to be a rape culture.

      That said, I think your line ‘Raise [your daughters] to be smart, cunning women who embrace sex without fear, shame, or regret’ is bang on, and I applaud it heartily.

      Cracking post, Melissa. I reposted it in an open thread on the Captain Awkward site, with a link back here. http://captainawkward.com/2013/03/14/open-thread/#comment-48712 I think what you wrote should be required reading for all parents everywhere. It is SO important. Thank you for writing it.

    • The problem is also that by NOT teaching girls NOT to rape a lot of men n women will be raped BY women unchallenged. We cannot stop rape by focusing solely on one of 2 genders that perpetrate the crime. Don’t grow your daughters to be one of the 20-40% of rapists who are female.

      • Archy –
        Your claim that “20-40% of rapists are female” is absolutely absurd and completely unfounded.

        • NISVS 2010 CDC Full report pdf on this link – http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/nisvs/ Page 18,19 and 24 are where I got the stats from.

          Definition of rape I am using includes being forced to penetrate someone else, and forcing someone to penetrate you. The CDC report lists these seperately as their definition of rape uses the biased version that disregards envelopment, envelopment is the MOST COMMON form of rape against men so you need to look past the initial findings and look to the tables.

          Let’s start with lifetime stats.

          Female victims: Forced penetration (being penetrated) 18.3%, estimated number of victims 21,840,000
          Male victims : 2 categories here, Forced penetration : 1.4%, estimate 1,581,000 victims. Forced TO penetrate someone else (envelopment): 4.8%, 5,451,000 victims est.

          Last 12 months
          Female: Forced penetration: 1.1%, est victims 1,270,000
          Male: Forced penetration was too low in number to be reported accurately.
          Forced TO penetrate: 1.1%, est victims 1,267,000

          98.1% of Female victims of forced penetration reported only male perps
          93.3% of Male victims of forced penetration repoted only male perpetrators
          79.2% of Male victims forced to penetrate someone else reported only female perpetrators

          So 98.1% of 21.84M is roughly 21.425M people raped by men
          93.3% of 1.581M is roughly 1.475M raped by men
          79.2% of 5.451M is roughly 4.317M raped by women

          28.872M victims total estimate, roughly 16% were raped by women for Lifetime stats. Roughly 6:1 ration female:male

          For the 12 months listing we have Female: Forced penetration, 1.1% with est 1.27M victims. Male we have too few forced penetration in the study so they didn’t list it, but for forced TO penetrate we have 1.1% with 1.267M est victims.
          1.27 * 98.1% = 1.267M females raped by men
          1.267 * 79.2% = 1M males raped by women.
          44.6% estimate of Perpetrators of rape for the 12 months category were FEMALE of a pool of 2.537M victims of rape in the last 12 months, coming close to 1:1 but not quite.

          I don’t think these stats include under 18’s, or prison stats either. This is a rough estimate though since I don’t see what gender makes up the other 20.8% of the men forced to penetrate perpetrator category for instance which could be the other gender, or sometimes could be multiple perpetrators and they also could be both genders. Either way this proves the point that a significant number of men are raped by women, but we aren’t (or very rarely) telling women and girls to stop raping men n women even though in 12 months roughly 1 million men were raped by women in the U.S. Call me a troll if it makes you feel better, point me to stats that differ if you want but these stats to me show a need to be teaching both males and females to STOP raping others.

          What is absurd is that these stats have been out for a year or 2 yet this is still a surprise to people. Why? Is it that hard to believe women can rape men in such significant numbers? Part of fighting rape culture means fighting against myths of rape, and one huge myth of rape is that of women not being able to rape men and another is that women raping men is a VERY rare event. Now before accusing others of being absurd and stating what they have said is unfounded, maybe it would be best to ask where and what stats the person is using before insulting them with baseless accusations.

          I also find it strange you would ignore my point, do you think there is benefit to teaching girls and women to stop raping men? It seems you’re ok with teaching males to stop rape but what about females? Considering 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused before 18, and that 1 in 21 adult males report being forced to penetrate someone else(61% of the perpetrators are female) leaving him at significant risk of sexual abuse as all men and women are then isn’t it also in his best interest to teach both genders to stop raping?

  4. Teaching boys to respect others by stopping their rough behavior with another when asked is brilliant. Helping them carry this response into their teens and adult life is a great way to instill respect.

    Thanks, Melissa.

  5. (Cough) sexist, what about keeping it gender neutral, I can imagine some people getting quite annoyed and offended over this, it can happen to anyone, not just females.

    I think it would be okay if this were introduced into high schools only if it were gender neutral and conducted in health education, because let’s face it most young men ages 13-17 aren’t going to be very happy when someone comes rolling in with this idea to impose rape prevention, when it is aimed at them.

    All I’m trying to say is, yes rape is a very horrible and damaging act of violence, but I do not believe rape prevention should be aimed at males but both genders, gender equality might be a more suitable subject over rape prevention.

    By the way I live in New Zealand, and I am assuming you people are North Americans as our education system is a lot different than yours. Thanks for hearing me out


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