Apparently Actually Listening to Women is a Superpower
These last two weeks I found myself a minor celebrity for the second time in my life, assuming that receiving mild fame for writing a love song to David Arquette counted as fame the first time of course. It was all about a brief article I wrote that went over advice I wanted to give my daughter about sex instead of lessons pushed by the purity and abstinence-only education groups. It was just a list of ten basic things along the lines of wait till you're ready, be wary of people trying to use shame to control you, protection is your friend, be open and honest, and most of all I love you no matter what.
Despite a life full of all kinds of wacky adventures, I am a strangely naïve person. For instance, I honestly thought Anti-Semitism no longer existed in America. No really, I thought it was gone like polio. I had similar misconceptions about the sheer number of people involved in the purity movement. I thought it was a few folks going hardline on the fringes.
I was wrong. I received hundreds, maybe thousands of comments, emails, friends on Facebook, messages, you name it. Just a flood of female readers sending me variations on, "Thank God someone is saying this," "I can't tell you how much I wish someone had told me this," and more depressingly, "I wish I'd had a dad like you."
That last one stayed with me because in the end the reason I wrote the piece actually had little to do with my daughter at all. I can't guarantee life won't beat me into mental instability and cruelty between now and her physical maturity. No man quests for the Rod of Asshole-Being. I hope I keep my best intentions in front of me as far as she is concerned.
No the real reason I wrote the piece is much simpler... I read the words of a woman that had grown up in the purity movement and it made me very sad. Then I read another. Then another.
I find that increasingly as I am around what I will term the wrong kind of men their problems seem to stem from a very important failing. They seem utterly incapable of simply asking themselves, "How does what I am doing affect the people I am doing it to?"
It is amazing to me how little this question gets asked even at the top levels where vast societal judgments are being enacted. When the Texas legislature was taking its stand against women's reproductive health, it wasn't even the fact that they so obviously were trying to shut down all the abortion clinics in Texas by whatever way they could.
No, it was that as woman after woman came up to tell their story, tell why they'd had an abortion or care they'd received from the clinics or birth control or any one of the dozens of reason that women use places like Planned Parenthood, the assorted men in the capital merely rolled their eyes and looked bored.
You have to really understand that for a moment... these are laws that they were passing that would directly affect if not the actual women speaking then the next generation of them to come along. You would think that a desire to be informed about the actions that they were about to take, the weight of the duty of their office, would compel them to be not just attentive, but passionately so. Would you pass a bill about cancer medicines without talking to cancer patients? Would you want to impose regulations on coal plants without asking the owners how those regulations would affect them?
A million choices as to my guidance of my daughter lie before me, and yeah, I've got a some ideas and morals and other emotional bric-a-brac that I have all lined up that I think is important to me.
But when I wanted to start showing her Doctor Who, I asked other parents how their kids had reacted to seeing it at whatever age they first introduced them to it. Why? Because while it's something that is fairly important to me and my life the real question is, "Is my fascination with this particular thing going to give my kid nightmares?"
Get it, I researched about a freakin' television show, and that's nothing.
One thing that has stayed with me since I took Human Sexuality in college (Sociology degree path, long sad story) was how deeply important it is to not instill some kind of fear of sex in a kid. They walk in on you mid-coitus, don't start throwing things and screaming. Just ask them to leave.
Why? Because attaching giant emotional triggers to sex is exactly what makes the purity movement so horrifying. I know this because I spent six straight hours unable to stop reading the accounts of women who had grown up in it. Women who had had their sexual nature so thoroughly repressed that as grown married people they could only find sexual release by asking their husbands to pretend to rape them. Women who couldn't be in the same room alone with a male friend or hug him because of an all-powerful invisible finger of sexual shame drilling holes in their souls.
Most of the response I got from the purity article I wrote was incredibly positive, though there were several men vehemently opposed to the liberal approach I was espousing.
And not one of them, not a single one, ever brought up how their morals might affect their daughter's eventual mental well-being. Only their behavior and how it conformed to their fathers' definition of correct.
That's what I see lately, this endless stream of men making decisions for other people based only on their own criteria of correctness. It never even occurs to them that these women are not pets and houseplants, but people. People like them. People with voices that will tell you in perfect detail exactly how wrong a path you're marching them at gun point down.
If you would just freakin' listen.
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