Last summer two teenaged football players in Steubenville, Ohio got a 16 year old girl beyond drunk, carried her from party to party, and repeatedly raped and abused her in front of many consenting friends. So “cool” was this, they joked and bragged about it in texts and on the web. They were recently tried and convicted, and the verdict has divided a small football-mania town, many of whom are furious at losing their star football players.
How we raise our boys has all to do with how entitled they feel as they grow to manhood—how entitled they feel to hold power over girls and weaker boys, how entitled they feel to do as they please. Our culture is steeped in male entitlement, so we must work hard to support our sons in ways that our culture does not.
One of my proudest moments in my son’s life came when he was playing soccer against another town. My son was goalie and that day every ball sailed past him into the net. When the boys switched sides at half-time, a boy from the other team taunted him with, “You suck as goalie.” My son came back with, “Yeah, I guess I’m having a bad day.” Many parents would have felt embarrassed, wishing he had retaliated, even punched the other kid. I was proud that he was not ashamed of his temporary weakness. I was proud that he didn’t see his poor performance as a failure. I was proud that he knew how to deflect a hurtful comment and stand down a bullyish remark while standing incredibly tall. The wind was knocked out of the other boy’s bravado. My son came out the stronger of the two.