I never expected to be sitting at the kitchen bench close to midnight having a conversation with my 17-year-old son about blowjobs. It was just an ordinary Wednesday night. We'd both come home late after various commitments and connected, as we try to do every night, to talk about our day and what was on the agenda for tomorrow.
But these are not ordinary times. At every turn there is a story about sexual assault, a crisis of consent, from our schools to the corridors of power.
And so it's time for some extraordinary conversations. And these have to begin at our kitchen benches, parents and children connecting and raising some issues that aren't particularly easy for anyone.
Because none of this is easy.
I'm buoyed by these open conversations with my son. It's always been important to me to let him know that I will listen. Or I might have some answers, or at least a different perspective, about something. Sometimes I talk to him about things that make him squirm with embarrassment. But we're talking.
We're at the kitchen bench talking about the scandal rocking Sydney's private schools - schools not unlike his own. Hundreds of young women have come forward to reveal they were sexually assaulted while students, by their male peers.
It happens, mum, he tells me. I'm not that shocked. And while it's easy to fall back on the 'not all men' line, my heart soars when he tells me there have been times when he and the good young men he calls his friends have stepped in and stopped it from happening. Or put a drunk friend in an Uber and sent them home. Or accompanied a female friend to a party, even if they weren't invited, just to keep an eye on her because something didn't feel quite right.
I think he's listening.
And I know the message is coming from school as well. There was an email this week that addressed this "crucial educative time in relation to culture, respect and consent". I have a lot of time for my son's principal. Boys need men in their lives who may not be like them, but have a life experience worth listening to. Our principal spoke about how finding the solution begins with respect.
"It's about treating others always as you would wish to be treated if in their place ... if you truly understand respect then you cannot demean others with casual slurs, dismissive signals, unwanted attention, intrusive touch, invasion of privacy, persistent texting or on-sharing of images. If you want respect, you give respect."
It's not about imagining women are your daughters or your sisters or your mother. It's about treating people like you would like to be treated. That message has been around for a long long time. We need to heed it again.
Many principals from the Sydney schools have turned it back on parents. The King's School headmaster Tony George warned Australia faced a reckoning over the harm alcohol, porn and parties inflict on children. Trinity Grammar headmaster Tim Bowden wrote to parents warning them not to allow students to throw drunken parties in secluded spaces.
I agree with them in the sense that we, as parents, shouldn't expect our schools to take the full burden of sex education. But many parents expect schools to do so many things, it's much easier to not have hard conversations at home, hoping some personal development or health class might do it all for you. We can't ask them to do that.
We need to step back from the overwhelm of everything that is happening, from this latest school scandal, from rape allegations, from the rage Grace Tame's harrowing story has provoked, and remember our children need us.
They need us to listen, they need us to talk to them, even though that might be the last thing they think they need, they need us to drag them home sometimes, or stop them from going out, but most importantly they need us to be there when they get it wrong. Because they will get it wrong. Or when it goes wrong through no fault of their own. That will happen too often, too.
On the eve of International Women's Day I'm reminded one of the most important jobs I'm doing is raising a son. Raising him to be a good man, raising him with respect so he knows respect, raising him to be open and honest and kind, raising him to know he has friends and family there for him at every turn.
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