When young people commit rapes on college campuses …

their actions have roots. For these rapes to stop happening, those roots need to be pulled up.

There are cultural roots to sexual behavior, sometimes involving ideas that have prevailed for  thousands of years. There are familial roots. There are experiences not apparently related to sex that become deeply rooted in subconscious memory during early childhood, stealthily evolving into motors of desire.  There are roots established through media portrayals of sex, and as a result of the ubiquitous selling of goods through sexual imagery and innuendo. There are messages received from porn, easily accessed by anyone with even a cell phone, available to be watched in the privacy of a bedroom or in the back of a school bus.

Intertwined with this tangle of roots is sexual shame in parents, the kind that creates awkwardness around the topic of sex. But kids are naturally driven to learn about sex, so they find their education from any convenient place. They get it from friends, movies, commercials, print media, television programs. In increasing likelihood they will get it from porn. From these sources, kids also get an education about gender roles. How sad that one of life’s greatest riches becomes associated for male and female children, much earlier than the college years, with objectification, exploitation, power to hurt and oppress.

One of the best antidotes to what is aptly called rape culture, I feel, is for parents to get comfortable speaking with their own kids about sex, to learn to unflinchingly address anything about it children should care to bring up, no matter how salacious, no matter how apparently undignified, no matter how it might press our own buttons.

If you could wave a magic wand over those deep destructive roots that have so infiltrated and damaged our collective and individual sexuality, with rape culture as just one symptom, what would you most wish to establish in their place? Creating and maintaining an open dialog with children about sex is the wand with which you pull the bad roots out of your local environment. That dialog is healing for parents because we can’t engage in it without overcoming the limitations imposed by the tyranny of shame. It is great for kids because it equips them to enter adulthood with a foundation for sexual agency. Pulling bad roots up one person at a time is a necessary part of changing our sexually confused and sick culture.

Keeping conversation about sex open requires parents to deal with multiple moving targets, and to take risks. It forces us to wrestle with voices that have caused us unhappiness and that we have perhaps confused with our own consciences. It confronts us with our own vulnerability when we don’t have instant answers or solutions to difficult questions.  In this site, I write about my own process of learning  to maintain an open conversation about sex with my own precociously insightful, intensely sexual teenage daughter. Not A Prude is dedicated to pulling up those nasty roots to create a more sex-positive world.