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Appropriate

You might think that as an erotica author, I probably am very liberal when it comes to sexual imagery in the public sphere.  You might also think that as a sex-positive parent, I have fairly liberal notions of what is appropriate for my daughters.  And you would be right…sort of.

I took the LM to her ballet school’s recital this past weekend.  She is in the youngest class and they were not invited to perform, so we went as spectators.  The LM had a lot of fun, as did I.

Until

A group of four eight/nine year old girls come out onto the stage.  The song “Party Rock Anthem” comes on.  They dance, and just before the line “C’mon and shake that”-three of the girls knelt down, while one girl remained standing.  She rubbed her hand across her shirt suggestively and then down toward her crotch.

The crowd roared in approval.

My hand flew to my mouth in horror.

I’m the last person to be a “clutch your pearls” type…BUT…for a prepubescent girl to pull a stripper move at an annual ballet recital?  Past where I draw the line as appropriate.  I’m somewhat horrified that amongst all the adults involved in choreographing said routine, approving said routine, and teaching said routine, no one stopped and said “Is this really appropriate for our annual recital?”

Had the girls been older (15/16 +), I wouldn’t have been thrilled at the dance move in that setting, but would’ve let it slide.  At that age, a young woman is old enough to be aware of her actions, and to know whom to address if she were uncomfortable with doing them.

Had the class been a hip-hop class, the music would’ve been appropriate.  I’ve seen plenty of ballet choreographed to rock, but amidst vivaldi and other classical music, it was jarring and just out of place.

Tomorrow the LM has ballet class, and I feel like I need to address my concerns with her school.  Do I want my (almost) four year old to take ballet from a school that has demonstrated such poor judgment when it comes to what is appropriate?

I’ve done a lot of thinking–  Was I the one who saw something that wasn’t meant to be there?  After all, the country I live in doesn’t have strippers?  Could this just be a dance move that I am putting into a Western context?  Does it matter?

And I just keep coming back to the notion that it does.

Part of being a sex positive parent is empowering my children at an age-appropriate level.  For the LM (who is 3 going on 4) that means clearly stated information about where babies come from, the proper names for her body parts, and permission to be familiar with her body (although we’ve had to talk about where is appropriate–bedroom, yes…grocery store, no).  I don’t particularly play edited music around her (although I did turn off the soundtrack to Book of Mormon when they got to the song that included the lyrics “fuck you in the cunt, God” and I’ve stopped playing “First of May” by Jonathan Coulter around her–she’s not old enough to understand satire, and I don’t want her repeating the lyrics to FOM at school–but I’ll take my chances with Lady Gaga)

I think that there is a key difference between empowering your kids with regards to sex, and sexualizing children.  The four year olds on Toddlers and Tiaras?  Objectified and sexualized.  Dressing your four year old to do a Pretty Woman send up is just bad judgment, not cute.  Having just recently bought the LM some new bathing suits, I can also say I was less than thrilled by the bikinis with padded tops for her age group.  Suggestive dance moves?  Hell no.

The reality is that she (like that girl who was dancing at the instruction of adults) are still little girls.  They are not yet old enough or mature enough to process the world around them independently.  They need to rely on adults to draw boundaries…and one of our jobs is to decide what is appropriate.

With that in mind, I’m not sure there is a good explanation to be had, and that we are perhaps better moving the LM to another ballet program.

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