Any conversation about sexual assault should include clear definitions of consent. Unless a woman clearly says “yes” it means “no”. There are no grey areas here. Even if someone is drunk, “yes” means “no”. Your son should understand that when alcohol or drugs are involved, anyone who is intoxicated is not legally capable of consenting to sexual acts.
No one is ever entitled to sex with someone. That includes a spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend. You don’t earn sex from being a “nice” guy, spending money on a date or because it’s what everyone else appears to be doing. Sex should always be a mutual decision that both parties make on an ongoing basis.
Intimidation around rape is not exclusive to the victim; it often involves bystanders and those who know the rapist. Let your son know that it is never acceptable to remain silent. Let him know you’ll always support him and, if he’s ever in a situation where there is an imminent danger to another person, he can call you, another parent, a police officer, or another person of authority.
Encourage your son to think for himself and not be swayed by misogynistic behaviour. Make it clear that any person’s worth is not derived from sexual experiences or conquests: remind him that what is popular is not always right. If you acknowledge these misconceptions by pointing them out, he will recognize these as unacceptable as he continues to encounter them.
Rape thrives on many forms of prejudice including racism, homophobia, and religious intolerance. Working toward a more just society where all are treated equally and with respect is a step in the right direction. Encourage your son to recognize oppression and injustice in all forms, so that he has a solid moral foundation.
Practise what you preach. Be aware of what your son is learning as he observes you. What you do or say and how you interact with others, can show him the role of sex and relationships in his life. If necessary, take the time to reflect on your own behaviour before talking about this with your son.
Fatherhood comes in many forms. Same sex fathers, trans dads, agender fathers, uncles, grandfathers, step-dads, big brothers - we all love our children and want them to learn, grow, and explore the world around them in the safest most inclusive environment we can provide.