There are times when I think about how things would have been different growing up if teachers and other adults had chosen to express that whole idea of kids “being inappropriate” (re: making sexual comments in class and stuff) as… like… a matter of appropriate boundaries between themselves as adults and us as kids, rather than as one of the Rules, the way “do your homework” is a rule and “be respectful of the teacher” is a rule.
I mean what if those adults had told me and other kids that it wasn’t that talking about sex was taboo, but rather that they just didn’t want to necessarily share those conversations with us (outside of formalized sex ed) and that if an adult DOES want to share lots of sex jokes with a kid and share sexual conversations with a kid, that we should regard that adult as suspicious.
What if they had actively encouraged us to judge and be critical of the way adults treated us, in case of an adult stepping over a line, and what if those boundaries were genuinely treated like something for our benefit rather than another excuse to control us and scold us and brand us “bad kids,” and what if “breaking” that “rule” about appropriate talk for the classroom was reframed as not yet having learned how to set good enough boundaries for ourselves and how to be more wary of what we share with people in a position of power over us, not for fear of wrath or deliberate punishment but because there are people we will meet who will try to exploit us.
Like what if the way adults acted towards us didn’t put the idea in other kids’ heads that sex was this edgy rule-breaking thing and that having any kind of boundaries about it ourselves meant we were goody-two-shoes stuck under an adult’s thumb. What if not setting boundaries for yourself well enough wasn’t ever framed as “acting out.”
How would my life have been different then? Can I even imagine that?