Today I'm spinning around in an idea I've talked about before. On the eve of my daughter's 12th birthday and in the midst of all these strong posts about strong women, I'm pondering the lack of rites of passage and rituals of initiation in our culture. This train of thought seems to revolve around the anniversary of the birth of my child, an event marking transition in and of itself. Two years ago, I was thinking about the onset of puberty. Today, prompted by many things - the looming experience of Jr. High, the state of the world, the blog conversation around the feminine and oppression, a presentation I heard last night by a renowned sex therapist - I'm thinking mostly about sexuality. About how our introduction to sexuality is skewed by the inability to speak the truth.
Recently, lawmakers debated changing the definition of rape to only include incidents where a man physically threatened and forced himself on a woman. Women (and men) around the country protested this change and won. But even though the law wasn't changed, how often do we really call abuse in every form what it really is? How often do we call sex between a man in power and a woman afraid of the consequences that power could impose by it's name? It's rape as surely as if the man had a gun or a knife. Do we recognize that the education or lack of it that we give our children contributes to imbalanced, unhealthy sexual relationships and that those relationships help define and destroy intimate relationships somewhere down the line? Do we consider that our provincial attitudes toward sex education, sexual development and birth control force our children into unsafe and sometimes even desperate situations that sometimes scar them for the rest of their lives?
Here are some of the things I wonder, some of the things I want to change:
Why does initiation into sexual intimacy have to be done covertly and then condemned? Why can't we have overt initiations that are celebrated?
Why can Charlie Sheen parade around with his goddesses on his arm yet we can't advertise condoms or provide sexually active teens with access to birth control?
Why do we want to encourage our kids' development in every area - social, academic, sports, career - but we want to deny appropriate and healthy sexual development? Do we really think if we pretend their sexuality doesn't exist that it will somehow prevent normal development?
Why do we treat the sacred gift of our sexuality as a sin?
The speaker I heard last night answered a question from the audience about where we needed to grow in our sexual development as a nation. He said that a teenage girl in Denmark can expect that her first sexual experience will be in the pleasant, comfortable surroundings of her own home, sanctioned by her family, often ending in breakfast together around the kitchen table. Compare this to an American teenager, at a secret party or in the back seat of a car, pressured by her peers or her boyfriend, and unable to share the experience and get support from the people who love her most for fear of being ostracized or punished. Which experience would you choose for your son or daughter?
I know which experience I'd rather choose for mine. But I also know the stigma that speaking out, speaking the truth about the issues can cause. But I'm tired of sitting in silence. I'm tired of living with the consequences of not speaking up, speaking out, speaking the truth. Words have the power to change the world. These may not, but for me, for now, they are a place to start.