My 12-year-old Brother Understands the Meaning of Consent

Thoughts on #HeforShe Q&A, “How would your life be different if safety wasn’t an issue?”

While I was a student at UVA, I had to travel every weekend from Charlottesville to Washington D.C. and back. I was lucky enough to share multiple rides with fellow Wahoo students. On one of those many occasions however, I was on a two-hour drive with a Trump supporter. As someone who was not politically well versed in economic policies, I asked him to lay out the reasons why he believed that Trump should become the next president. As predicted, he talked about the Republican stance on taxation; excessive taxation hinders the country’s economic growth etc… etc… He opposed Bernie Sanders’ tax plan, to the point of calling him “the Hitler one” for being a socialist. Then his argument grew to self-serving biases when I breached on the topic of racial division. At that time Trump had already made it clear how he wants to “build a wall” and “deport illegal immigrants” which he (Trump supporter) tried to justify as “not a dislike for foreigners” since Trump’s wife was a foreign national herself.

Then, I asked his opinion on how Trump has often publicly insulted, belittled and sexualized women — before and during his run for presidency. To my surprise, he jumped to the topic of rape. This was when I became completely alert to everything he said.

“Women should guard themselves in public”

He said that we cannot possibly create a safe environment for women because rape is not preventative. A man with the intention of raping a woman knows that he’s committing an act of violence. He knows that what he’s doing is wrong but still chooses to do so and knows that he can get away with it.

I argued how education and the right upbringing can make a difference. If boys are educated on this issue at an early age, if they grow up with fathers and brothers who respect women, then rape is something that we can prevent. Then he said, “You can’t possible talk about rape to little boys. Would you talk about rape to your brother?”

“Oh yeah, absolutely.”

So I did.

I asked my twelve-year-old brother what he thought about rape. He told me it’s disgusting. I asked him why, and he said, “it’s in the definition.” Believe me or not. Kids these days are way smarter, and more than often my brother has surprised me with how he thinks. So I asked my twelve-year-old brother what he meant by this, and he said, “Basically, rape is sexual intercourse on somebody without consent, You mean sexual intercourse on women?” “No! Not women, but the opposite gender, or even the same gender. It’s not just limited to women, even men get raped… but it’s not that common….” My brother went on, he’s quite a talker, but I decided to stop him. I got the idea. He understood consent. He understood the meaning and importance of consent, and most importantly, he is growing up to be a kid who looks at a person for who they are, and not their gender nor race.

I’m writing this feeling more optimistic for social change, and relieved that my brother’s growing up well. I was right about believing that we can create a safer environment, that we can change certain perspectives on rape. Many organizations on gender equality have succeeded and will continue to succeed on their mission, not just here in the U.S. but in other countries where patriarchy still remains relentlessly executed because of acquiescence and economic poverty.

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