Talking to Kids About Love

Oprah’s discussion with sex offenders got me thinking.

Hopefully it had this effect on you.

Stranger Danger is . . . well, it’s very unlikely harm comes from a stranger. In fact less than 10% of all rape, molestation and battery of girls and women comes from a stranger.

So how do parents walk the fine line between protecting their children from friends and family without inhibiting all close relationships with men?

Certainly one can see that being hyper-vigilant and suspicious of all male contact will have a damaging effect on girls and their future, appropriate, grown-up relationships.

Still . . . no one wants to risk allowing a perpetrator free access to their daughters just because they have the title uncle, grandpa or cousin.

The weapon of choice for all four men on the Oprah show was Love Distortion in some form.

If you love me . . . you’ll let me touch, lick or have sex with you.

If you love me . . . you won’t tell.

I love you more than your parents. No one understands or loves you like I do.

I love you so much that I want to do these “loving” things with you.

When it comes down to it this is my primary complaint with the Disney Princess Culture and the Twilight Series. They distort what love looks like, what it should feel like, they misrepresent the cues and signals girls should be looking for.

Take Ariel who silences herself and gives up her family – she’s the perfect statutory rape victim really. She’s the ultimate battered girlfriend. Isolation is a perpetrator’s method and silencing her is how he gets her to give up her own power.

Or Belle. She’s kidnapped and falls in love with her own abuser. Turns him into a prince even. Um, held against your will should not be confused as a signal of “love,” but a signal of abuse. Yet, by three or four girls are inundated with the idea that kidnapping could be a very romantic scenario. Is it really a mystery why girls get confused when someone they love or someone who professes to love them while harming them touches them inappropriately? The promise of The Beast turn Prince is what every battered girlfriend and wife believes in.

Then there’s Edward of the Twilight series, who’s main desire is to destroy Belle. It’s his instinct, he can’t help it just like batterers claim.. All the erotic scenes describe in great detail how it would feel to her and to him for him to crush her fragile lovely body, for him to drain her of her life’s blood. And it made girls and women hot. We have a whole generation of girls who are now turned on by their own physical destruction and earthly demise. She begs him to kill her and he just won’t do it . . until what? Book three or four? Plus, that deathly-erotic description in book two about her near-death. Why, I have to ask, is it a turn-on for a guy to want to destroy you? Why are we training daughters to be desperate to give up their lives, futures, relationships with parents and friends, college, future jobs, and children for pretty boys or vampires?

As a survivor of dating violence myself, I can attest that the language of a violent boyfriend, and the lies I told myself about his behavior, is almost verbatim of the dialogue of Edward the die-worthy vampire and his suicidal girlfriend Bella.

Herstory – Ourstory – feeds the rapists, child molesters, girl friend and wife batterers. The fairy tales we read to our daughters at night groom them to believe in a really distorted and dangerous definition of Love.

When Oprah does a wife-battering episode she is known to say, Love doesn’t hurt. Yet in all the above examples we’ve, as a culture, romanticized a distorted version of love that does hurt. We glamorize the pain, make it romantic and sexualize it until it turns us on.

It would be so much smarter and beneficial to tell our daughters other, healthier things about love. Our sons too – so they don’t get confused and start hurting their girlfriends in a screwed up attempt to be a murderer/protector like Edward or an asshole who promises to change like The Beast.

Just yesterday a group of Junior High boys told me they pantsed a girl and it wasn’t wrong, or sexual assault, because she liked it. Gee, I wonder where boys might get the idea that girls like it when boys hurt them? Could it be our infatuation with the victimization in princess stories and Twilight?

It may seem obvious, but we need to talk to our kids about fundamental things like, What is love? What does it really feel like? How will they really know it’s True Love? What are the cues of boys who truly care about girls? What cues should boys put out when he cares about a girl? When a girl falls in love, what kinds of feelings can she really expect to feel?

1 Corinthians 13:4 describes Love: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.

Other translations include: Love isn’t jealous. It doesn’t sing its own praises. It isn’t arrogant.

This is key because many, many abusive boys and men use jealousy and arrogance to put girls on the defensive and make them feel they “deserve” to be beaten or raped. They fly into jealous rages and become arrogantly possessive of their girlfriends, not allowing them to see friends or family.

I would encourage parents to sit down and think about what Love feels like to them. Does it feel like meaningful sacrifice, like methodical work, like a warm bed, like a soft place to land, like a physical rhythm or a shelter from a storm? Does it feel different from sexual arousal, different from primitive adolescent hormones, different from a new infatuation? How is it different? Then talk about it to both sons and daughters.

Love is not Disney. Love is not Twilight. Love is not Gossip Girl.

Do our kids even know that?

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