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The other day, I encountered a group of teenage boys on Twitter having, as they would put it, a casual conversation about the state of rape culture in our country. Their deluded ideals asserted that it wasn’t an issue, and that, in essence, the burden falls on the woman — one going so far as to say that women who are raped “probably deserved it.”

As I grew up, my mother tried earnestly to cleanse us of any egregious misconceptions we might have had about the issue. She didn’t want any of her three boys traipsing off into the world grossly misinformed. In hindsight, it helped that we grew up with the father we did. An antiquated, patriarchal paradigm, he was everything we didn’t want to be. That’s why it’s so detestable to think that in a country as educated as ours, there are still men and women clinging tirelessly to these convictions. Having seen how effortlessly a man could dehumanize a woman, I knew that I wanted to arduously neutralize any societal ideals that still held the woman accountable.

With that in mind, I decided to chime in. These boys are a year away from college, and with sexual assault being omnipresent on nearly every campus in the country, I wanted to remind them of why what they thought was so blatantly wrong, especially considering that our own president addressed the nation on the very same issue a few weeks back.

What I was met with was a lurid compound of homophobia, anti-feminism propaganda and tired platitudes about why it’s the women’s fault. Never once did they assume responsibility for what they said. Never once did they recognize that it is, at the same time, offensive and heart-rending to actual victims of assault.

They altered it into a baseless “war on men,” wherein they felt it was truly necessary to vindicate themselves. It’d have been nice to see them parlay the energy with which they adamantly defended these antiquated beliefs into fighting a problem that has grown to epidemic-level proportions in this country.

We need to ditch these beliefs on the side of the road, grow up — as men — and recognize that we are the primary aggressors in cases of sexual assault. We need to abandon the unfounded nonsense that justifies blaming the victim. As my mother so eloquently put it, “Rape is not, and should never be, a consequence of making a stupid decision.” Be it drinking too much, wearing revealing clothes or a flirtatious disposition, rape — as a consequence — should never factor into the equation.

Most distressing, though, is the impression that their ignorance is punctuated by an unwillingness to change. You can inundate them with statistics, personal accounts or anything else you have in your arsenal, and they’ll write it off as if it holds no bearing on their lives.

Though, distressing as it might be, we cannot stop. We must continue to educate young men, publicize the issue and prosecute those responsible. As long as we as a society continue to make excuses for these men, they will do the same. Citing Thomas Moore’s Utopia, we’re nurturing our youth to behave so abhorrently and then acting surprised when they do.

Chad Collins, La Plata