Thursday, August 30, 2012

Strippers, Maxim and porn – you suck. {Part 2}



After part one of this post last week, I had several engaging discussions with real life friends and bloggy friends. The support and encouragement poured in. I deeply appreciate all the comments and emails in which you shared your perspectives and stories.

A common theme in these discussions was how we raise boys in a world where women are dehumanized and objectified? How do we raise our boys to respect women? To not feel entitled to women’s bodies? To be better men than the men around them?

Many of us agreed that it starts with the values established in the home and the examples set by the parents. Let me tell you a little about how this went down at my house when I was growing up.


My mom was stricter than most of my friends’ parents. Many of her rules frustrated me back then, but now I totaly understand.

I couldn’t wear make-up outside the house until I was thirteen (although I did try to sneak some mascara on a few occasions).

I couldn’t call boys until was sixteen (although I did everything in my power to find loopholes in this one).

I was in high school before I was finally allowed to watch R-rated movies (although I watched a few at friends’ houses).

I was in college before I uttered a cuss word in front of my mother on purpose (although my friends and I thought we were so cool cussing up a storm when no adults could hear us).

I never left the house in some of the barely-there outfits that young girls wear today. (Luckily, I grew up in the grunge era, when we wore flannel shirts over more flannel shirts, baggy jeans and hiking boots, so I didn’t even try to break this rule.)

Aside from the few occasions I was given sips of wine coolers at family functions, I wasn’t allowed to drink alcohol. (Although I did go to one party my senior year of high school and drank a little too much.)

Sometimes I got caught breaking the rules. Sometimes I didn’t. But when I did get caught, there were consequences.

When I became an adult, my mom and I had an interesting conversation about her rules. She knew she wouldn’t find out every time I broke them. She told me, “But when you didn’t get caught, I wanted to make sure you knew you were getting away with something.”

That really resonated with me. Many of my friends’ parents let them cuss and drink and all that stuff at home because “They’re going to do it anyway, so why not? I’d rather them do it here.” My mom took a very different approach. She wanted me to know that the values in our home were different than those in the world outside of it.  

I tell you all of this for a reason.

I want the values in my home to be different, too. I don’t want my son to stumble across porn or adult magazines and realize that those items belong to his parents. I know I can’t shelter him from that garbage forever, but I want my home to be a safe place from it. I didn’t like how I felt as a child finding porn in my friend's bathroom, and I don’t want Quinn to feel that way in his own home.

(And after a little therapy, I realized that I want to feel safe from that in my own home, too, even as an adult.)

But how do I create safety without over-sheltering him? There has to be a healthy balance that teaches him to be better than the world, yet doesn’t create so much curiosity that it has the opposite effect.

I had a fabulous conversation about this with Sherilin of Laughing My Abs Off, and she said it perfectly:


I think one of the biggest things I do differently as a parent is that I try to inform [my daughter] about anything that's interesting or naughty or mysterious to her. If you take the mystery away and open up some communication on the topic, it removes the sneaky draw of those things. The kid is informed, and it doesn't have to be a big deal that whispers to them in the dark.


Beautifully said, Sherlin!

Quinn will have a healthy, normal curiosity when he’s older. He might hide a magazine under his mattress or visit an adult website. The easiest thing to do would be to look the other way and not talk about it. It would be an embarrassing conversation for both us, and he’s going to do it anyway, and boys will be boys, and blah blah blah…

… but when he doesn’t get caught, I want him to know he’s getting away with something, that his parents stand for something better than what the world stands for. He won’t have those values unless we have the tough conversations. He’ll grow up to feel entitled to women’s bodies just like so many other men.

So the conversations will be had, without shame or judgment.

And probably more importantly, Hubs and I will be his examples with our own behavior. SDL reposted this list of 28 Rules for Fathers of Sons by Diapers & Daisies, and the first one, I believe, is the most important. She says a father is to love his son’s mother because his son “will learn to love like you love.”

