When A Boy Is Raped

There’s a shocking story in the national headlines involving rape and the NFL. But it’s not what most people presume when reading “rape” and “NFL” in the same sentence. This time it involves a 47-year-old, former NFL cheerleader and her sexual acts with a 15-year-old boy (Google for details). While we will let the judicial system determine guilt or innocence, we don’t have to wait on the court of public opinion. And that is just as shocking and sickening as the allegations themselves.

Overwhelmingly, from the articles in The Washington Post and Baltimore Sun to TMZ and People, comments include mind-numbing musings like:

  • “Where was she when I was 15?”
  • “luckiest kid in america [sic] —sex with this wild thing!!”
  • “No 15 year old boy has ever been raped by a woman. He got lucky. Real lucky. He’ll have fond memories the rest of his life.”

Those are just three examples of the type of (disgusting) comments that are prevalent in the stories. Some commentators state that the only reason a 15-year-old boy would come forward after being the “lucky” recipient of the lust of a “MILF” is that his own mother must be jealous. Clearly, the big, mean mom forced him to go to the police because every 15-year-old boy should appreciate what transpired. Some comments are far worse.

Let’s do a little exercise in word substitution. Let’s rewrite the headlines to include a 47-year-old priest and a 15-year-old boy. When these stories are in the news, do people post: “Where was this priest when I was 15?” Or, let’s make it about a 47-year-old-former linebacker and a 15-year-old girl. Still the luckiest kid in America?

No, in these situations, there is a massive public outcry against the alleged attacker and support groups are formed for the alleged victim. But not here, as we see suggestions that there is something wrong with the boy. Would we ever do the same to a young girl? Would anyone dare say that a young girl would be “lucky” to have a 47-year-old man perform a sexual act on her?

Discrimination against boys and young men can be blatant in area of sexual abuse, especially as it pertains to a situation where the female is the aggressor. None of this is about desire or attraction. Sexual assault is about power, dominance and control, regardless if the predator is male or female.

Anyone raising a teenager knows their emotions are an ever-changing spectrum. One minute making mature decisions, the next doing things that leave us, as parents, scratching our heads and wondering if their brain is developing at all. Add this to the implications of comments like those cited above, and we are left with one boy who, regardless of the outcome of the criminal trial, is forever scarred. Not only by what the alleged predator did, but also by people he doesn’t even know who have, out of ignorance and bravado, trivialized his situation simply because this is about a boy.  Let’s be clear: rape is rape.

Jean Maisano 

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Vote on Nov. 4!

A friend sent me a text today, “If it weren’t for Facebook, I’d have no idea we were having an election this year.”

At first, I thought she was kidding or making a statement about her feed being overrun by political posts.

But she went on to explain that she doesn’t watch a lot of television or get the local paper and most of her day is spent transferring kids from school to activities (read the Monster of Youth Sports here on Free Voter). Checking Facebook on her iPhone is an easy way to spend her waiting time. And, apparently, it’s where she’s learning about these off-year elections.

A few things interested me about this:

1. As a female voter living in a highly contested seat for NY State Senate, she said that she didn’t receive  mailings or phone calls. This is odd because many other people have stated just the opposite – too many calls and too much mail.

2. She also said that she likes the mailings and always reads them. Hmm. Go figure. So many people tend to complain about the mailings, not only the sheer volume of them, but also the content.  Maybe the whole world isn’t as cynical as I thought. Maybe people really do still read….

3. ….just not any local papers. This is a huge issue not just for political campaigns, but for everything that impacts our community.  The local paper used to be the hub. The source. The thing that bound the neighborhoods and created a sense of community.  It’s harder and harder to get the word out about issues or events (not just those of a political nature). So many wonderful community initiatives and resources go under-used and under-funded because the local paper is dying.  And no single online website is “the definitive” source the way the local paper used to be.

