As the father of three teenage boys, I’m trying to teach them to uphold the dignity of women in the way they talk and act, and surprisingly, this presidential election is giving us a lot to talk about.
I have no intentions of making a political statement, and I’m not writing this to demonize Donald Trump, but as a parent, his response to the sexually abusive leaked audio is, perhaps, one of the most troubling events in this whole election season.
Because downgrading and accommodating the objectification of women as “locker room” banter and “just words” is beyond dangerous.
And my boys are watching.
In response to the past week’s events, this is what I want my three teenage sons to know about locker room talk. I hope they take it to heart above the example of the GOP presidential hopeful.
1. Words matter
Words are never just words. Words are powerful beyond your imagination. They have the potential to start and end wars, provide healing, make and break agreements, expose the darkness and change lives. Words are never just limp letters hanging in the air. They are power. They are control. They are alive. You can’t shrug off your words as unimportant or superfluous. They matter. They’re part of you.
2. Your location is never permission for objectifying women
The whole concept of “locker room” talk is based on a lie. A lie that says it’s OK to talk about women in lewd and sexual ways because this specific geographic location is a free zone. What’s said in there doesn’t count and is permissible because, Hey, it’s just the guys! Wrong. Your location is never an excuse for denigrating women or sexually objectifying them for your amusement.
3. Private conversations reveal inner character
What you say, think, and do in private is the manifestation of your character. The Bible says out of the heart man speaks. You can’t pretend like your words aren’t intertwined with your heart; because they are. Completely. What you say behind closed doors, on a bus or in the quiet of your room is who you are. You are not the person you manufacture on social media or in public. You are the sum of your words and actions in private. Remember this. It will serve you well.
4. God calls you to uphold the dignity of women
God wants you to treat women as sisters, mothers, and daughters. If you’re ever confused about where the line is for locker room talk–this is it. This is the litmus test: Would you say it about your mom or sister? Would you want to hear other men talk about your mom, sister or daughter that way? If the answer is heck-to-the-no! then say something. Hold yourself and those around you to a higher standard than culture sets. That’s how you shed light in the darkness.
5. Listening to locker room talk is the same as consent
Know this: You’re one of the good guys. When you hear friends talking about women in sexually-charged and abusive ways–say something and call it out. Be brave. I don’t want you to fight, but if you ever get mixed up in a scuffle for standing up for what’s right, we’ll, let’s just say that’s a freebie. But protect your teeth–those braces were not cheap!
6. There will be men in leadership who let you down
Right now you’re watching one of the top two candidates for the most powerful office in the world get it wrong. But that doesn’t make it right. And if I’m honest, there are times I’ve gotten it wrong too. And probably times I’ll fail in the future. That’s not an excuse for you. You will have bosses, teachers, even friends and family members who blow it in this area. Remember, your guide is God’s word, and that supersedes every example–potential presidents and even dads.
In closing, I want you to know that you won’t be perfect. Chances are you will say something stupid or go along with the crowd at some point, but I pray you have the wisdom and humility to call yourself out. There is forgiveness. One time doesn’t make you a jerk, but a consistent and continual manifestation of denigrating women does.
And you were not called to be a jerk, but a disciple. Speak well. Love well. And treat women as Jesus did–as the powerful, beautiful and amazing human beings they are.