The area we call the Park Cities, twin affluent enclave municipalities surrounded by Dallas proper, is riven by a rape case in which the son of a prominent family stands accused. One reason that case is tough to talk about is that nobody knows what happened.
The accused, a high school student, could be guilty as sin or innocent as the day is long. That won't get sorted out here. It's why we have courts, cops and lawyers. But the case understandably has spawned a larger conversation about rape in the rich little region we also sometimes call "the bubble" for its psychological city walls, its deliberate and sometimes harshly enforced separation from the surrounding city and its mono-racial Christian conservatism.
The daily newspaper today has a story about parents inside the bubble struggling to explain to sons and daughters what rape is. Most of it seems to involve telling boys that rape is intercourse with a girl who does not want to have intercourse. And there's a start.
But in stories like today's in the daily, in blog comments and in casual personal conversations, I can't help feeling an important corollary is missing from the Park Cities discourse. I wonder if at some point it might help for parents also to explain to their kids, especially the sons, that girls sometimes do want to have intercourse. They do or they don't. If you have to ask, you're probably already on very thin ice. But if you do ask, or if for any other reason you hear the N-O word even faintly, then you are in rape country, and it's up to you to bail, quickly.
Of course that model entails some additional parental corollaries. If a parent recognizes that his high school-age girl does want to have intercourse sometimes, that she is endowed with free will and the ability to choose and that therefore she may take the plunge, maybe more than once, then that parent has an obligation to help his child avoid an unwanted pregnancy, a sexually transmitted disease or really bad sex with somebody she doesn't even like.
What that requires in the parent is some candid talk. Doesn't have to be a lot of candid talk. Girls have actually been figuring most of this stuff out by themselves for roughly 200 million years. Most of us can remember our own candid conversations with our parents as vividly as we remember that first root canal. So it's best to be economical with one's words wherever possible.
The problem, especially in an arch-conservative hyper-religious context like the Park Cities, is that both boys and girls are taught all sorts of distortions about sex -- lies thrown at them all day long at home, in school and at church -- and it's these lies that can get girls raped and boys put behind bars.
The chief among these lies is the model of chastity that sees girls as fighting a valiant but inevitably doomed battle against their own urges. In this medieval universe, a boy's challenge is to break open the vault that a greedy girl denies him, confidant she will change her mind after intercourse is well under way. The yes-no question, once elevated to the metaphysical, is way too hard to figure out.
It should be easy -- yes or no. It's not really bigger than that. If it's no and you persist, then you are what the law calls a rapist. It doesn't matter that she agreed to board your SUV before she said no. It doesn't matter that she made out with you. She didn't want to have intercourse. Just operate on the assumption that no is not yes and you won't wind up in the slammer.
Here's the other thing. If it's 100 percent yes, you will know. That's another fact that's about 200 million years old. There will be no doubt. Son, when a girl really badly wants to have intercourse with you, it will be way obvious.
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A Park Cities son might ask if really wanting to have intercourse with him doesn't make the girl a slut. The proper answer might be one of two questions. Does it make you a slut? What's a slut?
I don't think much of this is getting said in the common dialogue right now in the Park Cities. From what I'm picking up, much more of the conversation is about Jesus and abstinence.
Certainly people have a right to their religious beliefs. Certainly self-control is a big part of healthy sex and a huge part of life. People need to be able to keep their pants on part of the day. I'm not arguing against any of that.
What I am saying is that rape ensues from a model of gender in which females are assigned less power and choice about intercourse than males. Teach your kids that model -- that boys always want it and girls just give it up -- and you are teaching rape. Jesus wouldn't go for that.