Long before my daughter began dating, I had guys joking about how I should greet her prospective boyfriends. Sitting in the living room cleaning a shotgun was a popular idea. People who knew me a little better suggested I should sharpen one of the swords instead.
I also have a teenage son. Funny thing — not once has anyone suggested that when he brings home a prospective girlfriend, I should greet her with shotgun and/or sword in hand.
Heteronormative assumptions about my kids aside, the idea that I’d have to intimidate a girl into not taking advantage of my son seems absurd on the surface, right? But when it comes to our daughters, we’re flooded with “jokes” about how we have to use implicit threats of violence to keep the boys in line.
I keep getting into arguments where guys tell me sexism isn’t a thing anymore. That girls are just as violent and abusive as boys. That there’s no epidemic of rape and violence carried out by men and boys against women and girls.
Often in the same paragraph, these guys will talk about the horrible violence they’d inflict on anyone who raped or abused their daughters. Not once have I seen them express the same protectiveness about their sons.
It quickly becomes clear what they really believe. They know, deep down, that the threat of sexual violence against their daughters is real. That girls and women are disproportionately targeted. That one of the biggest threats to women — if not the biggest threat — is men.
This is not to say that men and boys aren’t assaulted as well. They are, and it happens far too often. Likewise, women absolutely can be abusers. But statistically, women are far more likely to be attacked, and men are far more likely to be the attackers.
And every time I hear someone joking about getting the guns out to greet the daughter’s new boy, I hear someone who knows how bad things are for girls and women in this society. Even if they don’t want to admit it.