I read a little article this morning and it made me very sad for girls.  You know, it’s hard enough to navigate junior high and high school, navigate puberty, sex, and sexuality among your peers.  It’s even worse when you have grown women sneering at you from the vantage of 30+ years of experience in relationships.  Do you remember 13?  13 was a beast, y’all.

This mother was addressing little girls who post provocative selfies on Facebook, noting that while her little girl notices the background of their frilly bedrooms, her teenaged sons notice that they aren’t wearing bras.  Clearly, I am paraphrasing, but this mother asks these girls to please put themselves away so that her boys (and other boys) don’t get the wrong idea about them–she strongly, and facetiously suggests that the girls want the boys to think about their brains, not their bodies, and tells them that once a boy has seen a girl body, that’s all he’ll ever see*.

The tone is full of sarcasm and shame, and the message is clear: You are responsible for my son’s attitudes toward women**.

Can we agree on something?  Your daughter’s picture of herself in a bra isn’t going to brain damage my son, or turn him into a raging sex maniac***.  If he hasn’t already been brain damaged by walking through the mall with me, your 15-year-old’s selfie isn’t going to break what Adriana Lima and the other VIctoria’s Secret Angels have left untouched.

And let’s agree on something else:  Your daughter isn’t responsible for my son’s thoughts.  Your daughter isn’t responsible for my son’s sexuality.  Your daughter isn’t responsible for how my son thinks about, talks about, or treats women.

I am.

I am, and his father is.

We, his parents, are responsible for teaching him about respect.  We are responsible for teaching him to respect your daughter, whether she’s waving her nalgas in his face, or wearing a burka.  We are responsible for teaching him that no matter how a girl is dressed, posed, or primped, she is a human being, and she is to be treated like a person, not a collection of parts.  We are responsible.  I hold us responsible, not your daughter.

Not the media.

Not Hugh Hefner.

Not Pat Robertson.

Not Anna Wintour.

Not Miley Cyrus.

Not Facebook.

Certainly not the Discovery Channel.

I am responsible for talking to my son about what it means to look at a beautiful girl and see a person, not a chew toy.

I am responsible for talking to my son about how just because something is offered, doesn’t mean he needs to dip his wick into it.

I am responsible for making sure my son understands the difference between mutually respectful sexual relationships, and being a douchebag.

I am responsible for making sure my son knows to treat your daughter with compassion, empathy, and consideration.

I am responsible for making sure my son understands that even when a girl is showing him her breasts, she might be trying to show him her heart–and it is my job to make sure he understands how to know the difference and how to handle it.

I have a lot of work to do because sex and sexuality are complex.  I’ve been married for nearly 10 years, in a committed, monogamous relationship for nearly 12, have been interacting romantically since I was 15-years-old, and I am still figuring it out.  I still don’t know everything.  I’m still surprised by things.  Why would I expect a teenage girl to know what I know?  Why would I scorn a child who is trying to figure it out?  Why would I condescend to someone who not only has to go through puberty, but also has to go through puberty with the internet sitting right there?

More, why would I expect a child to understand all the nuances of provocative behavior?  There is a vast gulf between what it means in the head of a child who is showing you her bra, and a grown woman doing the same thing.  There is a collection of experience, education, and learned understanding that happens when I flash you–a kiddo doesn’t have that.  She might think she knows what it means to titillate, but she can’t possibly begin to know.  She’s just playing house. She’s just modeling behavior she’s been told is appropriate as she walks through the mall.

Why would I try to make her ashamed?

I wouldn’t.

Because I’m too busy raising my son.

When she comes over to my house, I am going to treat your daughter with respect.  If she’s got her bits out on Facebook, I might ask you if you’re aware because that’s what concerned parents and Chris Hansen do.  I’m going to make you aware so that you can protect your daughter from predators, but I’m not going to call out your daughter in front of the world to embarrass her into putting on a one-piece.  I won’t bully your child.

I’m going to make you one more promise, and I want you to hold me to it:  I’m not going to call any of your daughters little tramps or question their morality because I’m going to remember that puberty turns girls into little sex maniacs, too.  Boys aren’t the only ones whose brains go on holiday between 13 and 23.  I might question your parenting if Little Miss shows up at my door in a tube top and hot pants, but I am going to remember back to when I was Little Miss.

Let’s be good to our kids, and to each other’s kids.  And let’s be good to each other.

 

*This attitude irritates the bejeezus out of me.  It suggests that boys are too stupid to separate BOOBIES from anything else.  While there are certainly a bunch of morons who can’t see the forest for the trees, it’s an intellect issue, not a gender issue.  Plenty of women out there who can’t get past that hot chick’s glorious hips to see that she got her job through hard work.

**Meanwhile, after calling out girls for posing in towels, she has posted several pictures of her sons in various states of undress, flexing on the beach.  Because if you post beautiful, half-naked pictures of your toned, tanned, attractive children for public consumption on the world wide web it is okay.  That’s art.  But if you post beautiful, half-naked pictures of yourself on your own private Facebook page, that is not okay.  That’s dirty.  Or, am I misunderstanding?

***Puberty will do that whether, or not he ever sees a nipple.  Trust.