So, where does this leave us? Let’s go back to her original statement about Facebook. Can social media really be the new source?  It’s sort of terrifying, but it very well may be true. As someone who often posts or shares political information on Facebook, I have to admit that around election time, I become highly annoyed by the number of political posts as well as the tone of them. Don’t get me wrong: if you want to share facts and information, I’m good with that; I’m not good with the petty or mean posts that seem rampant.

Just today, I saw a post: “Vote Democrat. It’s better than the alternative.” What does that even mean? How is that a thoughtful commentary on what is really one of the most awesome and overwhelming rights we carry as Americans?  Should anyone blindly vote strictly for a party and not spend even a minute doing research on the issues? Let’s face it, each party has its own share of less-than-stellar candidates. Having a party affiliation doesn’t necessarily mean that the candidate subscribes to each and every doctrine of the party (but I suppose we are all naive enough to believe that if THE PARTY nominated the person, they must be good. If you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you). In the past elections of my husband, if people voted for his opponents strictly based on party affiliation they chose: a pedophile, a Democrat that was a hard-line right-to-lifer, and a man who, if you did a Google search on his name, would promptly direct you to mugshots.com.  Vote only for the party? I don’t think that’s always the wisest thing to do.  Actually, I can probably train my dogs to just fill in the circles across only one party line – it doesn’t take much intelligence.

That kind of only-one-way-is-right post is irresponsible, narrow-minded and shows that there’s no reasonable perspective left in American politics. It’s part of the concern about the connection between social media and politics. People will click and share a witty but thoughtless, utterly meaningless and most likely vastly untrue status update because it’s easier than actually spending the time to learn what’s going on.  Raise the bar. Have a debate. Talk issues, not parties or personalities.

Remember: you get the kind of government you deserve. The vote is in your hands. Use it wisely.

Jean Maisano

The Monster of Youth Sports

Parent on sidelines

The Race to Nowhere in Youth Sports is a great article that points out what most parents already know – youth sports are completely and totally out of control. From the time, to the money, to the pressure, to the travel, to the stress on young bodies that are still growing and developing, it’s a bunch of insanity . The realistic among us know that none of this will result in a college scholarship (ironically, there are more scholarships available for academics than athletics, but let’s not get bogged down in that little fact). Yet, who will be the one to pull their kid from the summer program?  No one. Because as the author of the article points out, we’re all afraid of making the choice that will ultimately leave our kid out. Out socially or out athletically. It’s out either way.

There are no more seasons for sports. There’s spring baseball and fall ball (and championships for both, of course). Lacrosse has literally become a year-round sport. CYO basketball isn’t where all the “real” players go – they’re all on AAU teams. Wanna play soccer? There’s rec, travel and then ELITE teams.  Soccer, too, isn’t just for fall – it’s spring and fall with winter indoor practices. Think summer is a time to take off? NO! There are summer leagues for everything including ice hockey (nothing says “summer” quite like being on an ice rink).  And if your kid wants to have fun on a club swim team, be prepared to be disappointed because all the “serious” swimmers are in the pool all year long. Even writing about it is exhausting and annoying.

But we have no one but ourselves to blame. After all, our peers are the coaches that are pushing for this specialization. We’re the ones posting the “championship” photos on Facebook and chronicling each and every pitch, tackle, kick or stroke out for the world to see. So how much of this is about the kid vs. being about us?  Is it about our kid being “great” or about showing the world how “great” of a kid we made? (This may be the subject of another blog, another day.)

And let’s not forget the money. Summer leagues, travel teams, elite clubs all cost — a lot. And then you and your family have to travel, stay at a hotel, eat in restaurants, buy from the vendors and visit the amusement parks that are all conveniently located near the site of the tournaments.  It all keeps the economy rolling. Youth sports, for better or worse, are big money for a multitude of reasons. So, I don’t see this going away anytime soon.

