This post was originally posted in December of 2017. During this time there were several stories in the mainstream media of brave women coming forward to share their experiences of sexual abuse. This movement is now referred to as the #MeToo movement, a term coined by social activist and community organizer, Tarana Burke.
In 2006, Tarana started the me too movement to “help survivors of sexual violence, particularly young women of color from low wealth communities, find pathways to healing.” The phrase and subsequently, the hashtag (#MeToo), developed into a much broader movement when sexual abuse survivors of former Hollywood producer, Harvey Weinstein, stepped forward.
Well, with the recent Supreme Court nomination and now hearing, we are there again. There is language in the mainstream media. There is a woman who has come forward to tell her story, her experience.
Because language is important. Because words are important. Because experiences are important, I thought it would be a good idea to repost this blog.
I hope that you’re already having this discussion with your preteens and teens. I hope this enhances the conversation. And if you’re not having the discussion yet, I ask you to talk about it.
So she can be aware and be prepared.
There’s more information at the end if you want a partner in this conversation. I’ll be glad to partner with you. And to the new members of our community, welcome. We’re glad you’re here.
— December 12, 2017 —
It doesn’t matter how old your preteen or teenager is, there aren’t too many folks rushing to talk about sex.
You try to shield them from even hearing the word but, with the way our news cycle is set up, you can’t avoid the subject, even if you wanted to.
Sex is being talked about at all hours of the day because every day, for the past few months, particularly the past 30 days, there has been a story in the mainstream news about sex. And not just sex but, inappropriate sexual behavior. Sexual assault. Sexual harassment. Sexual misconduct. Sex.
You may be thinking, Shanterra, why are YOU talking about this? What does this have to do with marvelous girls or preteens or parenting, etc?
Fear of Sex
In my book, Love Your Jiggle: The Girl’s Guide To Being Marvelous, chapter 3 is titled “Decide When You Want to Have Sex and Stick To It.”
How folks respond when they see the title of chapter 3
Because of this chapter, some parents have shared they are hesitant to give the book to their middle school and even high school daughters. I have been on the phone or in email conversations explaining how I am in NO WAY encouraging sex, promoting sex or telling girls to have sex. It’s actually quite the opposite.
Yes, I would like for girls to wait. I would like for girls to come up with their OWN plan for when they decide to have sex. I would like for girls to think for themselves instead of someone else (who is usually a peer who is just as inexperienced or just as unprepared or just as immature or just as ill-informed) making strong suggestions of when they should have sex or even talk about sex.
I would like for girls to think where they would like to be when they have this moment. What they would like to be changing out of? Do they have to love the person? Does the person have to love them?
A girl knowing the answers to those questions will not make her go out and have sex.
Instead, the questions make her think…for herself.
Like you, I would love for middle school and high school girls to just do what I say and not ever have sex because we know best, right? I would love for them to never experience pain or hurt or discomfort in this season of adolescence. I would love for them to avoid all roadblocks and tearstained-pillow nights. But, that’s not realistic.
So since they will still go through adolescence, with or without me, I am mindful of my approach and hope to help prepare them for when they encounter questions from other people and one of those questions will be about sex.
My First Exposure Experience
Considering all that’s been in the news lately, I’ve been wondering how folks are having the conversation with girls about what is being reported. How are we addressing what they’re hearing? Do we understand how it could be connected to them more than we realize? How?
The first time I saw a boy’s penis was in my 5th-grade classroom. The boys in 5th grade seemed to be so proud of their penis and wanted all the girls to see it. Without any prompting from the girls, the boys, at their desk, would unzip their pants and show their penis. And not the whole thing, just enough for the girls to be completely embarrassed and grossed out. I don’t ever recall a friend near me asking for the boys to expose themselves, like, “oooh lemme see!” The boys would just unzip and bam!
Not a big bam but, bam.
I don’t recall anyone ever telling our teacher and I can only assume she didn’t know this was happening. But, it is something I will never forget. We were 10. Even without anyone ever telling us, the girls in my class excused their behavior as boys will be boys. Yup, at 10-years-old.
Schools Say No
This may surprise you but, I’ve had schools, where I was invited to speak, purchase my book for their girls and then decide not to distribute the book to the students. Why? Because of Chapter 3.
I always suggest administrators read the book first because I know how schools feel about sex. I was an assistant principal at a high school and every school administrator would like to believe all our students are unblemished and not even interested in sex. Even though they’re young people and youth development and puberty are real!
We admit their attitudes are changing.
We’re semi-comfortable acknowledging their bodies are changing.
But their thoughts? Nope. Nope. Nope!
Even when they’re exposed to language and images every single day, and that’s just on regular television, billboards, and social media.
I’ve come to realize it’s not just sex that makes parents and schools nervous, it’s the idea of girls thinking about sex that terrifies a lot of people. Our culture is comfortable and even accepting of boys talking about sex. Because, ya know, “boys will be boys” and sex (wanting it, lying about it, simulating it) is a part of them discovering their manhood. I call a flag on the play! But, until we admit what we believe, girls are going to keep being left in the dark and boys are going to also be left in the dark while their behavior is excused.
Listen. Talk. Share.
I get it. There are many parents and educators who want to be the ones to introduce sex to their 11-year-old or 15-year-old or 21-year-old. But, seeing the news cycle, may I make a few suggestions to make sure there is clarity on what the preteen or teen or young adult in your life is hearing? To make sure she has the definitions of what she’s bombarded with, especially without your consent or her consent.
Here are some definitions that I hope will help.
Sexual harassment is unwanted and unwelcome sexual attention and behavior. The behavior is defined as sexual harassment by the person who is receiving it. Period. Yes, this can also happen at school. Yes, sexual harassment can happen between peers. No, it is not just in the workplace. No, we do not excuse sexual harassment as kids just being kids.
Sexual Assault, according to RAINN, refers to sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the victim.
Rape is a form of sexual assault, but not all sexual assault is rape. The term rape is often used as a legal definition to specifically include sexual penetration without consent.
Sexual misconduct is a broad term encompassing any unwelcome behavior of a sexual nature that is committed without consent or by force, intimidation, coercion, or manipulation.
I know this is uncomfortable. But, my hope is to inform you with what I can, not to ignite fear. This is just a little information and more can be found here. I love this resource, especially for parents.
Decide When You Want To Have Sex And Stick To It
I know this post was not a typical post but, I hope it was helpful and informative. I also hope that you’re willing to allow your girls to read Love Your Jiggle: The Girl’s Guide To Being Marvelous.
Friendships, body image, sex, decision making, healthy risks…are all a part of adolescent development. The beauty is by creating a plan, she’s more likely to stick to it instead of being caught off guard. The other beautiful part is most girls plans are to wait, wait until marriage, wait until they’re in love, wait until they’re not in their school uniform, wait until they’re ready, wait!
But, that happens when a plan is in place. A plan she’s created.
With that said, Love Your Jiggle: The Girl’s Guide To Being Marvelous is also a great book to read together. This way, you create time to talk with her about your plans for her and why you want her to have a plan. It gives you a chance to hear what the girl you love is thinking about and perhaps even what her friends are talking about.
And, if you ever have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out.
As always, I am thankful to partner with you as you raise the marvelous girls in your life.
If you think this is something others would find helpful, please share with them. Post it on your own social media sites. Email it to others. And most importantly, talk to your marvelous girl.
Questions to Ponder:
- Was this helpful?
- How will you use this post to converse with your marvelous girl?
- Does your marvelous girl have a plan?
- Does your marvelous girl’s school need a speaker like me to come in?
- What other information would you like me to share or talk about?