Dear Son,

About 5 days ago something happened that has been troubling me. It’s been sitting in the corners of my mind, stirring around and leaving me feeling ill at ease. It’s not you. In fact it’s got nothing to do with my life, it’s something that happened far away when a man, his name was Elliot Rodger, went berserk and killed 6 people before killing himself in the US. From one point of view it’s odd, we live in a world where there are plenty of heinous acts committed by our fellow humans. Some kill even more people, some cause more suffering and many don’t make as big a splash in the news. But this one, well, it got me right in the heart. You’ll probably understand why when you get to paragraph 3.

Here’s the story: A man decided to kill. He made a video before he killed (which I can’t bring myself to watch). In the video he basically said that he would murder people because he was lonely, unloved and no one will have sex with him, meanwhile other men around him seemed to get lots of sex. His act of barbaric slaughter was in ‘retribution’ for the neglect he had suffered at the hands of the females of the species. Basically: No woman loves me, every woman hates me I think I’ll commit homicide. All this at the age of 22. That’s important, he was 22.

First let me tell you something quite personal, and probably a bit icky. I didn’t have sex till I was 22. That’s important, I was 22. I wasn’t abstinent or anything, my celibacy wasn’t out of choice, Nor was it in the service of some high ideal of ‘saving myself’ for the right woman or for marriage. It was because women confused me and I had no idea how to tell if they were interested in me, or how to show I was interested in them. Sure I could talk to women, and frequently did. I formed great friendships with females throughout my early adulthood, I was outgoing and funny. However I basically had no idea how to raise the subject of love/sex/attraction/whatever you want to call it, so I never did. I never asked, so it never happened. And it was frustrating. I watched my friends pair off, break up, pair off again… I saw my mates pick up while I sat in a corner drinking, making funny jokes or spending all night talking to some really nice girl only to have it all end with a kind of awkward goodbye. I thought there was something wrong with me.

But I grew out of it. Maybe this kid Elliot would have grown out of it too, if he hadn’t consumed himself with it. Or, maybe there was something broken in his brain that meant he was going to kill one day and this was just an excuse. Or, maybe he was a product of a culture that places the physical act of intercourse on a pedestal. Or, maybe if one of a billion different variables hadn’t transpired the way they did this never would have happened. We will never know.

But I do know one fact about this kid. He had a father. A father who tried to get his son help. A father who loved his son and a father who in spite of the fact that he was himself educated, well-resourced and well-connected couldn’t prevent this.

So, I want to tell you something, son, and I want to make it perfectly clear to you in a way that cannot be misconstrued. You are never ever entitled to sex with anyone. Sex isn’t something you have a right to or a right to expect. It is not a reward, it is not a favour, it is not a payment, it is not ‘due’ after the third date, it is not a gift, it is not a rite of passage, it is not a holy grail you find at the end of a quest or anything else remotely like that. And we need to make sure we never treat it that way.

Sex is an act. Sex is something someone does WITH you as a willing and equal partner, hopefully as a loving partner too. Enjoy it, it’s great fun, it can bring you closer to someone you love, make you feel wonderful and even has health benefits. But it is not everything. It’s not your entire life.

Anyway, sorry for harping on about something that happened when you were 2. Perhaps I wrote this letter more for me than you, to remind me that I have this burden: I will have a pretty major role in helping you form your attitude towards sex and towards women, in fact I’m sure I’ve already started. That’s daunting. Makes me wish I had my problems from my early 20s back again.

Anyway I’ll stop now. I’m sure you’re going to be a good man. I’m sure this conversation isn’t (and may never be) over. I’ll do my best to set a good example, it means more than words ever will.

I love you.

Dad.