There has been a lot of discussion in the media over the past few weeks about consent, and how we teach it. It has been wrapped up in talk of Brock Turner, whether he really is guilty, and whether alcohol and promiscuous behaviour is to blame – but it has been there.
Have you ever had a conversation with your son or daughter about these issues? I am not a parent, so I can’t say when is the perfect age to have this conversation, but I am a human woman in this world I know in my soul that this is a conversation that needs to happen while children are still learning about the world.
We need to be having conversations with our children about consent, but not just with our boys as one open letter I read this week suggests. Girls need to learn that as much as they have to give consent, they need to feel empowered to take it away at any time. Boys need to be told “I love you and I need you to know that no matter how a woman dresses or acts, it is not an invitation to cat call, taunt, harass or assault her.” Boys and girls both need to be taught that virginity is not a prize to be won or offered, and that sleeping with someone does earn or lose you points (based on your gender; boys earn and girls lose). Girls need to be taught that their sexual experiences or lack of don’t dictate their worth, and that just because someone buys them dinner doesn’t mean anything is owed.
I can tell you that we are having the wrong conversations with our daughters. From the time we can walk and talk, instead of teaching our boys not to rape, we teach our girls to minimise themselves to avoid attracting the wrong attention. These conversations are had by loving parents, just like you, who want to protect their children. It comes from a place of care, a place of love and support. More importantly than that though, they come from a place where 100% of the responsibility lies at the feet of the victim. Instead of teaching our kids to be decent humans, we teach them that indecency is going to happen, and instead to safeguard against it. Instead of telling our kids that “boys will be boys” we need to teach them that abusive, manipulative behaviour needs to be called out. By both sides.
Parents will tell me that it’s not fair. That currently there are creepy people in the world and you need to protect your kids from them. You need to teach your daughters how to protect themselves from creepy men. And I agree, there are some fucking creepy people out there. Trust me I know, because most of them live on Twitter and repeatedly send me lovely notes of threatened abuse.
But who raised them? Who taught them to be creepy?