Men who respect women raise men who respect women.

Period.

(Call me a judgmental ass, but I honestly don’t know how men with daughters can visit strip clubs. I just… I can’t wrap my brain around that… it fucking baffles me. What if that was your little girl on that pole, dude?? WTF?? Sorry if that offends anyone, but I seriously don’t get it.... Anyway, deep breath...)

I don’t know if this entitlement mentality in our society will ever change. All I can do is try to raise a son who will someday rise above it and be better than the men around him.





16 comments:

  1. 100% agree!!! I have a 21yr old daughter and a 2 year old son. My daughter is amazing, I did that. I tried all her life to follow the same things you mentioned and it does work. I just love the 28 rules for men with sons and will share it with my husband. We can do this one boy at a time.... :)

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    1. Thanks for sharing your experience, Tracy. I'm glad your daughter turned out so well, although I'm not at all surprised. :) I have high hopes for your little guy as well. He has two amazing parents.

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  2. Laughing at the grunge era. Me, too! Big flannel shirts and OVERALLS! Sometimes a cute and rather small top UNDER the overalls, but it was covered by the overalls and a flannel shirt worn like a jacket.

    I do think things work better when nothing is really treated like a bad or dirty thing, but discussed openly. I was a good kid, but my parents gave me a lot of freedom- which I used responsibility. And then I went to a conservative Christian college with stricter rules than I was used to- things forbidden that I probably wouldn't have otherwise done, but I felt stifled and rebelled. Not entirely the same thing as what you are talking about here, but it's still something that I keep in mind with my own kids.

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    1. I had that same outfit! Except sometimes my overalls had only one strap buckled and the other one hung down. I think I saw it in a music video and copied it. :)

      I completely agree that being over-strict fuels rebellion. The best we can do is talk openly and hope that our kids make the right decision when it counts.

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  3. when the parents are willing to openly discuss the uncomfortable topics like they're no big deal, i think that goes a loong way toward keeping our kids from making bad choices. and if we're living lives that are above reproach, that will present the example that it is doable and not a miserable lifestyle, i think our kids are much more likely to follow that example.

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    1. I like that - "doable and not miserable." You're just so stinkin' quotable, Sherilin! :) I 100% agree!

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  4. Melissa, I so 100% agree - and unfortunately, it is true the other way around. Sadly, little boys who grow up watching their father be mistreat their mother, will probably grow up the same way. But I have every confidence that your baby Q will be a wonderful, perfect gentleman!

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    1. Thanks, Lisa. I think he will, too. My Hubs is a good role model. You're right - boys learn to treat women the way their fathers treat women, whether that's good or bad.

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  5. Great post!! So very true. It goes both ways...little girls grow up to find men that treat them like their father treated their mother, well more often than not. And I still can't swear in front of my mother. :)

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    1. Thanks so much for visiting! I completely agree with your statement about daughters. So much parenting responsibility is placed on mothers, it seems, yet sons and daughters require strong male role models in their lives as well. Glad you came by!

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  6. I'm clapping! I believe that we, as a society, are becoming immune to the pornographic nature of TV, mags, commercials, music videos, etc. I don't even consider myself to be a prude. But, I think about things so differently when I know I have a good man to raise.

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    1. We ARE becoming immune! You're so right. I saw the cover of some tabloid at the store and it was all about Kim Kardashian's supposed threesome. Um, seven year olds can read! "Mommy, what's group sex?" Yeah, that's a question you want to hear from your second grader. Awesome. Anyway... I'm also NOT a prude, I'm just very private. And I'm a MOM. :) Thanks so much for coming by!

