Saturday, December 29, 2007

Mythology And Danger Of Good Girl Bad Girl Binary

In some of the stories about the pregnancy of Jaimie Lynn Spears, people are talking about being disappointed that she wasn't a good girl as promised. Now there are rumors that it wasn't 18-year-old Casey Aldridge who got her pregnant but it was instead an older man who worked with her on her show.

For many people this rumor alone turns 16-year-old Spears into far worse than a bad girl and as the slurs fly none of them that I have seen are directed at the biological father, whoever he is. Think about what that says to men. This message directly contradicts the message sent by statutory rape laws.

If an adult man succeeds at getting sex from an underage girl, she's the one who is tainted. No wonder so many men whine when they get caught by the statutory rape laws or the non-statutory rape laws. "But everybody said it's her fault if she didn't or couldn't stop me! If anyone should be charged it should be her for seducing me with her youthful beauty! Wah!"

This harsh division for girls is more than disturbing, it is dangerous because it contributes to keeping girls who are victims of rape and sexual abuse silent. In this silence many rapists and abusers flourish. They can and do revictimize those who are too scared to speak up and they are emboldened to find new victims.

Yet many of those who throw slurs around easily will wonder aloud, "If she was a true victim why didn't she report what happened immediately?" Their actions are part of the answer but they don't want an honest answer to their own question and when they get it, most of them will reject it as a lie.

This was true when I was raped and the taint I felt after being raped at 15 is still out there circulating among people who have no idea how it adds to the suffering of those who have been criminally sexually exploited. If this taint hadn't been so strong I probably would have disclosed to my parents and that likely would have prevented my boyfriend/rapist from raping me a second time and it would have reduced some of my out of control actions because my parents would have known why I suddenly hated anyone telling me what to do or telling me that something was done because they loved me. They would have seen my alcohol use as more than teenage rebellion. But I was terrified away from disclosing because of the taint from no longer being a virgin.

If I had become pregnant I would have been labeled by most people as a bad girl and I knew it. The how didn't matter and the taint which would have been directed at me would have slid right past my rapist.

How many times have you heard someone say, "How could she get herself pregnant?" with absolutely no awareness that they are implying that getting pregnant is a solo project or that 100% of the responsibility belongs to the girl.

Imagine a parent of a girl who is being sexually abused by a teacher or a minister or a relative receiving the Jaime Lynn good girl/bad girl talk about how some girls are bad and how this parent expects her children to be good. What are the chances that during this talk that a girl being sexually abused is going to disclose?

My prediction is close to zero using this approach.

What are the chances during this type of talk that the girl is going to feel worse than she did before this type of talk about the sexual abuse?

My prediction is close to 100% using this approach.

If a girl didn't feel to blame before this type of talk what are the chances that a girl who is or was being sexually abused will internalize the blame after this type of talk?

I won't make a prediction, but I will remind people that victims of sexual abuse can become suicidal and can successfully commit suicide. The actions of naive people do contribute to this loss of life.

For parents who want to talk to their children about Jaime Lynn Spears' pregnancy the first issue that must be raised is that 2 people were involved. Rather than talking about good/bad girls, parents should talk about boundaries so their children know when they or someone else is crossing an ethical or legal line. It's like teaching children the significance of flashing lights at a railroad crossing. Without the explanation those are just pretty flashing lights.

This is one of the key problems with abstinence-only sexual education. It asks children to wait and the only acceptable response is "yes, sir." This would be bad enough if some of these programs didn't introduce harmful sexual stereotypes.

Complete sex education makes a difference. It can result in both girls and boys delaying sex. If a comprehensive sex ed program leaves children vulnerable to exploitation, then it should be improved not scrapped.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:55 AM   0 comments links to this post

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