The Red Queen wrote a post about my last Masculinism post in which she makes such a good point I had to bring it over here:
When Kid was very small, I started teaching him about consent. When we would roughhouse or tickle fight, one “no” was all it took for me to stop. And I taught him that one “no” was the line I drew at him stopping. Period. End of game. We both got to say when it was too much and those boundaries were absolute.
(She also says, “I am teaching my son that the only good way to enjoy pleasure is when both people are ready and happily excited about it.” which I love, but can’t quite figure out how to work in here.)
She explains that she uses this strategy not just as a way of reinforcing the idea that when another person says “no” it must be respected (an important lesson), BUT ALSO so that when he says “no” and finds that it is not respected, he recognizes that there’s something fucked up.
I know we’ve talked about this before, but this is exactly why I’m opposed to the whole “go on, give your aunt a kiss [or hug or whatever]” bullshit, especially when it is coupled by “do you want to hurt her feelings?”
I will not take a kiss from a child coerced into it by a well-meaning parent and, if I’m quick enough, I won’t accept a hug that way either. Yes, it’s polite to tell me good-bye. And yes, I love it when kids like me enough to hug me or cuddle with me on the couch.
But their bodies are their own and I want them to feel free to not have to make them available to people they don’t want to make them available to, even if it’s for something as innocent as a hug.
I have too often known people to use that exact reasoning on children — “come on, give me a kiss. You don’t want to make me sad, do you?” — for nefarious purposes and it takes so little effort to undermine that strategy by teaching your kids that they have a right to refuse to do things to other people with their bodies and that they have a right to ask that things not be done to them.