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It's No Wonder We Can All Say #MeToo

"My mother sculpted me from clay, and Zeus breathed life into me."

A likely story, Wonder Woman!

Our daughter has had an excellent grasp of real vs. pretend and the arts of storytelling since toddlerhood, and I believe these to be real-life superpowers. When you control the narrative, you control hearts and minds, starting with your own.

Many of our cultural taboos here in the USA tell us that sex is shameful, and that sexual feelings and contact make us weak. This culture prepares our children to be sexually victimized during and beyond childhood, because it takes away their ability to identify, avoid, and tell about inappropriate sexual conduct, without fear.

You cannot really understand inappropriate conduct unless you understand healthy behavior. Identifying, describing, and teaching our children in an age-appropriate way about healthy expressions of sexuality are the hard parts of sex education, even for those who are comfortable speaking about scientific facts of life and about sexual abuse. Talking about sexual transgressions without placing them in a context that includes positive and neutral sexual behavior creates a picture of sexual knowledge and experience as generally evil and scary. Purity and obedience cultures are hotbeds of child victimization because they attract and protect predators, and they groom victims to comply with abusers and keep their secrets. Abstinence-only sex ed programs are, unfortunately, a product of purity culture, which, in terms of child sexual abuse, creates outcomes opposite to what it purports to achieve. (For more on this, explore the work of Elizabeth Smart, child safety activist and famous survivor of a kidnapping from a purity culture.)

If I could give my daughter the power to see through the narratives that hide warning signs of abuse, silence her voice, blind her to the attributes of a truly loving relationship, and let shame be used as a weapon against her by predators--

Oh, thankfully, I can!

We are fortunate enough to be involved in a non-creedal Sunday school program that creates a safe, healthy, developmentally appropriate educational environment for children and youth to learn about, among other tricky topics, human sexuality and relationships.

But you don't need to find a liberal church program to have this conversation with your children. There is an excellent, thorough curriculum available to everyone that can be used in any community, whether secular or any sort of religious: Our Whole Lives: Lifespan Sexuality Education. This tool was originally developed jointly by UU and UCC church communities for general use, with no religious references or doctrines, and with guidance by a strong set of values, including self-worth, health, responsibility, justice, and inclusivity.

Comprehensive sexual education doesn't just teach potential victims how to avoid and report abuses; it teaches our children strong values and strategies so they are less likely to become abusers themselves and more likely to become proactive friends and bystanders who protect others from harm as well.

It's no wonder we can all say #MeToo considering our nation's Puritanical legacy, but we can learn from the past, raise our standards for parenting and living, and give our children the best chance to thrive in a stronger, better culture without endemic sexual assault.


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