When I was perhaps seven years old, I was sent to see a movie by myself for the first time. My mother took me aside and told me that I should try to sit at the end of a row of other children, because there were creepy old men out there that liked to touch little boys. Of course she would present the media stereotype that pedophiles couldn’t possibly be female. But even my own mother who sexually abused her sons was caught up in the narrative that there were these evil people “out there” that everyone needed to warn their kids about. When she told me this, I thought that I might be one of those people, because of my compulsive masturbation, because of the things I thought about, the ways that I was abused by my family and the people in the neighborhood. She never warned me about dangers among other children or in the family, the dangers of her own bed; it was only the outside world that was an unsafe place, which is why we should insulate and isolate ourselves in the incest family.
Perhaps if I was in doubting mode I would think ‘oh, how could an incestuous mother possibly say this to her son?’ But no, my insane mother doesn’t have to make sense. She was an expert at denial, she could see something, anything with her own eyes and then by the next morning convince herself it wasn’t real, it didn’t happen. She certainly had the ability to separate-out the knowledge that she had sexually abused me and caused real harm in order to have this ludicrous conversation that in the context I understandably took as an accusation of myself. Perhaps she also felt some proprietary sense; that it was fine for her, my father, grandmother, and brother to sexually abuse me, but some random person at a movie theater was moving in on their turf. I was still a possession, still their property.
In one of the supposedly “funny” stories that she liked to tell about her child neglect, my mother often repeated how at two years old my brother was led back to the house by CPS after wandering out by the road in only his diaper. When she laughingly recounted this story to a girlfriend of his after I had recently revealed I was sexually abused, she ended by saying “good thing that was before all this molestation stuff.” Yet of course cycles of sexual abuse and incest certainly did exist in the 80’s, the 50’s and on back as long as human history goes. In her sick, flippant denial, my mother conveniently left out that she had likely already molested all her kids by that point, which sadly the CPS worker didn’t deduce from this incident of gross neglect. The flippant arrogance behind her denial and clinging to conventional views simply knew no end.
The idea that all which needs to be done is for parents to caution their children about pedophiles wandering the streets is not one I share. It’s parents that need to be told by that they don’t own their children’s bodies. Performing sexually abusive spankings (if not more overt SA) while telling children that they have private parts others aren’t allowed to touch shows a complete disconnect. As does, for instance, force-feeding them food they don’t like and then telling them that their body belongs to them. It’s the non-verbal messages that are sent which are often the deciding factor if a child feels confident to say no and/or tell once they are abused. My family sexually abused me, spanked me, force-fed me, and then this pat little talk was supposed to ensure that I wouldn’t fall prey to a predator on the outside. They already communicated to me that I had no rights, so this was meaningless.
My mother showed other signs of what is commonly viewed as “protectiveness” but really isn’t. Despite inducting me into pedophile orgies with her husband, I remember one night they tried to have us watch a movie with them, but then every time an unexpected seen of nudity came on, they would yell at us to get under the covers and shield our eyes, eventually just sending us to bed because the film was ‘too graphic’ for little children. But apparently what happened in real-life in their bed could not possibly have harmed our little eyes. When I was 11 years old, a cartoon show featuring two incompetent teenage outcasts was all the rage. I would watch it every day after I came home from school, until my mother found out, and threw a condescending fit about how I wasn’t ‘old enough’ to handle it, as if I wasn’t exposed to the much worse people at school by that point.
She tried to censor the television I watched, the music I listened to, and if my sister had her way, would have put controls on what internet websites I could view when I got my computer at sixteen years old. Meanwhile, in all these years, I was sexually abused by my multiple family members, I was bullied at school, I was beaten by my father, I was emotionally abused by her. I was not ‘protected’ from any of this, because condescending censorship does not come from a desire to protect at all, it was a way to take away even more rights from me, a form of punishment and an expression of her ownership. No music, television, video games or fashion magazines ever traumatized me, taught me negative messages about myself or the world. My mother gave me my eating disorder, the incest of my family gave me PTSD, their real-life violence hurt me, their emotional abuse scarred my vision of the world for a long, long time.
I wasn’t protected, I wasn’t cared for, my mind was not nurtured, and it wasn’t a result of the media. The events in my physical life were where the formative actions occurred. This dissociation of my parents and sister between 1950’s ideals of purity and extreme sexual violence did nothing good for me. I hate it when I see abusive parents, families, and schools absolved of responsibility while people blame video games or films for teaching children violence or making them hyper-sexual at a young age. It’s a myth. Every fellow eating disordered patient that I ever met had a background like mine, of trauma and abuse; they didn’t just open a magazine one day and develop this unhealthy pattern. Yet my sister emotionally abused me when she found I had an eating disorder claiming she never thought I was into “all that hollywood stuff,” whatever that means. The kind of childhood I had is rarely revealed in a ‘hollywood’ film.
Meanwhile despite the video games and films that older generations didn’t grow up with, statistics show that we are living in the least violent period in all of recorded human history. That is because child-rearing techniques are evolving. In the 1970’s, Sweden was the first country to outlaw corporal punishment of children; many nations have since followed, but not enough by any means. Many across the world are going further, and seeing the value in non-punitive, non-authoritarian parenting, in respecting children’s emotions and their bodies, which leads to incredible results. As does student-directed schooling, where they are allowed to set their own curriculum and use their natural desire to learn to explore whatever they want to. I believe in this. I take my critique much farther than just sexual abuse, and I’ve gone very far beyond the bankrupt milieu in which I grew up in.