For many years to educate and arm children against sexual abuse I have used the book A Very Touching Book…for Little People and for Big People – July, 1983 by Jan Hindman.
In the book Jan points out the traditional good touch and bad touch is to ambiguous and hard for children to understand but secret touch, that in which you aren’t supposed to tell anyone about, is always bad.
This secret touch idea worked fine until a tween presented. According to her mom she was developing rapidly including her breasts and pubic hair and she was very proud of all her new bumps and bits. One day she asked he mom if her best friend, a girl her same age who herself was developing rapidly, could take a shower with her. Up until now, before they had developed, they had done this many times and her mom said she had thought nothing of it. This time mom said no based on their developed bodies. She thought to herself I shouldn’t let her do anything with girls that I wouldn’t let her do with boys. Mom explained to the girls that they did nothing wrong in asking, in fact it’s great they asked but as their bodies have developed it would be socially inappropriate to continue to shower together. As to why, mom explained that kids her age are all at different stages in sexual development. Some, like they were, are just getting used to and exploring their new body and there’s nothing sexual at all about it. Others, the same age, will have sexual feelings and even be masturbating and for them, touch is an entirely different thing. It’s fine if they want to explore and masturbate by themselves privately but it is not ok at this age to explore or touch someone else. Although developmentally normal, it is socially inappropriate and it would most likely rapidly become coercive. Mom was right and it led me to think:
At this age, tween and up, “Secret touch” no longer can work as a gage for what to do or not do. She is already exploring her body and soon she will be masturbating and that isn’t something she will announce to the world. Also tweens and teens are all about secrets. Secrets are wrapped up in their self-identity and friendships. The “anything you can’t shout to the world is wrong” doesn’t work. It is as functional now as good touch bad touch was before.
Instead as a new gauge for behavior I would like to offer Coercion as the litmus test.
There are three basic forms of human manipulation or coercion as described in the book The Celestine Prophecy: An Adventure – November 1, 1997 by James Redfield
Redfield calls them control dramas.
1) The dangling Carrot – I will love you if, I won’t be your friend unless, no one will like you unless, you have to do it to be likable.
2) Intimidation – do it or else
3) Guilt – you are making me suffer by not doing.. It’s your fault.
At the age of 12 girls should be able to understand the concept of coercion. I explained it’s a form of bullying.
I explained how fast and easy experimentation can turn into coercion. Especially if one person starts to pull back, change their mind, or say no. The other will cycle through all three to get them to give in and behave inappropriately. It is always inappropriate to allow oneself to be coerced. It is imperative to tell someone or seek help as the consequence will always be worse by allowing oneself to be coerced than the embarrassment of whatever the behavior was that was going on in the first place.