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  7. First, great part 2. So true that keeping open and non-judgemental communication is key. Also, BE the example. You can't talk to your son about treating women with respect if you're sneaking peeks at the online porn behind your wife's back. On this matter, I think a lot of men should watch the movie "Fireproof." It's a very Christian movie about finding your way back to God - and saving a marriage in the process. But that religious aspect I leave to the individual; I don't mention to push God down people's throats. However, the male character in the movie has an issue with porn, and how that is handled in the movie is in line with what you're saying here. How it makes his wife feel, how it affects their relationship, etc. It illustrates the point quite well.
    And it's so true, my husband is a guy and guys are so so visual. But his vision changed once he had 2 daughters of his own. Suddenly, it didn't seem so harmless anymore. And I think that is the key: men have to stop thinking this kind of thing is a harmless past time.

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    1. Absolutely! It's definitely NOT harmless, and I think it's awesome that your hubs has a new perspective. The movie sounds interesting. I'm not an over religious person anymore, but the values are still very strong in me. I'll check it out. Thanks!

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  8. Another great post! It’s so true that we learn what we live. I've read that your same sex parent is your biggest role model in life. Kids are SMART. They see things you think that they don't "get" yet. They see it, and whether they "get it" yet or not, it's filed away and processed.

    I agreed with what Sherilin said too - if you take away the mystery of "naughty" things by being honest and straight forward in an age appropriate way, those things suddenly become way less attractive and enticing.

    I always had very specific ideas on how I wanted to parent my kids. Mostly it breaks down to leading by example. I am so not perfect, and I don’t claim to even know that what I’m doing is “right,” but it feels right when I see who my kids are becoming.

    I am by no means a prude, but I don't parade around in front of my kids in clothing that I wouldn't allow them to wear. I very rarely drink, I don't swear at them or around them (although I love to swear). I would never accept one of my kids swearing at me or in my presence, so I am really careful about what I say. I am opposed to "nudie" bars and magazines and stuff. I would never tell my husband that he couldn't partake in those things because I'm not HIS mom, but you know, he respects women! He doesn't believe that it's harmless, he believes that it's degrading. Maybe it's because he has 3 daughters, but honestly, he was never into that stuff. I'm kind of glad that I've never had to compete with a sexed up, unrealistic looking/acting women for my husband's attention. My son sees his dad being loving and respectful to his mom every day - even though I look nothing like those women. I'd like to think that he understands that real girls/women don't need to behave that way to get a man to love and want them.

    My husband and I don't really fight. He has never yelled at me - not once in over 16 years together. He believes that it's really disrespectful. We certainly have moments when we're pissed at each other, moments where we have heated discussions, but we don't have screaming fights. And you know, my kids don't yell and scream. They have their meltdowns, sure, but they don't stamp around like entitled little brats demanding and screaming at each other or us. That behavior has never been a part of their lives.

    My husband always carries my bags when we're shopping. Recently, just my son and I went school shopping and he automatically grabbed the bags after I checked out. Because it’s what he’s seen his entire life - his dad taking care of his mom, even in something as little as carrying a bag for a girl.

    Oh I could talk about this all day long, because I am long winded in general, but also because I have a lot of strong beliefs on this subject. I don't claim to have my shit together all the time as a parent, but I will say that I try really hard to be a good example. I believe that it is my JOB to raise these kids to be respectful, responsible people. That ‘s why I’m here. I CHOSE to be a mom, for this to be my job. At the end of the day, I want to be able to look back and be proud of how my kids turned out. It's a direct reflection on me and my husband.

    I'm writing down your AWESOME line: "Men who respect women raise men who respect women." That is perfect. Thanks Melissa - very thought provoking post. I have a funny feeling your little Q will grow up to be a really good man. :)

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    1. You can be long winded over here any time, Jessica. I love the dialogue, and I agree on all points. This IS our job as parents. And your Hubs sounds like a wonderful man! I love that your son is already following his great example. My Hubs isn't really into all that stuff either (or at least he says he isn't - I guess even the guys that are will still say that), but it's definitely not part of our lives. And I really appreciate that. Your kids are awesome because their parents are awesome. Sounds like you're doing a fabulous job and are great role models!

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