Roy Moore of Alabama, a former chief justice accused of sexual misconduct, was narrowly defeated in his quest for a U.S. Senate seat last week. What does it mean, that an apparent predator was even in the running? Are we really having this conversation? Like it or not, it seems we are. But now we must keep talking, especially with our kids.
A veritable cascade of prominent men has fallen along with Moore in recent weeks, following allegations of sexual assault and harassment. I know we’re all weary of consuming news of yet another #MeToo, but I believe we must hear, acknowledge and do right by them – and by our children. I’m angry, and I’m scared. I often catch my dear daughter, guileless and free, sock-footed and unselfconscious, twirling around our kitchen. She hums her own tune, but hears the stories, too. What must she think? What must it be like, growing up and blossoming in view of such muck? Oh, how I pity the fool who even thinks about harming her, for I’m a mama bear. But I can’t be everywhere, and I’m just not that powerful, contrary to the notions that coursed through my veins alongside the oxytocin that gushed there, too, when she was but a mere babe.
So we talk. Early and often, we parents must talk with our kids. We must normalize sexuality and sexual feelings, and share our views about what makes for healthy relationships. We must communicate our values, too, and we MUST enlighten our children about the truly tender synapses in our brains and the very real chemistry created there when we allow our energies to mingle with another’s (more of that oxytocin, a hormone secreted by the posterior lobe of the pituitary gland whenever we cuddle, connect, give birth or nurse), and about the impact of this chemistry on our emotions.
Its power to bind us is remarkable. In fact, when under the spell of this powerful hormone, also released during sex, women quite literally unconsciously overlook red-flags about potential flaws in their mates, because – my, oh, my – there could be a baby on board. And mother nature knows that babies need papas and providers, so, yeah, overlook them they do. It’s powerful stuff, that oxytocin (men fall under its spell, too, by the way).
We must inform our children about other kinds of power, too, theirs and that of others, and about how harassment, coercion and assault certainly are not sex, and have absolutely nothing whatsoever – nothing! – to do with love.
Information is powerful, too.
I also tell my children that, well, people are complicated. So when men fall from great heights, their good works don’t suddenly all become suspect, meant merely to offset the more unsavory aspects of their personalities. Whatever the case, and while I understand some of what may give rise to the power dynamic that breeds an atmosphere literally accepting of some men’s (and women’s) perceived entitlement to perpetrate damaging and confusing advances and assaults, there’s simply no excusing them.
One’s power and influence, and the potential impact of exploiting it (whether intended or truly unwitting) on those who depend upon and look up to us, cannot be overestimated. We must hold those who violate this trust accountable, and then we must talk. To our children, and to each other, and we must strive to at least try and excise this awful angst from our kind.
A fairytale, you say? Go on, just try and and chalk this all up to “human nature.” Knock yourself out. But this mama bear, and apparently frosh Sen. Doug Jones’ new constituents, think we can do better. We can be better. We can exercise our voices in our spheres of influence, however large or small they may be (yay for ballot boxes!), and we can be the change we want to see – in our very own kitchens, with our very own kids.
And, hey, I hear them, too, the chants of those who wonder “where have all the good men gone?” But I think they’re here. They’re right here, and they’re hurting from all of this. And our boys, those "good men to-be," need for the good guys to step up and show ‘em how it’s done. Let’s gift our children with examples of respect and healthy boundaries. Show them what love really looks like and what they should expect. Do it, please, will you? Before sock-feet spins give way to more shame and hunched shoulders? For they all, every last boy and every last girl, deserve a chance to dance.
Jennifer DuBose lives in Batavia with her family. Her column runs regularly in the Kane Weekend section of the Kane County Chronicle. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.