Boy, that’s the kind of post title that’s going to be picked up by search engines. But there’s no point in pretending this isn’t what I’m going to be talking about.
I told Stephenie Meyer that one of the things I loved about her Eclipse Prom was that it was a very safe event for girls. Not safe as in all the security guards around the place, but safe as in any girl–no matter whether any boys like her enough to invite her to a prom, no matter whether she thinks she’s too fat or flat-chested to deserve to wear a beautiful gown–every girl who wanted to could go to Stephenie’s prom and feel completely accepted and welcome.
That’s one of the reasons all those girls looked so happy.
I was talking about that with a friend of mine who used to teach high school not so long ago. She said the hardest thing for her to hear from a lot of these girls who’d been invited to the school prom was that there was this expectation that if they said yes to the date, they were also saying yes to sex. It was just a given. And I’ve heard enough about that from other kids to know that her school was not unique.
How did it get to be that way? When I went to the prom my one time, all I was desperately hoping for was to be kissed. We weren’t renting out hotel rooms back then for after-prom, and there wasn’t any whispering about how going to the prom meant losing your virginity, as it does for so many girls these days.
So I say again, what a wonderful gift Stephenie Meyer gave her fans. They got to dress up and feel beautiful and go with their best girl friends instead of some guy who’d be tapping them on the shoulder at the end of the night and saying, “Okay, it’s time.”
And bravo to my friend the teacher who at least tried to do her part to re-educate the girls in her classes who came to her for advice. I have no idea if they listened to her, but I think it’s always worth it for some respected adult–whether you’re the parent or the aunt or a teacher or a friend’s mother–or maybe a YA author–to tell girls out loud that they should never engage in any kind of sexual activity before they feel completely ready for it. They should never give up their virginity just because it’s the accepted thing. They are in charge of their own equipment, and that means they get to make all the decisions about when, with whom, and under what circumstances they will share such a personal part of themselves. And part of that self-respect includes making sure that both parties have taken appropriate precautions against pregnancy and STDs.
We need to help girls learn to trust themselves. I’ve posted about this before, but let me say it again: one of the ways we teach girls to devalue their instincts about physical safety and boundaries is by forcing them from a young age to “be polite.” To let relatives and other adults hug them and kiss them, even if the child (and this goes for boys, too) is clearly uncomfortable. Saying, “Don’t be that way! It’s Grandpa/Aunt Minny/daddy’s boss” teaches a child that his or her innate sense of safety and self-preservation doesn’t matter. What matters is what other people want.
So why should we be surprised if that same child, ten years later, gives in to her prom date? She wouldn’t want to be rude.
As you can tell, this issue just happens to touch a nerve. What say any of you?