A reader saw an article called “Nine Movies that make Women Think it’s Romantic to be Stalked“. The reader said it reminded her of my article on rape in Fifty Shades of Grey and my article on how Fifty Shades of Grey and other pieces of fiction do affect reality. My reader encouraged me to write a follow-up on this theme as my daughter’s first Valentine’s Day approaches. So, for my 50th blog post, here are my thoughts as a mother of a daughter who will one day be romanced…
My daughter’s love life has been on my mind since before she was conceived. If you have followed my blog, you know that I went through sexual assault throughout 8th and 9th grades. It started and continued so long because it seemed so harmless to begin with. A boy at my church/school began to hang out with me. I was excited because I was the awkward, geeky girl with few friends. He started telling me I was pretty. My starving self esteem ate up the compliments. But then he started telling me I was sexy. He started saying he wanted to buy me lingerie. (Yes, in 8th and 9th grade. Seriously.) Our AOL conversations turned into him saying inappropriate things despite my telling him it made me uncomfortable (which is harassment). At school and at church activities, he followed me everywhere – even into the girls’ locker room once (stalking). He began snapping my bra, which lead to feeling me up (assault). By the second year, he was threatening to do these things to my little sister if I didn’t have sex with him. He threatened suicide and even had one of his friends try to convince me he had gone through with the threat. He told me he talked to demons and that he sent them to my room at night to watch me. Basically, he was a mini Christian Grey. By this point, I was so embarrassed to be seen as a sexual object, I couldn’t work up the nerve to tell my parents or teachers. I simply blocked him on AOL, changed my screen name, and hid while at church activities until the harassment and assault died out. Then I pretended it didn’t happen and got through high school, but the memories came up when I started dating Frank, and then the memories came full-force during our first year of marriage.
Now that I am the mother of a little girl, my heart aches when I think of something like this happening to her. I want to vomit. I seriously think I would kill the boy who treated her the way my schoolmate treated me. (Now I know where the term “momma bear” comes from.) How do I protect her? How do I stop this? How do I prevent this from ever happening? I am especially at a loss since my parents were so careful and so protective of me. (I was the kid whose classmates teased her for being “sheltered.”)
What makes this situation even more terrifying is that our culture teaches men that women want to be treated this way. Our culture teaches women that being treated this way is romantic. Women want men to watch them sleep. Women want men to follow them around during their daily lives. Women want to be given ultimatums for sexual actions. It’s a compliment for a guy to keep pressuring a woman for “romance” even once she has asked him to stop.
It is not what women want.
It is not romantic.
So this Valentine’s Day, I have a request of parents, teachers, daycare workers, babysitters, nannies, aunts, uncles, grandparents – teach little girls what real romance is; teach little boys how to respectfully express love. Why teach little kids? Because it starts young. The boy who assaulted me was 12 when he started. Twelve. The younger you demonstrate to your children what love is – even unromantic love – the more likely they will be to respect others and appropriately demonstrate love. If they grow up in love, they will know how to express love.
I pray for my daughter every day. I prayed for her before she was conceived. I prayed for her before she was born. As soon as I knew I was pregnant, I prayed for my baby’s future spouse. As soon as I knew I had a daughter, I prayed for her future husband. I still do. I pray to God that she has a husband just as loving and respectful as her daddy. I pray she has caring in-laws just like her paternal grandparents. My parents prayed all these things for me, and their prayers were answered.
I pray that whatever boy dates her and whatever man marries her sees all her shades and loves her accordingly. I pray he patiently discovers these shades as she is willing to share them. I pray he sees
the shade of her Christian faith shining through all she does,
the shade of her innocence,
the shade of her humor,
the shade of the characteristics she values in others,
the shade of her smile,
the shade of her laugh,
the shade of her desire to be respected,
the shade of her personhood and right to be treated as a human being,
the shade of her unique personality,
the shade of her need to be loved,
the shade of her wish for freedom,
the shade of her intelligence,
the shade of her independence,
the shade of her empathy and how it should never be taken advantage of.
I pray that the shades of her husband mix with hers to create the beautiful mosaic of a God-pleasing marriage, preceded by a truly romantic period of dating.
These are the thoughts of a mother on her daughter’s first Valentine’s Day… and every day.
Some closing thoughts:
“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” – Proverbs 22:6
“Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it.” – Song of Solomon 8:7
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-5
“We love because He [God] first loved us.” John 4:19
“If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” – 1 Corinthians 13:2
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her …” – Ephesians 5:25