Mom handed me a small hardcover book one day. I can’t remember what year it was, or what room I was in. I think I was in apartment 3F. She asked me to read these pages, which I did, and she said ask me any questions, which I didn’t, and the whole thing was done. That’s how I learned about how men get on top of women and they gently rub against one another and some things are exchanged and a baby grows in the woman. I remember, after reading, feeling kind of weird. Like, the book being presented to me came out of nowhere. I recall feeling like, “Okay….” but not much more.
Probably when Mom presented me with this book when I was in the 5th grade, still in Catholic school, and I can still remember having the best make-outs with someone whose name I shall not say. Wow. Maybe Mom knew I was growing and having feelings and probably making out with somebody and thought the birds and the bees talk was appropriate. I had no idea what to do with his incredible kissing, I had no idea that it can sometimes lead to sex which leads to babies. I had no idea that I was valued and important. All I knew in those 5th grade days was that I had to go to school, that I was picked on for having ugly shoes, socks, and haircut, that I was punished, humiliated in the halls for failing math, and yeah, we had some good times with our friends playing in the courtyard in the back.
Mom sat me at the table one day. It was daylight and we were 60 miles north of the place we used to live, far from the old bullies, but other battles were raging. I don’t recall how the conversation began but she told me that if I ever got in a situation, I shouldn’t scream “rape” because no one would help. She said I should scream “fire” because everyone would react. She said if I got in a situation I should say I have some kind of disease and not to do this so you don’t get that disease too, or I have my period. I don’t remember what year it was or what lead up to that. I guess she figured since I was dating she assumed that heavy petting would be involved which of course leads to sex. She also told me if I come home pregnant she would break both my legs. So. My sexual education wasn’t great. It left me to my own devices, and I made a lot of mistakes. I will never forget the humiliation of my parents reading my diary from when I was in college that detailed beautiful lovemaking with my boyfriend at the time.
Questions. Statements. Humiliation. Does this sound familiar to you, woman and man? Did your parents leave you to your own devices to figure out the sex thing? Who taught you who to say no or yes about sex? About pubic hair and periods and condoms and consent?
At 1:30EST there will be a vote in the Senate to confirm Brett Kavanaugh as the next Supreme Court Judge. I’ve followed everything the Trump administration does and his nomination is no exception. Judge Brett did not impress me because he did not say he would uphold Roe v Wade. He’s been demure about his Bush years. Dr. Ford’s testimony didn’t help much, either.
What this brings to these morning thoughts are more questions than answers. Is this the sea change we needed to help women stop staying silent and speak out against their assaulters and abusers? Are more men willing to listen and believe a women when she says she was assaulted? Will more women come forward and report their rapes and abuse and their testimony be taken seriously? Will families take this moment and use it as an example to teach their boys not to grope and seek gratification and laugh at a person who can’t say no? Will families take this moment, no matter how embarrassing, to tell their boys don’t force, grope, assault, abuse women, and tell their girls you are loved and you matter and I believe you? Will we tell our girls you don’t have to kiss that boy or put your hands in his pants or let him do what he wants because it affirms you. Is this the moment where we tell our children that it’s natural to be attracted and to want, but forcing ourselves on each other is inexcusable? Will this be a sea change? I don’t know. Dr. Ford was assaulted. Judge Kavenaugh says it wasn’t him. Their testimonies were emotional and believable. This is a teaching moment for all of us and we should take advantage of it. Teach our daughters their worth, that they won’t be abandoned if they have sex or, worse, raped. Teach them, your face to his face and her face, not in some book the facts of the human body, natural attraction, but to reject force, and to support our girls if peer pressure led them to sexual acts they weren’t ready for and regret, and reinforce our boys the difference between want–attraction–and force, assault.
Support your children with facts. Support your children with the law. Support your children with love. If you only give them a teaspoon of each, they’ll wind up in a dark hallway giving handjobs because it affirmed them or on their backs because privilege says this is not a crime.
My mom didn’t know how to do this and I’m betting neither did hers. Generations told their daughters to be ladylike and polite. Poised. Accepting. Is this the moment when we can stop a generational fault and teach our sons that it’s not okay to grope, assault, and abuse women, to respect them as equals, and our girls that they are more than help-meets, that we are curious, intellectual, scholarly, strong, brave, and that we matter?