Accidentally Teaching Our Children About Rape Culture

It starts at a young age

I came across this great article from babble today by way of Facebook called 6 WAYS WE (ACCIDENTALLY) TEACH OUR KIDS RAPE CULTURE. It talks about six ways parents unknowingly and unintentionally teach their children about and validate Rape Culture. The article defines these six ways and offers suggestions on what a parent can do/say differently to not teach their children Rape Culture.

I think this is a great article and it makes a lot of sense. It shows that we are forming the minds of children to accept rape culture such as victim blaming, being afraid to say no, and slut shaming. Children are like little sponges and they are very smart. The underlying meanings of what they are taught build the core of their own belief systems, way of thinking and actions they take in social situations as they grow into teenagers and adults.

Number one is telling our kids that “boys will be boys”

As stated in the article when most people say “boys will be boys” they do not mean any harm by it.

But every time they hear us excuse their
bad behavior as part of boy life,they learn
that they are not only above the rules, but
also that boys cannot control their impulses.

Joanna Schroeder
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If boys are constantly being told this from such a young age, how can anyone realistically expect that it will not have an effect on them as they transform into teens, young adults and full grown men?

“As parents, we cannot be shocked that boys feel entitled to sexually harass others (whether it’s standard rape, like in Steubenville, or as part of the all-too-common tradition of sexual “hazing”) when we’ve been telling them their whole lives that they are above the rules, by virtue of being boys.”

Joanna Schroeder

I grew up with two younger brothers, do you know how many times I heard both of my parents say those exact same words? That being said, I don’t see my brothers contributing to rape culture, or at least I have never observed them doing so. Also as a child, a lot of my friends had brothers too. I heard their parents say the exact same thing…same goes for aunts and uncles. This message needs to stop being taught to boys and girls. Boys and men are perfectly capable of controlling their impulses. It is a parents job to teach children of both genders how to control their impulses. Gender has nothing to do with it and it is when we are children that we learn impulse control. This whole “boys will be boys” sounds very innocent, but not only does it do what has already been explained, it also creates the common “excuse” that rapists use…”It’s not my fault”

Number two is forcing kids to hug and or kiss others

No means no
No means No

This one is very dangerous on so many levels. It teaches children that it’s ok to have their boundaries violated. That a child is asked to give grandma a big hug and a kiss and they says, is it ok for someone to force them to do it anyway? If a parent forces their child to give grandma a hug and a kiss anyway, it teaches that child that the word “No” is not meaningful. It reinforces the concept That it is ok for a person to force another to do something they don’t want to do and that it’s ok to disregard their “No”. It teaches children that they are not in charge of their body, and what they say about their body and what happens to it is not up to them, that it is up to someone who is more powerful (the parent, aunt, uncle, babysitter etc.) to decide that. It also forces them into doing something that they do not want to do and demonstrates that their family, people who are suppose to protect them, are ok with it.

“Lots  of well-meaning, loving parents tell their kids to give a friend or relative a hug without considering whether their kid really wants to. This sends the dangerous message that consent can be over-ridden, or doesn’t matter at all.”

Joanna Schroeder

Take my  nephew for example. He is a sweet affectionate 5yr old. He loves to give Auntie hugs. But sometimes when I see him, I open my arms wide to receive a hug, and he shakes his head no. What do I do? Nothing. Some day’s I don’t feel like giving a person who I know a hug – I’m just not feeling it. What makes it any different when a child says no to giving a hug to a family member? Children are living breathing humans with feelings. Sometimes they just are not in the mood, end of story. There is nothing wrong with that. So when a child does not want to give auntie hug, or grandma a kiss….so what. Children need to learn that it is ok to say no, that no actually means no. They need to learn that that no one can do something innocent like give them a hug or a kiss without their consent.
And people wonder why we live in a society filled with rape culture. When I say this, I am not by any means blaming parents for doing this. [I myself have been wondering how we as a society have gotten here, and after reading this article it really makes more sense to me] By making children do things like hug or kiss a relative when they said no, when they get older they may not see an issue with things such as:

  • Accepting that no means no
  • That it is ok to force people to do things they do not want to
  • That boundaries are overrated
  • That consent does not matter
  • That there is nothing wrong or concerning with any or all of the above

Number three is “What did you do to make him hit you

This one right here teaches everyone the concept of victim blaming. I don’t think that I have ever heard a parent not say this to a child, especially a parent who has multiple children. Teachers also say this one a lot! Let’s say that the kids are at recess and Bobby punches Ricky in the face and gives him a black eye. Ricky runs up to the teacher and say’s “Bobby hit me”. ( I actually remember hearing this scenario practically verbatim, on the playground as a child) Teachers first words, “Well Ricky, what did you do to make Bobby hit you?” BAM right there, victim blaming 101 with elementary school children. Then if your child has siblings, it can start much much younger than that.

“Asking, “What did you do to make him hit you?” teaches both the victim and the aggressor that a person can force someone else to make a bad choice. This message is all too common in our“What were you wearing the night you were raped?” society.”

