This book first caught my attention because a mother in Washington state filed a complaint with her daughter’s school district when her daughter brought the book home.
“It’s too graphic.” She claimed, not appropriate for a ten-year old. This book had been available in school libraries for 10 years, without a single complaint from parents, educators, children or community members.
As the story got more traction the book started haunting me, what was in it? Was it really inappropriate? I doubted it. I know how conservative schools have gotten in recent years when it comes to sex. I had to take a look.
My copy arrived in the mail a couple of days ago. I’ve read the book several times now, including twice to my daughters – ages 5 and 7. It has sparked some great conversations, answered some lingering questions for my children and encouraged them to be open and honest about their bodies, how they feel and what they think about them.
It seems like a solid win to me.
I was ready to blow the whole thing off as one over-reactive parent who doesn’t understand that kids want to know what’s wrong with their bodies, and why they should be so ashamed of them all the time. (The answer, nothing is wrong, adults are just weird.)
But then… I read this in The Week:
Only in America – A 6-year-old Wisconsin boy has been accused of first-degree sexual assault for “playing doctor” with a 5-year-old girl. The boy is too young to face criminal charges, but prosecutors have presented the allegations to a judge and asked for state intervention. “This isn’t about punishing him,” said District attorney Lisa Riniker. “It’s about making sure he gets the help he needs.”
OK – first off, maybe it’s the PARENTS who need to be reading this book, not the kids. Curiosity is NATURAL at that age. No one wants to talk to kids about where babies come from, or how they get in there in the first place, or why boys have penises and girls have vaginas (and no – those are NOT four letter words), or why those parts are “private”. (Really, we have to start this at that age?? I mean I understand the pedophile fear – and covering up at the mall or restaurants, or school, but at that age kids should still be running around naked in the backyard, playing in sprinklers, peeing on the grass…)
We have set it up so that more than ever kids have to learn about sex for themselves. They know that grownups don’t want to talk to them about it, but they can’t figure out why. At that age, aside from the fact that pee comes from that area, it’s not really any different from their elbow, or their belly, or their knee. At the age of 5 and 6 penises and vaginas are NOT sexual organs yet. Yes, they are sexual identifiers, but they’re not functional sexual body parts. So kids don’t understand what’s wrong with them, or why they should hide them, or be ashamed. Thus the reason fart and pee jokes are so funny and prevalent – kids are trying to figure out what it is about that one small part of their bodies that makes adults so uncomfortable.
I’m going to go WAY out on a limb here and just assume that everyone reading this played doctor at least once as a child. The more adventurous of us may have played doctor more than once, perhaps with different genders, or multiple friends to see if they looked different from us, and each other. It wasn’t sexual, it was natural childhood curiosity.
Now think, if we had all been prosecuted for that – all been told we needed “help” because we were curious about our bodies, and the way they were different or the same as our friend’s bodies… We’d all be even more warped and repressed than we already are. We would have grown up thinking, believing, that our bodies were sick, wrong, harmful, twisted. And then what happens when, as adults, it’s “time” to become sexual (purely for procreation, of course)? We still have all this warped wrongness going through us, we still think those body parts are “dirty”, “wrong”, “bad”. But, they’re actually entirely critical to the survival of our species. Not to mention the survival of our marriages, relationships, and mental health.
The only help this 6-year-old Wisconsin boy needs is a sane judge, a rational community, and the adults around him to remember what it was like to be a kid; curious about the world and determined to find answers – especially to the questions that were too tough for parents to answer. What he needs is for every adult in his state to be forced to sit down and read What’s the Big Secret?, and then give him a copy.
NOTE: I wanted to put in some better pictures and text from the book itself, but I ran out of time this morning, here’s a link to a blogger who did it for me!