I just watched the trailer for Daddy I Do—a documentary about purity balls. What’s a purity ball, you ask? It’s basically a wedding-like ceremony where teen daughters pledge to their fathers that they will remain a virgin until they are married. There are so many things about this that get me riled up, like haven’t we moved past the idea that girls belong to their fathers until they can be married off?
In the trailer, some of the men talk about how they of course wouldn’t tell their daughters how to have safe sex, because they shouldn’t be having sex at all! It’s this way of thinking that is driving support for abstinence-only sex education. But we know abstinence-only sex education is not very effective at lowering teen pregnancy and STI rates.
When I was growing up in the South, this kind of thing was happening. I remember one day in homeroom, we all had a little slip of paper on our desks with the purity pledge on it. The teacher didn’t make us sign it, but she did ask that we take it home, talk with our parents about it, and seriously consider signing it. I was creeped out by it, but at least it wasn’t a substitute for the small amount of medically accurate sex education that we got in school.
These purity balls and pledges send messages that girls shouldn’t have sex (boys will be boys), girls bear the burden of this responsibility (because, boys will be boys), and girls’ virginity is more important than boys’.
But an even bigger problem is that it leaves a gaping hole in the conversations we should be having with our kids about healthy relationships. As much as we might want to stick our fingers in our ears and sing lalalala, the teens in our lives are (probably) making their way around the bases with their boyfriends or girlfriends. Let’s give them accurate and complete info about sex. And I’m not just talking contraceptives and STIs here. Let’s tell them that sex is about pleasure. Let’s tell them that there’s no shame in feeling what they are feeling (whether they’re wanting to have sex or not). Let’s talk about the things you should look for in a healthy relationship like love, respect, and trust and how that should apply to the sex part too. Let’s talk about how powerful they are that they get to make smart, informed choices about their bodies. Let’s talk about that.
One of my favorite websites—Scarleteen: Sex ed for the real world—isn’t making enough money to stay afloat. So they’re going on strike. Wait, how do you go on strike if you’re self-empl0yed?
It’s been a big week in our state legislature, with much to celebrate and much to stress about. In the good news category ESHB 1840—which prohibits abusers with a Protection Order against them from possessing a firearm—passed unanimously! This is an important step in making these orders more effective for survivors of abuse. But survivors also need housing to be safe and stable. Thanks to Senator Steve Hobbs for sharing with the Seattle Times how funding cuts to housing will have a devastating impact on survivors.
While I have no children of my own (yet), I provided childcare for many years. I’ve also been a sex educator, and for me, it is easy to see the connections between these two seemingly very different fields. Consent is one of the biggest. As a feminist sex educator, the subject of consent was one that came up often: what it means to give informed consent, who is able to give consent, and how to best obtain consent.
Children and tickling is a great example. It can be really fun, right? And who can resist the contagious and adorable laughter and squeals? But how many of us have continued to tickle when a child says no? Regardless of the intent, the effect of continuing the game is to teach that child that no does not mean no, and that as an adult, we can trample over their attempts at boundary-setting any time we want. Those lessons influence their own interactions and they carry that with them into adulthood.
What would it look like to teach consent to our children from a very young age? To teach them respect and bodily autonomy through our words and actions? I see this as a crucial component of prevention. I believe that children who grow up understanding that they have control over their own body and practicing consent will be far less likely to abuse and/or rape when they are older. This post from Vibrant Wanderings offers some thoughts and suggestions on how to do just that. (There are some great discussions in the comments, too!)
I am so tired of the heavy burden girls bear; to be sexy, young-looking sex objects, but not have sex. But if you do have sex, don’t get pregnant. But don’t use birth control. And definitely do not have an abortion.
We are giving girls the message: we only care about your uterus and what might grow in it. What happens to you before a pregnancy―rape, relationship violence, poverty, lack of access to sex education and birth control―does not matter. What happens to you during your pregnancy―besides the continued growth of the fetus―does not matter. What happens to you and the baby after it’s born―does not matter.
Why are the dominant messages so simplistic, so binary, so… stupid? How are we as a populace putting up with ourselves for being such liars―professing to value families, while simultaneously whittling away all the resources that support families?
I am eager to see us shift towards talking about healthy, positive sexuality, based on individual preferences and (where applicable) faith. Without imposing one (tiny, revealing) size fits all.