Joanna Schroeder

On top of what the articles says, the teacher student scenario that I described, the bully is not recognized as the primary issue right now, it’s the victim with the black eye who is “telling on the bully” Which is another good point; children on the playground do not like tattle tales regardless of the reason, thus translating into “keep your mouth shut” Teachers (understandably and parents too) get frustrated with children constantly coming up to them saying that (he did this, she did that, and they did this…) so often times teachers and parents will say no one likes a tattle tale. This of course is more geared to the every day minor things children do to each other that they all find dramatic. However, instilling that message in their head plays part of the role in the silence of victims. This translates to normalizing victim blaming and keeping victims silent when they grow into adults.

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Number four is Teaching kids that boys hit girls because they like them.

“It doesn’t matter whether your child is a girl or a boy, it’s important they learn early on that hitting or hurting someone to get their attention is never okay. And it is absolutely not a way to show somebody that you like them.”

Joanna Schroeder

This entire statement and concept reinforces domestic violence. It is never…EVER ok to hit or hurt someone for attention. It teaches kids that not only is it ok to hurt someone for attention, it programs them to believe that there is nothing wrong with it, and that it is acceptable.

Number five is “slut-shaming” any girl or woman in front of kids

Children see and hear everything! They listen when you are having an “adult conversation” with someone else, even when you think that they are not. And since they don’t know what is going on, they make their own assumptions. Since authority figures are the ones who are in charge, they take what they hear their authority figures say as truth, whether or not that is actually the case.

“If our kids hear us excusing rape or sexual assault in any way, they will internalize that message. They will also hear you degrading women for their sexuality or clothing, and they will remember that.
They may start to believe that there are circumstances in which they deserve to be raped or assaulted, or believe that they are entitled to commit (or even just excuse) rape or sexual assault if the victim seemed to “deserve it.” Whether that’s because a woman made a “slutty” choice or because a male victim “seemed gay,” it is wrong. Every time.”

Joanna Schroeder

When parents say things that make excuses for rape, sexual assault, blame women, and refer to women as slutty, it teaches children that this is a normal that people should be treated in the world. That if you dress or act a certain way, you don’t deserve respect, shouldn’t be valued, and are “asking” for bad things to happen to you.

Number six is Reinforcing the idea that girls should be “pure”

“A lot of girls today are taught that their value lies in their “purity” (meaning virginity or modesty) in a time when that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Girls are expected to remain virgins until marriage, despite the fact that 95 percent of Americans have sex before marriage. Even evangelical Christians have premarital sex at a rate of 80 percent, despite all the propaganda insisting women remain “pure” for marriage.”

Joanna Schroeder
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There are so many things wrong with teaching girls this. For starters, look at the day in age we live in…this statement is just not realistic, it is a double standard, and there is no reason to teach this. So women are “supposed to be virgins” before marriage, dress in a covered up manner that society claims is “right” (which is a moot point because women are attacked when they wear clothes that are “too conservative” and are called a “prude” equally as often that they get called a “slut” for dressing too “revealing”). Meanwhile, boys/men are looked at as “experienced” when they have sex before marriage, and are seen by there peers as “the man” when the have sex in high school college. and have no restrictions on clothing as far as society is concerned. Talk about a double standard?! Not to mention, it is human nature to have have desires, and human nature is not dependent on gender, it’s based on being a human. This whole “no sex before marriage” thing started when people were marring at the age on 16 or younger. Back then it clearly made sense, but that is not the case anymore today!

There are other issues with reinforcing this value;

“For other kids, teaching that sex is only okay in marriage, or even only when you’re in love, can cause them to make less-than-healthy choices. Marnie Goldenberg, a health consultant and sexual health educator, says that for teens, trying to connect sex with love can actually become a trap. Girls are taught that being in love will always keep you sexually safe, which simply isn’t always true.”

Joanna Schroeder

It creates am unrealistic expectation that no matter what, if you are in love, the person who you love will protect you. In so many instances that is a person who hurts them the most by means of domestic violence. It also can create a guilt complex around a perfectly normal human activity (sex) because as they become adults and reach sexual maturity and they either are not, or choose not to get married, they have sexual urges that in their mind are bad because they are not married. Sex and desire are biological while marriage is a social construct. This example of “purity”, is actually a man-made social construct that attempts to regulate human biology.

“The idea that marriage, or even being in love, are prerequisites for ethical sex also casts girls who aren’t “pure” as not as deserving of society’s protection against abuse and rape”.

Joanna Schroeder

This is a powerful statement that is absolutely true. We see this every day; women and men “slut shaming” women because they have sexual desires even though they are not in love. This can lead to a boy growing into a man who does not value a woman who has made the choice to have sex because she want’s to, thus feeling entitled to “do what he want’s to her”. I think in a way that it leads to victim blaming as well. One could gather that if the female was “pure” then she would never have brought something like this upon herself. This is a common rape myth, if it were true then children and adult virgins would not get raped; but they do.

Double standard

While researching rape, I see “slut shaming” all over the place. And slut shaming isn’t even restricted to women who decide to have sex with a partner of their choosing, it extends to what she is wearing, how she is acting and if she is drinking. The claim here is that “A pure woman would not do that”. Again, here we see the social construct that man has created about being a “pure woman” correlated to not having sex with someone before marriage, not dressing a certain way, and not acting in a certain way.

The fact of the matter is, that what we teach our children when they are young, (whether intentional or unintentional) has a huge impact on their morals, judgment, self awareness, and view of others as they develop into adults. I think that often parents forget how big their role is when it comes to shaping the type of people that their children will become.

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