The one exception I will take with the author is that I think a lot of kids end up dropping out of sports BY high school, not in high school. Burn out. Injury. Yes, maybe. But at the end of the day, kids who are truly athletic will rise to the top because they have talent. Let’s face it, not all travel teams are created equal. Some are in place to merely capitalize on keeping kids playing (see the above paragraph on money).  Locally, we see this with boys lacrosse.  Football players, talented athletes who have never in their lives picked up a lax stick, go out for the team. Why? Because it’s great off-season conditioning for football, and they are talented athletes who can run fast and catch a ball (be it in their hands or in the mesh at the end of a stick). It’s not unfair. It’s reality. Coaches are going to put the best athletes on the team whether or not the kid has been playing since five years old.

Maybe all these different travel teams and specialty leagues are only putting off the inevitable. They’re like participation medals. The shiny treat that makes us all feel good. But let’s face it: all of our kids aren’t going to make the high school team.

And it makes me sad to think that my son may not play a sport in high school. My husband and I both have fond memories of being involved with our school beyond academics. But it won’t be the end of the world if he doesn’t – maybe he can find another group that’s of interest to him.  There doesn’t seem to be a lot of pressure to have been in elementary Model Congress in order to be on the high school club (or, wait, maybe there is, and we’re already behind!).

Until then, though, we’ll continue to run on the hamster wheel in the race to nowhere — because not running in that race is too lonely a spot.

Jean Maisano

Our Language S*cks.

bad lang

I’m not a prude. I’ve been known to drop an “occasional” f-bomb. But, I’m struck by how words which used to be considered, if not profane,  at least not acceptable for proper conversation pop up now in every day language.  The one that gets me the most is “s*cks.”  When did this become acceptable in casual conversation or for use on family television programming?

First, there was the TIDE commercial. You know the one with the two hipster parents of triplets folding laundry and the woman looks at the man and says, “You s*ck at folding.” The husband proceeds to give a good hearty laugh.  What was the purpose of using the word s*cks in that ad? Would people NOT buy TIDE if the woman simply gave an eye roll and said, “You’re really terrible at folding.”  Or, “Augh, just give me that” as she takes the toddler shirt from the husband. How much product did the word s*cks move? Was it critical to the ad? I don’t think so. In fact, and my Grammy Barno would be proud, I wrote Procter & Gamble to express my dislike of their ad. Not that they cared. They didn’t even send me a coupon.

Then there’s a company called “Your Marketing S*cks.” I hear ads for it on ESPN Radio when driving my son to school, and I see ads for it on television as well. Certainly, hearing off color language is not new to my almost-14-year-old son. And there are plenty of times when I’m driving a group of boys around town that I need to remind them all that the word s*cks is banned in my car.  But I question the marketing skills of a company that can’t come up with a better name than “Your Marketing S*cks.” The best this guy has to offer is using “shock” language? I’ll pass, thanks.

But Wednesday night sent me over the edge.  We like to watch “The Middle” on ABC.  Generally, the show is good, 8 PM fun about a quirky family struggling to make ends meet; they’re not beautiful; they’re not perfect; they’re not rich; their house is a mess; they know how to laugh and move on from the every day battles that many families face.  So, I was wildly disappointed when Patricia Heaton’s character described some customer service representatives as “a bunch of d-bags.” But she didn’t say “d-bags” she said the whole phrase. Ick. This is now a phrase that families should incorporate into their every day vernacular?

How is this OK during a prime-time show on a major network? When did we lower our decency standards so much that this is considered humor?  You can argue freedom of speech on this, and you’re right.  The writers of these shows and commercials have the right to use whatever language they want.

But just because we can do something, doesn’t mean we should. Let’s get back to respect. Let’s get back to using words that we would say in front of our grandmothers. Ones that can make us laugh without making parents cringe in front of their kids.

Jean Maisano

Pink Washing


Full disclosure:  I formerly worked for the American Cancer Society and one of my responsibilities was the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer event. Because of this, I probably have more pink in my wardrobe than what is socially acceptable for anyone over the age of 12. Most of my pinks, though, came from ACS.  I always felt rather secure in knowing which breast cancer group I was supporting because I worked there. I never thought much about all the pink merchandise in the stores.

