TRIGGER WARNING: Discussions of rape culture – no graphic descriptions, theory only.
Please do yell at me if you consider this to be out of line. We all wear blinkers and I am always ready to be humbled by others for my opinions.
It appears of late that our rapey rape culture has been rearing it’s ugly face fairly regularly. I’d like to think this is the death throws of it, but I suspect it’s just the beginning of a rather long and gruesome fight.
Most common to the people I’ve been talking to – females and self considered prospective mothers – seem to agree it is important to teach men and boys not to rape but are hesitant to give up talking to girls about how to protect themselves. It’s largely coming from a good place – a place that doesn’t wish to admit that they are powerless to protect their daughters* or that their daughters are powerless to being attacked.
All seem to feel that it’s counter intuitive not to tell their spawn how and why to protect themselves.
There is a LOT on the internet about why talking to your daughter about how to protect herself through dress or action is an act that becomes complicit and adds to the structural violence against victims of rape, but for now I’ve compiled my thoughts on the parents who can’t let this one go.
I feel like the safest rule of thumb is to instead of using the word “should” it is a gentler suggestion to discuss with your child what you “can” do in this situation.
For instance, “you should always leave if you feel unsafe” leaves a very different feeling to “you can leave if you feel unsafe”.
Should someone, god forbid, fall prey to a rapist, the former statement will, in hindsight, resonate regret & embarrassment. “I should have known better”, “I should have listened” – aka, self blame.
The latter, however, resonates far less powerfully.
This alone wont combat the self-blame, but consider this:
“you should always leave if you feel unsafe” is a message that will always directly battle with “it wasn’t your fault”
“You can leave if you feel unsafe” couples far better with “it wasn’t your fault.”
What is done here is pretty simple. Firstly, it’s empowering the person to make a choice. She can do whatever she damn pleases and a constant reminder of this is really positive.
Secondly, it’s informing her of an actual way in which she can take precautions – namely – trusting her instincts and exercising her right to leave.
The third factor is a slight of the hand with regards to the language. One statement – “should” – sets a standard that the woman “should” adhere to. The other statement – “can” – merely lets the woman know of a valid option in which she can take.
I’m a big fan of couching statements away from standards. In a later post I will talk about beauty and discuss with myself ways of approaching it without being problematic – but for the purposes of discussing preventative methods to your daughter, stick to “can” and let her make up her own mind.
Away with standards, present the options.
Also talk to your children about consent. Read up on what it is so as you can explain clearly. Make sure they understand what boundaries are and what they are entitled to.
They are entitled to say “no”. They are not entitled to demand a reason when someone else says “no”.
They are entitled to ask, but they are not entitled to push or demand.
They are entitled to their kinks, but they are not entitled to judge others for their kinks.
They are entitled to respect and be respected, always.
I do CATEGORICALLY DO NOT support telling people that alcohol will put someone in danger of an act that involves another conscious person (as opposed to self inflicted accidents). I DO NOT support telling people to dress a certain way in order to control the actions of others (ridiculous). A persons actions are their own decision and responsibility, always.
At the end of the day, I feel like the conversation with all of your children should be exactly the same. If it’s gendered differently, then you’ve got problems.
(P.s. love you, Sarah)
*/female born children/female identified children. I realise this is a conversation that we actually need to be having with all children, I also recognise the disproportionately large amount of attacks on females and transgendered peoples.