Recently I came across this wonderful Tedx Talk about Rape Culture. One of her statements really hit home, and I want to tell you a personal story about this particular myth. These words have been running through my mind for a few days now, so I hope that what follows makes sense.
Her statement is: “The only thing worse than being raped, is being considered not pretty enough to be raped”.
Just read that sentence again.
Growing up as a child, I had a low self-esteem and sense of worth. I remember being around 12 years old when I first heard about rape, that some men will force you to have sex, even if you don’t want it.
Being the 12 year old girl that I was, thinking that I was unlovable and unworthy for a variety of reasons, including the fact that I didn’t have many friends and I Really wasn’t in the popular group, nor good at much in terms of sport – how value and worth seemed to be measured at the time. I didn’t have a boyfriend – yes at age 12 this was an issue for me. The boys I had crushes on seemed to ignore me or tease me, so I didn’t get much positive attention from them. I compared myself to all the popular girls, who seemed to always be having parties or celebrations that all the boys I liked were invited to, but I wasn’t. They seemed to have it all.
So the thought occurred to me, that at least if I was raped at some point in my life, then someone would think I was pretty enough to have sex with. Yes, I felt so ugly and useless that I honestly couldn’t see myself as someone who would ever be in a fulfilling relationship.*
Thinking back on that thought, which was a common one in those days, I just want to go back in time and give 12 year old Casey a big hug, and tell her what nonsense that is. That being pretty enough to be raped is not something to aspire towards. But I don’t even have the words to tell 12 year old Casey how damaging that thought pattern is, how victim blamey that all is. Because she is only 12. I was only 12, and the messages I was getting was that it was somehow the victims fault for being raped – she shouldn’t have been so pretty.
I have all the fancy academic language for how that is problematic, but struggle to make it into something simple and understandable. And the reason is because no one wants to talk about how sex and rape are not the same thing. The act might look similar to some onlookers – who have probably never participated in enthusiastic sexual encounters with partners who are actually participating in the activities, not just lying there…. That sex is about pleasure and enjoyment, for all people participating, and rape is about domination of others, reminding them that they don’t even have the power to control what happens to their own bodies.
This is why I am so passionate about children receiving accurate information about sexuality, yes even at this young age. But more than that, I want children to know about consent. The power to say who is, and isn’t, allowed to touch you, and how. That is why I focus my attention on parents of young children, to help them get these messages to their children without all the overly sexual content, that honestly is just not necessary at young ages. But the basic information about their bodies, their personal safety and some reproductive facts are vital. I teach parents how to control the information that their children receive, in the best possible way that they can – in this day and age of technology.
So that the 12 year olds of today, and the 12 year olds of the future, who suffer from self-esteem issues, and self-worth issues like I did, don’t think that at least if they are raped, someone thinks they are pretty enough to have sex with.