This is an article that I never thought that I would write. Let me rephrase this. I often write about lessons that we can teach our teens about all sorts of issues. I did not, however, think that lessons about sex and inappropriate sexual manners, talk and behavior would be stimulated by the very overt and covert behavior of a candidate for the President of the United States of America. Yes, indeed, Donald Trump has inadvertently provided all of us with an opportunity to dialogue about inappropriate sexual behavior. Mr. Trump's frequent degrading and disrespectful comments about and behavior toward women have triggered all sorts of reactions. I am most concerned about the experiences of many women which sadly have included being groped and/or spoken to inappropriately at the workplace and in a variety of other arenas.
There is no woman who is immune to being the target of such behavior regardless of her station in life. I am painfully aware of this through my work as a clinical psychologist and as a woman and a friend. Women and their appearance are not infrequent topics of discussion in the workplace even in 2016. I have spoken to many women who have been propositioned, groped and spoken to crudely by employers. There are other women who have experienced the same sorts of behaviors in a variety of other settings including the kitchen of a friend's home where a friend's husband presumptuously put his tongue in a woman's mouth. How about the woman leaving a work party and the boss walking alongside her who put his hands on her buttocks and described how he had wanted to do this for many years? Did he think that this would be flattering to her?
Donald Trump frequently makes reference to the "hotness" level of women and was recently caught on tape bragging about how he feels entitled to behave with women. Apparently, he has a history, according, to what he was heard saying, of kissing and grabbing women who he finds attractive enough. He has even made reference to his own daughter's sexual appeal in a manner that is totally offensive and so inappropriate. Fathers are generally protectors of their daughters and do not make lustful comments about them.
So what opportunity does Mr. Trump provide parents of teens with? Several. He provides us mostly with the opportunity to point out behavior that is unacceptable. Consider the following:
1. Talk to your sons about how crude it is to talk about the body parts of females using degrading terms. Similarly, let your daughters know that any male that refers to her body in a less than respectful way is not worth her time.
2. Teach your sons that admiring and touching are two very different things. Simply because you admire a woman's appearance you do not have a right to comment on it or touch that woman. Permission is always required. Teach your daughter that she is more than simply the sum of her body parts. A good man will always look at her as the sum of her talents, personality and a variety of other attributes. She has the right to remove herself from an unwanted tongue in her mouth or arms on her body.
3. If your sons find themselves in the middle of a conversation about women that they find degrading they do not need to participate. In fact, changing the topic and/or not contributing are very effective forms of derailing a conversation.
4. Encourage your daughters to give a voice to what has happened to them with men. These incidents should not be unspeakable and it is only when we speak out collectively that we have power. Yes, you should share your own stories with your teens. There is not a woman out there who doesn't have a confusing moment to share.
5. Teach your teens that the body is a wonderful thing and should be treated as such. It should never be spoken about crudely and/or groped at will.