A Letter to Our Sons: On Locker Room Talk

Preface: On the blog I have frequently written Letters to my girls, but have yet to do so with my son. I’ve written him letters, things about his adoption, and other sentiments, but so many elements of his story should remain his to tell and then there are other letters that haven’t felt quite right to hit publish until his adoption is finalized. So it brings me great pain and sadness that this is his first public letter. But I’m publishing this one, because it’s important and it's not just for him. I wrote it with him in mind, but truly it’s for all of our sons. 

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This weekend the topic of “Locker Room Talk” has been all across the news because a man, who is an actual nominee for the President of the United States, was recorded saying some incredibly inhumane things about women. He talked about women like they were his to enjoy and then toss away afterwards. He talked about using his power to abuse women (call it what you want, grabbing a woman’s body parts without her permission is abuse). And to top it all off, the vulgar language he used to describe a woman’s body was enough to make your grandmother blush. And then he excused his behavior, by calling it “Locker Room Talk.” 

Instead of lecturing you on the statistics of sexual assault (which I highly recommend you research), I have a personal story to share with you instead. 

When I was in college I took a summer job working for an extremely affluent and well-connected family. A week or two in, a married man with power started to make advances at me. At first they were subtle and I questioned if I was just imagining it, but sadly time has taught me that the pit in my stomach is usually right about these things. I don’t really want to talk about all the details of his multiple advances on here, but I want to share one brief story. It was the moment I realized I wasn’t overreacting and that my gut was 100% right; it was also the day I quit my job. 

I remember it like it was yesterday, the day I realized I was actually in danger. 

I was on the clock and answered a phone call for the man described above (it wasn’t my job to do so, but he asked me to as a favor because… well, he frequently found excuses to ask me to work for him). The man on the line was a nationally known business man who I had never met in person, and I was multi-tasking so I placed him on speaker phone while I was waiting for my boss to pick up (side note: no, it wasn't Trump but someone else a lot like him). It makes me sick to my stomach now, because I was totally geeking out about who I had just spoken with. I was across the room doing my actual job when my boss picked up the phone in another room and before I could get over there to hang up, I overheard the following, “Is that the hot piece of ass you have working for you and have you f&$^#@ that b&%$! yet?”  I dropped what I was doing (quite literally) and ran over to the phone but before I hung up I heard my boss confirm his intentions with extremely crude language and I heard the other guy ask if he could have a turn with me after he was done.  

Trump would call it “locker room talk;” I call it intent for sexual assault.

So I resigned that day and made arrangements to get my HOPA out of there as fast as I could. When I arrived at my parents home without a job for the summer, I was as skinny and as stressed as I had ever been. The reality of what I escaped laid heavy on me. But fortunately for me, my story turned out well. My community and family, although they didn’t know all the details of what had happened, they loved me well and I knew I had a safe space to escape to. 

And please let this reality sober you for a moment: There are many stories like mine, but not all of them have the same ending. 

Now, I know you have a hard time imagining your mother, now tired and aged, the object of “locker room talk.” But that’s just it, every woman you look at has the potential to be someone’s mother one day. She’s someone’s daughter, someone’s sister. She’s adored by family and friends. But who she is loved by doesn’t define her worth; her mere humanity demands it. She is worthy of respect and love, because she is one of God's precious creations. He made her in His image like He made you in His image, like He made us all. That alone is the foundation of why we treat all humans with dignity and respect. There are a many other good reasons why we do so too, but until you understand that you won't fully understand the "why" to all the rest.

So here’s the thing, I’m not the mom who is sticking my head in the sand saying that you and your buddies will never find a woman attractive.  I know that there will come a day, when you’re in the car with your friends or you’re at the mall, and someone is going to say something incredibly offensive about a woman. And as your mom, I am compelled to give you some advice.

Don’t be that guy. 

Be the guy who says, “Hey, dude, that is someone’s daughter, and yes, she is really attractive, but please don’t talk about her like that in front of me.” 

Be the guy who is willing to take a few jabs from his friends in order to protect the dignity of another.

Be a man who sees women as equal, brilliantly gifted members in our society. 

Be like your Papaw and Gdaddy, who have loved your grandmas so well over the years and have cared for the women in this family.

Be like your Dad, who has taught you how to love and see people like Jesus sees them. 

And mostly, when all earthly examples fail you (because none of us are perfect), be like Jesus, who loved and fought for women in every city he went to. 

But whatever you do, don’t be like Trump. “Locker Room Talk” isn’t “just words” like Trump would like us to imagine.  Words are so important. They are windows into our very souls. And when we disrespect a group of humans with our words, our actions will always follow suit in time.  There isn’t a shadow of doubt in my mind that had I stayed at my job that summer, I could have become a victim of an attempted sexual assault.

So when the time comes, and trust me when I tell you that one day you will be faced with the choice of what kind of guy you will be, I want you to imagine your mom. Imagine me, 21 years old, at a dinner table with a man who keeps filling up my drink when he thinks I'm not looking in order to get me drunk so he could take advantage of me. Imagine me rejecting gifts from a married man twice my age, repeatedly. Imagine me awkwardly avoiding advances and weird physical contact. Imagine a man using his power and prestige to control me in my job. Now, use your imagination and think of the crude words he used when he described what he wanted to do to me to his buddy on the phone. 

You have a choice. 

Don’t be that guy. Don’t ever be that guy. 

And while we’re at it… Don’t vote for him either. 

Much love,

Mom 

Posted on October 10, 2016 and filed under Letters to My Sons.