Several years ago now, I was watching an episode of the TLC show about the Duggar family — 17 Kids and Counting, I believe it was called then, though I think they currently have 19 children, and I’m not sure they still have a show (I’m afraid to check).
In this episode, a bunch of the older kids were out and about, and one of the teen daughters, in an aside to the camera, explained how her family dealt with the boys being in places — as in, anyplace other than home — that might contain women dressed immodestly. They’d walk along the sidewalk in a line, the oldest girls in front scanning the crowd for something immodest like, I don’t know, shorts. And that girl’s responsibility would be to sing a tune that was a pre-arranged signal for her brothers to avert their eyes.
Because if they don’t look, they won’t be tempted. If they don’t see, they won’t think.
My thought back then was, Yeah, that’ll work. Because healthy humans never just sort of spontaneously think about sex. I was reminded of a factoid I learned many years go about the Victorians; they would cover beautifully carved tables with floor-length cloths to keep men from being titillated by the finely-turned legs on furniture.
I think about the Duggars the Victorians today thanks to Mrs. Hall. Oh, you don’t know who Mrs. Hall is? She’s the mom of four who wrote a blog post called “FYI (If You’re a Teenage Girl)”, in which she implores the anonymous teen girls out there on the Interwebs to stop putting up half-clad selfies on their Facebook pages, because they were messing with her (perfect, blonde, upstanding) teen sons’ mind-purity.
She tries to say it in a nice way: “Wow – you sure took a bunch of selfies in your pj’s this summer!” — but it essentially comes across as “stop tempting my sons because they cannot be held responsible.” Once they see you in your cute (read: sexy) PJs, braless; or in a towel; or striking a sultry pose, her sons (or anyone’s sons) can’t, as she quips, “un-see” it. And somehow this means they can’t be blamed if your photos change the way they think of you. You slut.
See, it’s that teen girl’s responsibility to keep Mrs. Hall’s boys’ minds free of impure thoughts, because once they have those thoughts, they don’t go away. (As with the Duggars’ quaint avert-your-eyes dance, it’s almost laughable, right?) Once those boys see a braless girl in a sexy selfie, they are not to be blamed if the image that remains lodged in their brains forever is that of a sexually available slut-bag they are not required to have respect for. Because she ruined that.
Even if the next time they see her (or any girl or woman) she’s in her Duggar costume or her varsity field-hockey uniform or her doctor coat or the high heels and mini skirt she wears when she’s a grown woman out with friends and turns down a dark alley to go home. You see where I’m going here.
I don’t think it’s a smart idea to take sexy selfies of your 14-year-old self and paste them online. I also don’t think it’s a smart idea to totter down a dark alley alone. But neither of those possibly poor choices means that any boy or man in the vicinity gets a pass on what he thinks of that girl or woman; or worse, gets a pass on what his thoughts might lead him to do.
Getting the theme here? Preventing boys from getting the wrong idea about girls, according to Mrs. Hall (and Mr. and Mrs. Duggar, and certain Republican congress people) is up to the girls.
Is there no responsibility to be taken by the boys? The Duggar boys, Mrs. Hall’s boys, my boys? Your boys?
My initial thought about that Duggar tradition of the girls singing to prompt their brothers to close their eyes to potential female temptation was that it was just plain silly. But thinking about it now, post-Steubenville and post-Miley and post-Robin Thicke? It’s not silly. It’s a short amble from there over to the insidious “she asked for it.”
Sometimes people tell me I should be glad I have sons because they’re easier. Well, yes, probably in some ways (hair, maybe?). But that’s starting to sound like yet another get-out-of-parenting-tough-stuff-free card, too. I don’t get a pass from teaching my boys to not treat girls like crap, even if those girls appear to lack self-respect.
Fellow boy mamas: what do you think?