For those of us who have daughters, especially ones who are tween-age and older, we’ve probably at least thought about having the “no-means-no” conversation.
Recent media coverage of some horrific sexual assault cases has perhaps spurred some discussion on the difficult-to-broach subject. My daughter is only twelve, and even though this may seem young to start talking about defining boundaries with boys, it’s not.
Although statistics show that a shocking number of kids are sexually active at that age, the boundaries I want my girls to be aware of are not about touching. I’m not even referring to sexual activity. I’m talking about words.
The words our girls put up with and use.
The disrespect and impropriety that is thrown around on a daily basis in the presence of our daughters.
I want my daughter to know that it’s not okay and that she is not to stand for it.
An important point to mention here is that I, in no way, believe that it’s only boys who have potty mouths. I know that girls can be just as bad if not worse. I’m just speaking from the standpoint of a mom of girls. I want my girls to know that they should never accept any verbal abuse, especially from a boy.
A few months ago, I happened to look at one of my daughter’s text messages.
This was no surprise to her. She knows that her phone is on loan from her dad and me and that she has the privilege to use it as long as she uses it appropriately. She’s aware that we will check her texts and apps for red flag issues we may need to communicate about. It’s our job as parents to do this, and I’m not of the opinion that I’m invading her privacy. I’m keeping her safe, because she’s a kid and I’m the adult who’s been blessed with the responsibility of raising her.
Anyway, I saw a group message in which boys and girls both were laughing (with emoticons) over a comment one of the boys made about oral sex. After having shaken off the shock and rereading the message several times, I approached my daughter.
“They’re just joking,” she said innocently. “It’s funny.”
But it’s not. I took some time to explain to her that she wasn’t in trouble but that she shouldn’t allow boys to talk about sex in front of her. It’s just not respectful.
“It’s completely normal to talk to your girlfriends about boys and sex at this age. Just confirm the facts with me or dad.” She knows she can come to me and ask me anything, and she does – even questions I really don’t want to answer. She also has realized through trial and error that she oftentimes gets wrong information from her friends. They do a lot of giggling, but they really don’t know everything yet. It’s funny and innocent, and it’s part of growing up.
But, I believe that the breakdown of respect for our girls starts right here – in the seemingly innocent discussions that they have with their classmates who are boys. I don’t want boys joking about blow jobs with my daughters. There are some things girls and boys shouldn’t talk about at this age. Sex is one of them. I wouldn’t be joking blow jobs with my male co-workers or even most of my male friends. There is a level of propriety that gets crossed when these discussions happen, and it desensitizes us as well as our kids.
The day after I had this conversation with my daughter, I learned from a friend that her sixteen-year-old daughter had been sexually assaulted.
By her boyfriend.
The abuse began as verbal. He called her a bitch. He called her stupid. He called her a whore because he thought her shorts were too short. The two would argue, and the boy would tell her that it was all going to be okay-that relationships are sometimes hard at first with a lot of fighting and hurt. He said that boyfriends sometimes say mean things, but it all would work out to make them closer as a couple.
She believed him.
So, we tell our girls that “NO MEANS NO,” but what else is unacceptable? What other things are red flag behaviors? I don’t know about most of you, but I couldn’t imagine any of my daughters allowing someone to call them stupid. What happens, though, when a girl gets into a relationship with a boy and she starts to let her ideals slide a little in order for that relationship to work?
She becomes vulnerable.
She is already desensitized by daily interactions like the one in my daughter’s text and much much worse. Could this lead her to take it to the next level and allow a boy who supposedly cares for her to call her a whore without flinching? Will she think he was only joking or just saying it because he was mad for a minute it? Will she excuse it as easily as my daughter excused the blow job comment?
I realized I need to be talking more about language and propriety and less about physical touch with my daughters. I need to be purposeful and specific in teaching my daughters how to teach boys to respect them. This might mean not laughing at the popular joke and not doing what their friends are doing. It might be hard for them, but they need to see the importance in it.
I shared my friend’s story with my two tween daughters. It was hard to talk about with them, but it also gave real purpose to the issue of teaching boys to speak to them with respect. I can only hope that when they are in the thick of adolescent interaction that they will remember how valuable they are and never let anyone, especially a boy, treat them poorly.
Parenting through these issues is so challenging. Cheers to all of you who are in the thick of it. To the parents who are teaching their sons to treat women with respect and to the ones who are teaching their daughters how to respect themselves in a society where boundaries seem to be disappearing around every corner.
Parents – what do you tell your kids? How do you weigh in on this? Please share your experiences and ideas. We sure can learn from each other!
More about Dana Faletti: Dana Faletti is the author of The Whisper Trilogy, a young adult paranormal romance and Beautiful Secret, a sweeping adult drama of family secrets and forbidden love that is set to be released by Pandamoon Publishing in Summer of 2016. Dana blogs about whatever inspires her at, writes poetry as a survival skill and loves to connect with other writers both online and in person. When she’s not writing, Dana can be found reading on her kindle, cooking something delicious, or daydreaming about her upcoming travel destinations. She lives in in a suburb of Pittsburgh with her husband, three young daughters, and a hypo-allergenic Siberian Forest cat named Fluffy G. Check out her website for more information about Dana and her books. You can also find out more about her books on Amazon.