My girls. So innocent. So intelligent. So beautiful. As a mother of girls watching the news right now, I can’t help but want to shut them away from any and all harm. It’s a natural reaction when you the stories like the Stubenville Rape Case, recent freeing of three kidnapped women in Cleveland, and the sexual assault cases coming out of our military community.
One phrase that I keep hearing over and over again is that we, Americans, have a culture of rape.
Rape Culture is an environment in which rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence against women is normalized and excused in the media and popular culture. ~ Marshall University’s Women’s Center
As a mother, my instinctual reaction is how to teach my girls to protect themselves. But how? How do I teach my girls to protect themselves against the supposed uncontrollable sexual urges blinding 50% of our population? Or better yet, why do I feel the undue burden of protecting my innocent girls against the inevitability of falling prey to unwanted sexual advances?
Are We Sending Our Children Mixed Messages About Sex?
The way I see it, our rape problem is a two way street. We need to bring our sons and our daughters to the table for an open and honest discussion about being sexually aware, respectful, and responsible individuals. And we, as parents, need to make sure that every message we send our children, be it silent or spoken, doesn’t inadvertently put our children at risks to take part in the culture of rape.
I think that we, as parents, are guilty about sending mixed messages to our children about their sexuality and sex at much earlier ages than we think.
Buying into Hypersexual Clothing Trends
Surely, I can’t be the only parent who feels like they’re fighting a loosing battle in the girls’ clothing department. At the risk of sounding old fashioned, I’m finding it more and more of a challenge to find age appropriate clothing for my six year old.
We know what “sexy” clothing looks like. And most importantly, we know that clothing, whatever you wear, is sending a message about who you are and what you’re all about. This isn’t about dressing a certain way and “asking to be raped” this is called ensuring that your child understands and is capable of processing the intent behind the dress.
Boys Will Be Boys
Let’s not beat around the bush. Boys and girls have a tendency to interact with their world quite differently, be it biological or socialized. But at what point do we stop making excuses and encourage our young men to take responsibility for themselves and their behavior?
“Boys will be boys” is not a far leap to “boys only want one thing.” What worries me about saying “boys will be boys” is that when these boys become men, they’ve already internalized the message that they are victims of impulse.
To take it a step further further, if men are victims of impulse, committing rape becomes something that men cannot help themselves from committing. And, ultimately, women are powerless to do anything about this because, well, you know what they say, “boys will be boys.”
Not Talking About Sex (Even Though It’s Everywhere)
It took me about, oh, a handful of listens to figure out that Whistle by Flo Rida might not be talking about an actual whistle and it took my six year old half as long to master all of the words.
We can’t deny it. Sex is everywhere. But sex education is not.
What has happened and what continues to happen is that we have a very confused dialogue about sex and sexuality. And when you throw that on top of a sex-saturated society like ours, where sex oozes from the covers of magazines, television shows, video games, and music is that our children walk around like loaded weapons, bound to hurt themselves or others around them.
We can’t teach our children that sex is bad or wrong or shameful. If we do, we’re telling them that if they have sex they are bad and wrong and shameful. Or, if the worst were to happen and they find themselves in a sexually abusive situation, we are telling them not to talk to us; that they are damaged and it’s their fault.
We owe it to our children to be open, honest, models of responsible sexuality and show them what loving, positive, intimate relationships look like. We must arm our children with knowledge, self respect, and respect for others.
What We Can Do to Combat the Rape Culture As Parents
As parents, we might not be sure how we can be part of solving our rape problem in America, so here are a few ways you can start a positive dialogue with your children to begin the process:
- Talk openly with your kids about sex and relationships.
- Find teachable moments in the news and current events.
- Pay attention to how you talk about matters involving sexual abuse and rape.
- Confront and correct misogynistic language and jokes like slut shaming and making light of rape or violence against women.
- Stay tuned in to your kids. Listen to their music. Watch their favorite television shows. Talk about what you see and hear together them. Ask them what they think.
- Don’t assume that because your children are tweens or teens, they need you any less. Chances are they need you more than ever and in different ways.
Do you feel that America has a rape problem? How do you think we can “fix” this problem if you think a problem exists? on flickr