In addition to talking to my kids about the birds and the bees, I’ve also talked to them about rape. I’m doing my best not to raise boys who are rapists. We’ve all had THE TALK with our preteens and teens. What we expect from them in regard to their sexual activity, how to protect themselves from STDs and pregnancy, what we as parents consider appropriate or inappropriate behavior regarding their sexuality, where babies come from, all those sometimes cringe-worthy topics of conversations we all subject our kids to in order to educate them about sex and share our own moral views. Whether you are pushing abstinence or are taking a more liberal view in regard to what you are telling your kids, I urge every parent to start adding rape information to these talks. The statistics are staggering.

From TeenHelp.com:

 Of female Americans who are raped, 54 percent of them experience this type of sexual abuse for the first time before they are 18.

Teenagers account for 51% of all reported sexual abuse.

In July, when a thread on the popular website Reddit about men and teens admitting to raping women and girls became news, I read the articles and the Reddit thread  and even though I found myself horrified at the information I was reading, the reasons that the men gave for being rapists made me question whether we are doing enough as parents to fully explain to our kids why certain behaviors are wrong. The excuses the rapists gave on the Reddit thread are terrifying.

I was a freshman and hooking up with this girl who got naked in bed with me, then said no. I think she just wanted to do oral. I was extremely horny and already close to doing it, so I ignored her and did it. She realized what was happening and tried to clamp her legs shut, but it was too late and I was much stronger than her.

Most girls don’t really understand how horny guys are, how much stronger guys are, how guys will rationalize what they do. I see feminists and women on the Internet saying that no means no and women should be able to get as drunk as they want and not be sexually assaulted.

Terrifying, and enlightening. And it’s all too easy to see a lot of teen boys making the same excuses, the same rationales as to why they feel it’s okay to rape.

I think the majority of parents talk to their daughters about rape, how they can protect themselves in social situations, how “no means no”, how to fight back if they are ever accosted in a dark alley, but the majority of parents don’t sit down with their boys and tell them “Don’t be a rapist.”

We all adore our sons. It doesn’t cross our mind that our boys would ever hurt someone in this way, that our sons are capable of this type of violence. But the sad fact is, they are. And for every mother who has had her son accused of rape I’m sure the majority of them felt like you and I do. My kid could never do that. We don’t want our kids to be rapists.

Parents need to be involved in these conversations with our kids. We need to explain to our boys about how to act if they are at a party and come across a passed out girl. We need to tell them in no uncertain terms that if there is hesitation on a girl’s part, whether it be kissing or more, that he needs to stop whatever they are doing. We need to make sure our boys are fully aware that it is never okay to pressure a girl into sex, whether it be by physical force or verbal coercion. We need to be loud about this. And it needs to start well before our kids are ready to be talked to about sex.

When my boys were little we made a point to always stress empathetic behavior. All of our kids are like little sponges. When you ask them “How would you feel if someone hit you?” when your kid is caught fighting over a shared toy it teaches them to think outside themselves. When you teach kids empathy, you are warding off adults with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, the disorder most experts believe the vast majority of sex offenders and rapists have. You need to use media to your advantage. When your kids come across violent or exploitive content in movies or video games or music towards women, you need to stop and explain to them about why it’s wrong. And you need to teach them to respect women as equals, so that means when your nine year old says some girl in his class dresses like a “skank” you get in his face and challenge him and tell them the way a girl dresses has no bearing on her worth as a human being or is a reflection on her personality. Not that this has ever happened in my house or anything.

It’s not enough to tell our boys “Don’t be a rapist.” We need to include a whole lot of other topics in this discussion. Don’t share personal photos you receive from girls with your friends . Don’t catcall girls when they are walking down the hallways at school. Don’t give girls alcohol or drugs at parties in hopes it will get them to be more open sexually. Don’t view girls and women as sexual entities devoid of brains and hearts and souls. Don’t call girls bitches. Don’t let your friends do it either.

So in addition to telling our teen boys not to get girls pregnant or to try and abstain from sex until they are in college, at least (fingers crossed, I’m so not ready for my kids to be doin’ it) we also talk to them about rape. I hope you do too.

(Photo: Ardelean Andreea/Shutterstock)