I spend a great deal of time talking to kids and teenagers - mostly boys - about rape culture, gender-based violence, sexual assault and exploitation. It's my job. So although I am not yet a parent, I think it is fair to say that I have a few useful things to contribute to the recent discussion surrounding the Patrick Kane investigation. These are not often easy conversations to have. I am always a little uncomfortable with them, but knowing it will be uncomfortable makes me comfortable enough to move forward.
The following is the transcript of how I would imagine the conversation between me and my son would unfold. Feel free to use it as a template for discussing these issues with your own children. It should be noted that I am making the assumption that my son would be an avid hockey fan like me, and that, like me, Patrick Kane would be one of his favorite players.
Dad: Hey, it's Sundae Monday. Let's go get ice cream.
Son: Ok. You're buying.
Dad: Always do. (A trip to the ice cream shop ensues.) So your favorite hockey player has been in the news lately. What do you think about that?
Son: I don't know. I guess I don't really think much about it.
Son: Because I don't want to.
Dad: Why? Because he's your favorite player?
Son: Yeah. I mean he helped the Hawks win three Stanley Cup championships in the past six years. When was the last time that happened? Gretzky? He's been MVP. He's exciting to watch. Plus he's super loyal to Chicago and the fans. He took less money so that he could stay on the team.
Dad: He's an awesome hockey player for sure. Let me ask you, what do you think it would be like to hang out with him for a day?
Son: Pretty sweet.
Dad: Be specific, though. If Patrick Kane invited you to come over to his house, what would you want to do?
Son: Well, first I would want it to be the day that he gets to have the Cup, and we could make a giant ice cream sundae in it. Then play NHL 15 on his PS4. I bet he's got a huge TV. I'd be the Blackhawks, and I'd want him to be Buffalo since he's from there. Plus they had the worst record, so maybe I could win. Then, I don't know. Maybe he's got a pool, so we could go swimming at his house.
Dad: Sounds like you think it'd be a fun time.
Son: Yeah, it would be.
Dad: You wouldn't be scared about a high-stick to the face, or a check from behind?
Son: No! That's why we'd play the video game, see?
Dad: Right, that makes sense. So what do you think the two women who Patrick Kane invited over were expecting?
Dad: There's no right or wrong answer here, bud. I'm just asking what you think.
Son: I don't know.
Dad: Do you think they were expecting him to hurt them?
Son: This is America, dad. Innocent until proven guilty. We don't know that he actually raped her.
Dad: So, do you think she's lying about what happened to her?
Dad: Do they talk about consent in your sex ed classes as school?
Son: What do you mean? 'No means no'?
Dad: Well, that's a small part of it. It's the obvious part of it. The part that I would hope you would already understand and not need someone to explain. If someone doesn't say 'no' does that mean that they are consenting?
Son: What do you mean?
Dad: Can you think of a time that you have a hard time saying 'no' to someone?
Son: Yeah, you! Every time you ask 'would you like to help me...'?
Dad: Wait, you mean you don't like... I'm kidding. Why do you have a hard time saying no when I ask you to help me with stuff at home?
Son: Because you're my dad.
Dad: So why might a young woman at Patrick Kane's house have a hard time saying no to him?
Son: Because he's Patrick Kane.
Dad: Right, but be specific.
Son: He's famous. He's a really amazing hockey player. He's won the Stanley Cup three times.
Dad: Sure. Why else?
Son: He's maybe stronger than she is? Or he had too much to drink?
Dad: He's stronger than I am, for sure. I'd be physically intimidated by him. And where did this happen, again?
Son: Oh, they're in his house.
Dad: That house you imagined would be amazing to spend the day in, right?
Son: Right. I get it, dad.
Son: I get what you're trying to say.
Dad: What do you think I'm trying to say?
Son: That Patrick Kane is a terrible person.
Dad: No, that's not what I'm saying at all. I love watching Patrick Kane play hockey, and if he invited me over to his house, I'd expect to have a great time. We don't know what happened in that house. But we need to believe women, even those who say a famous athlete hurt them. What I'm trying to get you to think about is what does consent look like for you? How do you know that your partner likes what's going on?
Son: You're going to make me answer this aren't you?
Dad: Yes. And preferably before the ice cream melts.
Son: I will know because I'll ask.
Dad: What will you ask?
Son: Do you like this?
Dad: And then what will happen?
Son: Ugh... hopefully she says 'yes'.
Dad: What if she doesn't say anything at all?
Son: Then we'll stop.
Son: Ugh, dad! I don't know! Play video games or something! And I'll let her decide which one. Is that ok with you?
Dad: That's sounds fine with me.