What I Want My Son to Know About Rape Culture

I was sick to my stomach reading about the Brock Turner case a few months ago — and now the story repeats itself. This time his name is Austin Wilkerson. This time it happened in Colorado. He said he was going to take a girl home because she was unable to do so herself, and then he raped her.

Another example of how young men, particularly white athletes from a certain social class, get away with anything. It is preposterous and it shouldn’t be happening. White frat boys all over the USA are thinking they can do whatever they want to women, because they can get away with it.

When Brock Turner was caught, I couldn’t help but wonder what he was taught as a child, because doing something like that requires a lifetime of thinking it was OK to treat women like garbage, to learn that women’s words don’t need to be listened to or acknowledged, to treat a woman like an object. Turner’s father’s letter is wreaked in privilege—he is clearly a person who values his son’s life over the victim’s, I can’t help but wonder if he is not a misogynist because there is no universe where his son’s actions are excusable.

Brock Turner did what he did because the people around him didn’t teach him any better, from early on… and that is part of the reason why rape culture exists. And if we don’t address violence against women and gender inequality from an early age with our sons, then we can’t possibly expect those young boys to grow up and know better, and act differently.

mama and E-kiss

My son is only five years old, and yet, we’ve already had to have conversations about what is OK and not OK when it comes to contact between him and a girl (in this case, me). It was simple really. He wanted to keep giving me kisses on the cheek, and I enjoyed it until it was slobbery—then I no longer enjoyed it so I told him to stop–which he thought was hilarious, so he didn’t listen. At four years old, I had to have the first conversation with him about what is appropriate and what is not. I took his hands, looked straight into his eyes and said, “When a girl tells you to stop, it means stop. You have to listen.” This was not a game, and I wanted him to understand that.

While my son may be too young to discuss the Brock Turner events, there are things that I can do as a mom starting now so that he learns to respect women. Parents sometimes think, erroneously, that kids just KNOW right from wrong simply by existing. And that’s WRONG. Kids must be taught. Reminded every day. Bad behavior must not be brushed off, even when they are just four years old. On the contrary, it’s at this age that we must start.

What I want my son to know about rape culture:

I want my son to know is that it is NOT OK to touch a girl in any way she doesn’t want to be touched. EVER. That includes hugging, kissing, or pulling a girl’s hair to get her attention (which some people think is “cute” when it’s between two kids—it’s not, it just reinforces the idea that violence is OK to use to get a girl’s attention). giving mommy a kiss

I want my son to know that a girl’s body is not for his amusement.
It’s not FUNNY or CUTE or APPROPRIATE for him to use someone else’s body to get laughs and giggles.

I want my son to know that girls are human beings.
I want him to grow up not making the distinction between what a girl “can” and “cannot” do simply because she is a girl. I want my five year old to never utter the words “You can’t because you’re a girl.” And I want him to never hear “Boys don’t cry.” While you may think these words are not about rape culture but they are. Because rape culture allows women to be seen as “lesser than” – it divides men and women into separate roles and this separation creates inequality. Rape culture is about a man thinking he can TAKE something from a woman, thinking it’s OK to use his physical strength to be violent and subjugate another human being. So if we don’t teach our kids from early on that men and women are human beings equally, then we are never going to end rape culture.

I want my son to know that he is responsible for his actions.
That there will be consequences. That if he behaves badly there will be repercussions. That he won’t get a free pass (and shouldn’t expect one) just because he is my child.

We must not wait until kids are going to college to have these discussions… our kids are listening to us every single day. Even when we think they are not, they are listening. They follow our lead, so we must lead with our actions, but we must also have explicit conversations.

“You’re not allowed to touch other people’s bodies, just as they are not allowed to touch yours.”

“When someone says to stop touching them, you stop.”

“It is not OK to touch a girl if she doesn’t want to be touched.”

“Girls and boys are equal.”

“Treat others as you want to be treated.”

Have you had discussions with your children about appropriate behavior? Share with us below!

Read Related: Raising Boys: The Conversations All Parents Need to Have With Their Sons

Diana Limongi
Diana a mom, activist, nonprofit professional, podcaster and writer from Queens, NY. She writes about motherhood, activism, raising my multilingual kids, culture and travel. She and her multicultural family live in Queens, NY.


  1. This is the best post I’ve read in a while. I am so happy I am not alone in the world and there are moms (YOU) who have intense conversations with young children to set a foundation of respect, equality, and self-worth. I agree with everything you stated and it was eloquently and beautifully written, especially because I can feel your passion and heart around this matter. The rape culture does exist and it’s sad to admit it, but it’s sadder to cross our arms and watch these events happen everywhere when we could have done something about it. And we still can. I love YOU!

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