My children, my nieces and nephew need critical thinking skills just as much as they need my love.
Because right now, most men and women still believe they’re opposites instead of complementary. Most people think there are only two human sexes. Most people think that races are an actual biological reality instead of cultural and ethnic constructs. One in three women around the globe will be subject to intimate partner physical and sexual violence and yet people still think abuse is an individual problem.
People think that the thing that makes us most human is the crap our reptilian brain pulls like jealousy, rather than the pre-frontal cortex specifically designed for regulating that evolutionarily-lazy (and very, very yte) shit.
Even though this country — the US — claims that slavery no longer exists, in romantic-sexual relationships it’s expected to have some ownership over your partner(s) behavior, life choices, and emotions. The culture still thinks of love as meaning you’re half-empty and waiting to be filled. And our education around sex, love, and emotions is unbelievably convoluted and deleterious.
● Why should my son grow up believing women are here for his entertainment?
● Why should my daughter grow up believing her worth is determined by how many people she has sex with?
● Why should my child of any gender believe that racism and sexism are no longer issues?
● Why should my child who’s agender accept the religious and amatanormative narratives that culture will shove down their throats?
● Why would I leave my Two Spirit child without a tool to deal with a culture that has grown out of abusive systems and atrocities?
Many adults right now think they’re ok. They’re surprised when they hear about abuse, when they find out they’ve crossed someone’s boundary, and when they learn that other sexualities exist. Sexual, physical, and mental health problems are stacking up and yet no one finds it necessary to find out why or to educate themselves about any of it.
People are partially coming to polyamory or non-monogamy as a way to learn about things that our culture has stripped from us Black and otherwise indigenous people. What does it say about our culture when racism, heterosexism, and abuse is still so rampant in the non-monogamous community? What does it say when people don’t even realize they are being abusive? Or when they don’t connect the dots to the larger world they live in?
My children will have context as they grow up. They will not grow up with tales of Santa or Jesus or the Stork. They will not grow up having everything taken care of for them or being shielded from the “harsh realities of life”. They won’t grow up merely learning STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. They’ll be taught emotional literacy and critical thinking as well.
Because all over the TV are messages about conformity, distortions about different kinds of people, and a lack of true diversity. Because scientists and doctors still don’t think female ejaculation is real, or worse, they think it’s pee because zomg a little pee sometimes comes out, too. Because vaginismus and teenage pregnancy is unbelievably common among the abstinence-centered religious (and no, I am not shaming teens for having kids because that’s literally been done since the fucking beginning of time, but I am concerned for the well-being of people and children who are shamed and isolated and ignorant due to some preventable bullshit). Because the relationship and touch escalators are assumptions that erase consent. Because the non-monogamous community is still learning to treat lovers like humans and friends like people. Because “normal” people believe that they’re more rational than the mentally disordered people they make fun of. Because they believe that empathy is what survivors need most instead of safety, resources, options, and a supportive culture.
Many in the polya community would rather discuss empathy for survivors rather than hold abusers accountable or figure out why our cultures allow so much room for such rampant mistreatment in the first place.
The family is supposed to be the core of society. Yet it has been dysfunctional and dangerous for the vast majority of patriarchal-centered human history. Even before the whole idea of a “nuclear family” was invented, family bore more resemblance to monopolistic corporations in this crony capitalist economy than people want to admit. Men owned women and other men and their children. People were traded like cards. That was a fact. And yet, like so much else of history, many people today think that these events have no bearing on our current circumstances or the ways we relate to each other today.
Echoed in the struggle of survivors today, the tales of our abusive history are largely disregarded, misunderstood, and minimized. To heal requires transparency and critical thinking and in so many ways our culture deliberately fosters obfuscation and logical fallacies.
Abuse culture would have us raising our children in contradictory ways and then expecting them to suddenly merge with their partner when they fall in love. It tells us certain people should lead, not because of any inherent ability, but because of their genitals or some other arbitrary default. It tells us that the (assumed) biological is reason enough to force the societal. It leaves victims of abuse in abusive situations because that’s safer for them than leaving! It has us arguing over nature vs nurture when we’ve lived as a technological species for tens of thousands of years. It has folks playing the Oppression Olympics rather than dealing with the underlying issues. It has the masses suffering from neuroses arising from emotional ignorance/constipation and the pressure to conform.
It is so built into our worlds that people spend the rest of their lives trying to recover from the damage. We are stripped of our rational humanity, told to behave like impulsive creatures, and then the self-help and other industries strive to sell us back wisdom in tiny bits.
“This is how to make your man marry you.”
“This is how to get laid.”
“This is how to reignite your passion.”
“This is how to save money.”
Instead of leaving my children to flail around for years lost in the midst of so much contradictory, hypocritical, and abusive bullshit, I’ll instill in them the ability of discernment and the desire for transparency.
They don’t have to agree with everything I’ve realized. I want them to challenge me as well, if they ever see me defaulting to something the culture replaced my original thoughts with.
It’s a hell of a thing to overcome an abuse culture. While we can’t get rid of it or pretend it never happened or doesn’t still affect things, we can certainly do our damndest to create a new one. A culture based in consent — the fully informed and situation-specific contextual consent. A culture of transparency. A culture of critical thinking. A culture of choice. A culture of integration. A culture which is nourished through communities of care.
I suppose the family really is the core. And for me, it starts at home.
Varticle has been updated, and was first published via Postmodern Woman, and later reworked and republished via Harlot.