Recently, I’ve been reading a lot about “pink washing” (Oh, how I love made up phrases! One of my greatest aspirations is to coin one of my own).  “Pink washing” is pretty much slapping a pink ribbon on something, marketing it during the month of October and allowing consumers to think they are supporting breast cancer in one way, shape or form.  In actuality, just because something is pink — or even has THE pink ribbon on it — doesn’t mean that it’s supporting a cause.  It’s the ultimate buyer beware!  “Think before You Pink” is a program by Breast Cancer Action and, basically, it is raising consumer awareness about cause marketing.  You can read all about their work here.

I’m NOT saying “don’t buy pink.”  Many pinks support  real groups doing wonderful work. Just do your research. But seeing all the articles about “pink washing” made me think that a backlash is on the horizon, and it made me a little sad.  It reminded me of the meteoric rise and subsequent loathing of the ALS ice bucket challenge.  Like a lot of other people, I grew tired of the “look at me” aspect of the whole ice bucket craze. But you can’t deny the results: reportedly $100 million was raised to combat this devastating disease. Annoying? Maybe. But this is very real money that will be put toward getting results.

So, if you must buy pink, make sure the charity is clearly identified.  Better yet, instead of buying another sweatshirt, take that money and make a donation directly to a breast cancer related group right in your community.  Dress in whatever color you want. Just don’t become a pink hater, because every penny that can go toward finding a cure or supporting a woman with breast cancer matters.

Making Strides Against Breast Cancer (find a walk near you or donate to your local walk)

Gilda’s Club (provides support  to women with any type of cancer)

Breast Cancer Research Foundation

Jean Maisano

Poor Middle Me


One of my high school teachers has taken to calling me a “liberal” when he sees me. Evidently, my volunteer efforts with animal rescue, which I proudly share through social media, gave me away. Saving dogs and cats from abuse, neglect and unnecessary euthanization makes me clearly left of center. Suggesting that mental health services receive greater coverage by insurance companies, also a wacky, leftist point of view. I support gay marriage, though I don’t think that my church has to, so I can’t possibly be anything but liberal. And I don’t care for Sarah Palin.

At the same time, another friend loves me despite the fact that I’m a “right-wing radical.” Apparently, because I’m overwhelmed with taxes and want all levels of government to be accountable, I’m a right-winger (mind you, I live in the highest-taxed county in the country). I think law-abiding people should be allowed to own guns. I also strongly stand with our police officers. I believe that families raise children – not schools or government. And I don’t care for Nancy Pelosi.

It’s all crazy stuff, I know!

So, where is this post going? Nowhere, I suppose. It looks like this post is stuck in the middle, much like my views. Not right. Not left. But the worst part of being a “middler” is that both parties pretend to care about you but neither really does. Inevitably, they both put up candidates that echo the far extreme of either doctrine, leaving those of us who want compromise and moderation feeling left right out.

Jean Maisano

Marriage, Money & Divorce


Two economists from Emory University conducted a study to find out what leads to divorce. And who would know more about love and relationships than economists?

It’s all a little interesting and confusing.  The more you spend on your wedding, the MORE likely you are to divorce; yet the more money you make, the LESS likely you are to divorce. Hmm. Let’s think about that and add in their finding that people who have a wedding with more than 200+ guests are also LESS likely to divorce. Double hmmm. So, if you make a lot of money (less likely to divorce), you would most likely be able to spend a lot on your wedding (more likely to divorce) and, most likely, invite more than 200 people to your big, expensive wedding (back to less likely to divorce).

What the cuddly economists may be missing is the social-emotional aspect of the circumstances.  If a couple has more than 200 people at their wedding, it seems likely that they have strong support system on which they can draw in difficult times.

With regard to the expense of the wedding, it probably has less to do with the actual dollar amount spent than with the reasons so much was spent.  If the event of the wedding becomes more significant than the act of marriage, then the relationship is doomed regardless of the money spent.

And just because those who are more wealthy are less likely to divorce doesn’t mean that the couple is happy.  Maybe this is the one where the economists can relate. After all, divorce is a messy and expensive business.

Jean Maisano