Discussing Sex & Rape With Our Daughters

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Discussing Sex & Rape With Our Daughters
How much, if at all, should we discuss with our daughters?

From there, my mommy-ear’s tuned back in to give me a chance to think while she talked about her teachers and classmates when I chimed in with a series of, “hmm mmm,” and “oh yeah?” and “really?”

Now that she is thirteen, she notices the trend in movies were more women are being violently raped. These scenes are graphic, horrific; some films explicitly mimic the experience while others vaguely recall what most women actually experience.

I explained these things to my daughter. I tell her that rape doesn’t have to be violent. That your face doesn’t have to become a punching bag, nor do you have to end up in a body bag before it is considered rape. That sometimes because we know the attacker, they may take liberties with our bodies without permission. That it may be difficult to say no, but when it’s your body and you don’t want anyone using it for their pleasures, you have to say no. I’ve explained that No means No, but some guys still use the Ovidian notions of No means Yes. So even though we have these conversations, which I’ll admit, are happening more frequently than I like, I still haven’t found the courage to tell her that I was raped.

Once, I posed this question to a friend and colleague, who admitted that she resented her mother for telling her that she was the product of rape. Granted, she and her mother had a difficult relationship so her mother was probably being vengeful when she did this, to show her that she never wanted her in the first place. But my daughter and I are very close and I fear that telling her will make her feel resentful.

I have read many expert opinions on what to say your child, what not to say to your child. But I swear, there just isn’t much out there to help parents rationally discuss this subject with their children. There isn’t much literature that explains whether a parent should, or should not tell her child that she was raped. Yet, we expect our children to tell us if they ever experience anything like this.

So how can I be such a hypocrite? For now, I’ve reasoned that she isn’t mature enough to understand. By being chicken-shit, I hoped that if this ever came up again, she’d be at college, or at least, on her way there. But the day is coming when she may want this information. Because I try to be honest with her, I’ve decided that if she asked me if I’ve experienced rape, then I would tell her. Otherwise, I’m sticking to our nation’s old military slogan: “Don’t ask. Don’t Tell.”

Besides, I don’t ever want her to question if I love or want her in my life. I address her conception, my upbringing and so many things in my memoir. Still, I’m a mother first and foremost, so I’m not sure if I can tell her. As a writer, I can hide behind my pen name and find the voice denied me in my youth. However, when it comes to telling my daughter something like this, I’m scared shitless. I can reveal things to my readers, to the world, but I don’t have to live with them. They are not with me the way that my daughter is with me.

I’m asking now just in case things get out of hand and I am no longer able to shield her identity by hiding my own.

So what do you think? So should I tell my only child, the love of my life, that I was raped?

This article originally appeared on Blogher as "Should We Draw the Line on What’s Safe to Tell Our Children about Sex and Rape?"

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