Dear Hypothetical Son —
Soon you’ll be off to school and out of the house (for good.) So let’s talk about sex and college, shall we? I see you just ran out of the room. Don’t worry, this awkward conversation will be waiting for you when you get back.
Okay, you’re back. Ready?
If your college experience is anything like mine, it will be one of the most fun and memorable times of your life. It’s my hope you join a chess club and your Friday nights are spent safely playing video games with your bros drinking Mountain Dew. It wouldn’t hurt if you only gave women side hugs until you get married to the love of your life, either.
But I’m a realist and I fear you inherited my love for a good party. I’m not naive about what you’ll be exposed to and what you may choose to engage in. We raised you with our values. We did our best to walk the talk and demonstrate unconditional love, respect, compassion, and character. But you are your own man. This is your time to begin becoming the person you were always meant to be.
While I’m not trying to summon any unwanted visuals, you must know you can always talk to me and your dad about anything. We’re not here to judge you; we’re here to guide you. You never have to hide from us, or pretend. But as your mom, I have a responsibility to tell you the truth as I know it so when you’re tempted to act a fool, you’ll get a pop-up image of my face that will either dissuade you, or make you less in the mood. I’ll take it either way.
As you know, I met your Dad when I was working and living on a college campus. I wrote my thesis on hook-up culture. I was the one to call police when young women came to me weeping over their sexual assaults. I rolled students over in their beds so they wouldn’t choke on their vomit as we waited for paramedics to arrive. I responded to parties where it was known the sole purpose was to get girls as drunk as possible so men could have sex with them. I helped police find a middle-aged man paying college boys to bring girls to his house for “parties” so he could give them drugs and take advantage of them. Neat.
Like all wonderful things, there is a dark side to the college experience, especially when hormones, immaturity, low self-esteem, and a desperate need for validation intermingle on Friday nights.
I remember your dad sharing how scared he was to have a little girl when I was pregnant with your sister. The thought of predatory men preying on her could easily keep him up at night. As much as I share your dad’s fears about keeping your sister safe, I feel a larger burden of responsibility for you. As we teach her to be safe and strong, to use caution walking to her car at night, to never meet men privately off the Internet, to never drink alcohol until she loses the ability to make her own choices, I’m desperate to make sure you don’t become the kind of man we’re trying to protect her from.
Women aren’t victims — they are your equals. You’re not responsible for a woman’s choices. But the human race does need men like you to recognize your own strength and power and the many ways it can be abused to cause harm. Being a good man is a very big responsibility. I hope you’re up for it.
So let’s start with the basics: be a good man.
A good man knows he is likely born with a biological strength and power that can overwhelm most women and children. Because of this strength, he takes on the responsibility to help and protect rather than cause or threaten harm. Pick good men as friends.
And if you don’t? Well, you’ll find there will be some who make it a game to get laid at parties. They’ll come up with tricks and plans to make it easier, like creating a game to get all the women drunk. This is your first clue that these are not good men. Good character, like a muscle, can be innate — but it must be practiced, exercised, or it can succumb to weakness. Bad friends can cause atrophy to good character faster than an hour spent with Charlie Sheen.
Now, don’t get me wrong about the party scene — rarely are men forcing women to drink to inebriation. The women who show up at a party aren’t stupid; they’re there for a good time too. But isn’t it tragic a woman must fear becoming too intoxicated so other men don’t have sex with her when she’s incapable of saying no? Men who wait for women to get wasted are wolves stalking prey. Good men don’t stalk, they give safe rides home.
The ego is like a drug and it’s a liar. It can think a woman dressed provocatively is the same as consent. It can think sex with a blacked out woman is some type of accomplishment. It isn’t — in fact, legally it is considered rape, even if you’re drunk too. I pray you make decisions from a place a good character and integrity and never from a place of competition and ego.
And let’s be honest — consent is sexy and please don’t tune me out because your mom just used the word sexy. A woman who is fully into you is exciting and fun. How cool it is to have somebody’s permission and full participation? It makes everything from going on a date, handholding and kissing, so much better. Life is fuller when it’s in the light, done right. Do right. Be full. You deserve that kind of happiness.
Pick good women as friends. Not every girl has to be a prospect for romance. Good women in your life are a wonderful thing. They can help you be a better man, call you out on your crap, and their dorm room will probably smell a lot better than yours. They’re also more likely to remind you to call your mother everyday, which is my main motivation for bringing this up.
When I was working at the university, a porn crew came into town and secretly made a video at a frat house involving students. One girl who participated in a scene was shamed, shunned and mocked until she eventually dropped out. The male students were praised. A good man knows the depravity of this dynamic on all levels.
So, let’s talk about porn. 99.9 percent of the time, you’re not watching empowered women who love the artistic craft of lovemaking on camera. When I was researching my thesis, I discovered it’s estimated nearly 96 percent of women in the porn industry had been raped or sexually assaulted in their past. A vast majority of those women admitted to using drugs to get through scenes. What’s worse is society’s hunger for pornography has created a high demand for sex trafficking. So the harsh truth? A vast majority of the porn consumed by men (and in many cases women) is actively engaging in the oppression of deeply wounded, drug addicted, and in many cases kidnapped, abused and owned women.
Objectify no one, humanize everyone. Honor the spirit and humanness of all men and women. Remember, a good man helps to protect, never harm. Uplift, never oppress.
Does this mean women can’t hurt men? Oh my, women can do a number on a good man. Women can and do lead men on only to break their hearts. Women can and do manipulate men, sometimes with sex. Women in power can be predators to children and teens. I’ll have the talk with your sister about being a good woman, but right now I’m focused on you, so I hope you’re still listening.
They say nice guys never get the girl. They do, they just don’t get the wrong girl. I hope you can experience the very best this life has to offer. This can only happen when you honor the humanity and spirit of another person. Being a good man can be harder than you think, but I have faith in you.
But just in case, I’ve invested our life savings into an app that would make my face pop up like a hologram every time you consider making a stupid decision that could hurt you or another person. It may ruin your college years. I’m sorry in advance.
And one last thing, my love, if you’re not in to girls, I love you and am happy for you just the same. Those details are another open letter for another time, though.
Enjoy college, kid. I know I did.