comprehensive sexuality education without the shame

Body Image... And Acceptance

After returning home from picking my 7 year old daughter up from school one day I found her in our front yard standing on a rock flipping her hair from side to side looking, I may say a bit ridiculous.  I asked her what she was doing.  Her response: “Practicing on how to get a boy to like me.”  My initial external response was, “Alright, okay, let’s talk more about that.”  My internal response was, “AHHHH!!!! No!!!!! You’re only seven….dear God!”  I quickly told her that the only thing she needs to worry about is being herself:  being brave, courageous, fun, smart, and compassionate like she is.  Those are the important qualities for a person to like another person.  If they don’t, then they are not someone you want in your life.  

We all have this deep seated need to feel accepted and cared for and sometimes go to great lengths to achieve that.  Due to the emphasis today on the woman’s body as a sexual object through advertising and social media outlets, women of all ages are altering and ruining their bodies to fit what they think is the ultimate and most beautiful look.  Girls today are getting labiaplasty, a surgery to have their labia resemble that of a porn star.  Because porn is becoming so highly accessible, it is becoming how youth get their sexual education.  But it is skewed.  Young men and women think that the images they see are what are real.  So when they enter into a sexual experience together and the labia do not look like that of a porn star, then the young men get confused and the young ladies are shamed.  The truth is all labia look different and girls shouldn’t feel like they need to alter such an intimate part of their body to fit an unrealistic and false model of beauty.  They shouldn’t feel that they need to change so they don’t experience shame. 

Besides this, girls are plumping their lips to look like Kylie Jenner, wrapping their legs with saran wrap and working out endlessly to achieve a thigh gap, or using A4 8 inch printer paper to measure what they believe is the perfect waist size.  I remember in high school I had grown men and boys tell me that I had thunder thighs. So, of course I hated my legs.  In high school I was a size three and when I looked back at my pictures, my legs looked like bean poles.  They were muscular.  But I allowed that false pretense to shape how I felt about myself every day.  Body image isn’t a new topic, but it should be a dying one.  Sadly, however I believe it is getting worse from the impact of social media and the obsession to be looked at and noticed.  Our self-worth is now linked to how many likes, comments, or re-tweets we have.

I believe as a society we are failing our young and it is being highlighted every day.  There are too many violations of our bodies such as: kids sharing nude pictures taken on cell phones, sexual assaults on college campuses, posting acts of lewd behavior and victimization during drunken acts on the internet, sex trafficking and abuse.  As a parent, to see my seven year old already processing how to ‘act’ for a boy to like her and already having conversations with her about what ‘sexy’ means at age five because a boy pulled her shirt down past her shoulder…is upsetting and scary. 

From my understanding, this behavior are kids and young adults acting out while trying to process all the images and messages they are given but are rarely spoken to about.  I think as a society we are lacking in intimacy and compassion.  Because we are stressed and overworked we start to disengage from our loved ones and our children feel the effects of that.  If we actively seek and pay attention to what our own needs are and work to get those met through self-care, open communication, and putting away our work and smart phones for a bit, then real engagement can happen.  We then can enter into dialogue with our young that our cultures’ so called measurements of beauty and acceptance are false.  

That the process of finding out who we are and what makes our soul laugh and our mind soar is the real beauty.  When we engage in those, then human connection and acceptance is inevitable. We give things power by paying attention to them and letting them take control over and affect our lives.  Let’s stop this madness with body image and the roles of advertising. Let’s stand up to violence and teach our children about compassion.  Let’s be willing to talk about what our kids are seeing and let’s care enough to show them what truth is when it comes to love, acceptance, and intimacy.

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