Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Respect for Boundaries
Right now a lot of attention highlights what appears to be a worldwide epidemic of rape. As I think about it, I wonder if perhaps it's more of the world coming out of a deep slumber that blinded us to the truth of the pervasiveness of violence against women.
I hear a lot of excuses for rapists and a lot of blame cast on the victims aka survivors. Talk has turned to prevention with the usual camp of people telling us how women can avoid getting raped and very little discussion about teaching boys/men not to rape...
And, yet, I find myself pondering the idea that perhaps the real problem lies someplace deeper and more insidious in our society. Perhaps the real problem is we don't teach respect for boundaries. We don't teach humanity. We don't teach equality. We don't teach basic respect.
The reality is rape doesn't happen because a girl wears the wrong clothes, goes to a party, has a drink, or makes the wrong friends. Rape happens because a boy/man uses sex as a weapon to assert his control over a girl/woman. Rape isn't about a misunderstanding or a miscommunication. Rape is about control. Rape is about an unearned sense of entitlement. Rape is about a culture that teaches that girls should be "a little weak when they speak" to paraphrase Madonna's What It Feels Like for a Girl and that real men "take what they want" no matter what. And, still, it all comes back to a total lack of respect for boundaries and other people.
If we teach boys to see girls as people rather than something to conquer or a quest to complete, we teach boys to accept no for an answer without the implication their manhood is somehow in question.Seriously, let's be really clear here, real men take "no" for an answer with pride.
When the news bemoaned the ruination of the futures of the boys who committed the Stuebenville rape, I sat agape. Seriously? They ruined their victim's life and in the process ruined their own lives. They must take responsibility for that. They are not victims. They are rapists aka criminals. Rapists are criminals. We need to be clear on this.
I realize that men and boys are also victims of rape, but men are the more often than not those committing this crime even against one another.
So what if we changed what we teach? What happens if we teach boys to respect boundaries? What happens if we teach boys that being a man isn't about conquest and control? What happens if we teach boys that girls are their equals?
What happens if we teach girls to respect boundaries including their own? What happens if we teach girls that being a woman doesn't mean making men happy? What happens if we teach girls they are equal to boys?
What happens if we teach boys and girls alike that "no" is a perfectly acceptable response that should always be honored, that a lack of response doesn't mean "yes", and that only an explicit "yes" means "yes"?
What happens if we treat people as people first and as their gender second? What happens if we decide the roles of yesterday don't have to be the roles of today? What happens if we teach the importance of boundaries and limitations to boys and girls?
Yet, I find myself pondering how women and men who don't understand how to manage their own boundaries can teach boys and girls to set and control theirs. Yet, all we can do is our very best to teach what we're still learning ourselves.
If challenging our current attitudes leads us to a society where rape and violence declines, I can't see how that's a bad thing...
Here are my boundaries... If I decide to move them, that's my decision, not yours...
T. L. Cooper grew up on a farm in Tollesboro, Kentucky. She earned a Bachelor of Science from Eastern Kentucky University. Her poems, short stories, articles, and essays have appeared online, in books, and in magazines. Her published work includes a novel, All She Ever Wanted, five books of poetry, and a book of short stories. When not writing, she enjoys yoga, golf, creating plant-based recipes, and traveling. Currently, she resides in Albany, Oregon.