Writing About Sexual Harassment for Middle Grade Readers, a guest post by Catherine Arguelles

Cover art by Carl Pearce

In 2016, as #MeToo trended and stories of sexual harassment rose in the media, I came across this study examining sexual harassment in middle schools. While I certainly remembered incidents of catcalls and inappropriate behavior in middle school, it alarmed me to read that nearly half of the middle schoolers surveyed experienced sexual harassment. The study showed that most of the kids experienced sexual harassment verbally, but middle schools also reported physical harassment like groping and unwanted hugs and touching.

I read the whole study thinking two things: This happens all the time, and we have to get better about talking about it with kids.

What better way to begin the discussion than with books? I had just finished my first MG novel and was thinking about what to write next.

As the mother of young daughters and a feminist with a degree in Women’s Studies, I wanted my next book to address sexual harassment. The stories in the 2016 study rang true for me. It wasn’t hard to recall my own middle school days where slurs degrading girls and LGBTQ+ folks were commonplace. It also wasn’t hard to remember the crushes of middle school, and how easily they became uncomfortable when feelings weren’t returned.