The dramatic recital of a poem called “Exes”, by Jessica Romoff and Mila Cuda, communicates a powerful message on the lack of awareness among young boys on the importance of respect and correct sexual conduct in romantic relationships. It hit me right in the feels, and we’re interested in how big this issue actually is in our poll below.
The poem is structured roughly into two halves, one telling a story through phone dialogue, and the other explaining the message. In part one, the poets have recreated, or created, a series of messages and calls between a teen girl and teen boy in a romantic relationship. The two girls demonstrate the increasing toxicity of a romantic relationship, by characterising possessiveness on the male’s side (right), as the girl develops a friendship with another boy, emotionally distancing herself from her partner’s abuse, which includes constantly, and seemingly the only emotional involvement, messaging her asking to meet up late at night for sexual rendezvous, where she tries to refuse, but feels pressured to oblige.
The conversation becomes more and more heated, as the male’s responses to the girl slowly detaching herself from the situation become suicide-threatening and aggressive, forcing her to stay in the relationship despite his ill treatment of her.
“We are taught to swallow our protests in exchange for his apology” – Jessica Romoff & Mila Cuda
In the second half, the girls turn to face the audience from having stood back to back, symbolising an unproductive, unloving conversation and relationship ending. They explain how girls are taught to accept possessiveness, harassment, and sexual abuse, getting nothing in return – and we are stuck thinking that this is love.
In response to their words, my mind focused in on a common theme – an intertwining of what is happening in current events, relating the problems to having been led by men – who are not all corrupted, for the record, combined with the roll-in of a third wave of feminism, characterised by a demand to our men to treat women with respect. However, in that demand, there may be a message about sexual liberty, and equality on a higher plain.
The current political issues regarding violence and immorality can be boiled right down to the individual families’ responsibilities in teaching their children about relationships. We cannot rely on the education system to teach our kids everything – in fact, I often feel I lack life skills in comparison to academic skills due to a lack of focus on these in modern education. Thankfully, both men and women are speaking up about now being a time to re-evaluate our morals, so that our sons will not grow up to be, dare we say it, ‘Trumps’, and nor will our daughters grow up to accept being manipulated.
The girls recite a line which suggests that men are not taught that they do not deserve something which does not belong to them, implying a reference to the importance of teaching them about respect for women. Saying that men confuse women’s bodies for their “midnight snack” is a suggestion to interpret the message as an encouragement for us to change the way we raise our boys.
It’s time we educate our sons how to behave towards women who are not their mothers – don’t just teach your daughters to walk the streets in fear, or make them take self defence classes; if you, a parent to a son, fail to teach your sons this, another family’s daughter may suffer. If you are a parent to boys: you have the biggest responsibility in maintaining the dignity of our women, and the morals of our men.
No faith, if not self-chosen, and deeply well-interpreted according to situational morals of a constantly changing time, will teach your children these values. No child will learn without instruction. This is how it works: a child is a sponge, which has to trust what it is taught in the early years by observing, copying, and following orders. As we get older, we learn to question these things because we do not process information as efficiently as we used to – so it is up to us as parents to set good examples.
Don’t let your sons do what they want without repercussions, whilst teaching your daughters to act nice and please everyone, or what is described in this poem will happen. Parents will let ‘boys be boys’, thereby encouraging girls not to react. This is the start of a culture where we accept injustices on only one gender’s part.
It is the part that must change which holds the power to cause it, as is it the responsibility of those in power to be role models. We cannot force change on a massive scale, we can only encourage, speak out, and teach before it is too late. It’s time.
The poll is currently not being published for sensitivity reasons.
If you’ve been affected by sexual misconduct or rape, contact Scotland’s Rape Crisis Centre at: 08088 01 03 02