Why I’m Taking My Sons to SlutWalk SF

This Saturday is San Francisco’s SlutWalk and I am taking my 10 and 11 year old sons. While they’ve been in marches, protests and parades before, I’m not going to allow them out into the streets for SlutWalk. My plan is to take them to the gathering point in the park and then we’ll stay off to one side, walking along the sidewalk as the march takes to the streets.

So, here’s the question I’m assuming you’re asking… why would you take adolescent boys to a SlutWalk?

My first answer is that I am not afraid to have whatever conversations they need to have about it. I am not afraid to talk about sex, sexuality, sexual assault, gender roles, power dynamics, systemic oppression, misogyny and fear with my children. I am not afraid to answer their questions and offer my interpretation. I have been having age appropriate conversations about sex and sexuality with my kids their entire lives.  What are they going to ask me when they see people carrying signs about rape, sexual assault and ‘asking for it’… What are they going to absorb, what are they going to question, what are they going to be confused about and what are they going to understand? I can’t wait to find out!

The second answer is that the effects of lived experiences are deeper than conversations. Misogyny exists in many facets in our culture. It’s deep and pervasive and I want my kids to see women making these statements. I want them to see men supporting these statements. But I also want the reality that anyone can be the victim of sexual assault to sink in. There aren’t any safe categories of exemption in a rape-positive culture. I don’t agree with polarizing sexual assault within the gender binary. I do not believe that men are hardwired to rape. (And I’ve read the theories, it’s all a myth.) As a parent, I constantly validate my children’s right to have their own experiences. How they process what they experience is vital information to me as their primary caretaker.

Third, to me, SlutWalk is about confronting the rape positive aspect of our culture. To assume that children are unaware of sexual assault is both naive and ignorant. Every parent who wants to protect their child has to have the conversation with their little dependent being that they have the right to say no to unwanted touching and that if someone does touch them in an unwanted way they need to tell you. I had to have that conversation with my sons when they were 3 years old. 3. Let that sink in. I had to warn my children that someone may try to do something sexual to them against their will. Let me tell you how angry that made me. How unfair and wrong those conversations are and yet totally necessary.

I also had to tell them that if someone did violate them it was not their fault. I had to tell them that even if they were too afraid to say no, it still isn’t their fault and to never be afraid to tell me, that I would never be mad at them. And we’ve had these conversations over and over and over. Every time they start a new school year, every time they join an after school program, every time they spend the night at a friend’s house. This is the result of living in a rape positive culture. A culture where victims of sexual assault get shamed and blamed while predators get excused and ignored.

My hope is that while I armed them as best as I could as children, I also instilled a moral belief that will last throughout their adulthood: it is wrong to touch someone without their consent. I taught them about consent before puberty. Before the hormones and the peer pressure and the media onslaught diminish my influence as the dominant arbiter of their reality. I taught them to see a person as a person and that secondary sexual characteristics are just that, secondary to the person they are interacting with.

And now, thanks to SlutWalk, I’ve got a whole damned parade to agree with me. It won’t be just my singular voice against the oppressive forces of victim blaming and slut shaming that bear down upon us all. My kids will see people as angry as I am that we teach people to not get raped as opposed to teaching people not to rape. It’s a collective call out on rape culture. I want my sons to see that nobody deserves to be violated as a cultural value. That no woman, man or child is ever asking to be hurt, especially, and most ridiculously based on what clothing they are wearing is a belief supported by their community.

Airial Clark

As of May 2012, I will have completed my Master’s Degree in Human Sexuality Studies at San Francisco State University. Prior to attending graduate school, I graduated from UC Berkeley in 2007 with a double major BA in English Literature and Anthropology while raising two young sons as a single parent. At Cal, I was President of the Student Parent Association. I am a regular contributor to the Sex Positive Photo Project of the SF Bay Area and Shades Magazine. I have presented my original research at multiple academic conferences and symposiums. I will be presenting my Master’s Thesis Study at the OpenSF Conference this June. I have trained with Community at Work to be a group facilitator and am fully committed to the participatory process of decision making.

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