That was the comment near the end of my girls’ 8th grade health class today. It brought home to me that in a time when sexual humor is found in everything from cartoons to T-shirts, we need to be sure our teens know where to draw the line. This is true whether they’re making the comments or being subjected to them.
Granted, “sexual harassment” might be a little strong for a junior high boy’s warped sense of humor, but it’s not too early for girls to learn to stand up for themselves. It’s an age of experimentation and a good time for both genders to learn how to be more respectful of each other.
Take the title of this blog, for example. Only about half of the girls today really understood what it meant (I found the same to be true last year). After I’d explained it to them, there was a pause and then comments of “Oh! That’s disgusting!” and “Eww!” as they thought back to when they’d heard the phrase used.
We also discussed inappropriate or lewd gestures boys might use to get a laugh, like using “the bird” to scratch their noses. The girls admitted they were uncomfortable when those kinds of things happened, but they didn’t know what to do about it. I gave them several suggestions, from saying loudly, “That’s inappropriate!” to getting one or two friends together to single out a repeat offender and tell him how much they disapprove of his behavior (I told them boys fear girls in groups). I also encouraged them to let the adults in their lives know, and we’d be happy to get involved.
As the mom to three sons, I know not all boys use this kind of humor around the girls (the girls will be the first to tell you that’s true), and I also know that boys can be exposed to sexual harassment. But today was a day to enlighten and empower the girls; the boys will get their turn another day!