[Content note: discussions of rape, consent, and bodily autonomy. Brief mention of victim blaming.]
I've been in several situations lately where I have been thinking acutely about how we, as adults, can teach the foundational principles of consent to very young children. It's actually not that difficult.
Most recently, I came across this article. A few weeks back, I enjoyed listening to Jessica Luther share on the Gender Justice & Parenting panel at WE Con about how she teaches her son that his body is his, because that inherently implies that other people's bodies are theirs only, and all boundaries must be respected. She even goes as far as to ensure that her dad (the child's grandfather) doesn't tickle her son if he says stop.
Now you could hear that statement and think she's being a buzz kill, or you could stop for a second and think about what consent and bodily autonomy are in their simplest terms: You never have a right to do anything to anyone else's body that they don't want. That's it.
So teaching this to young children is entirely possible. And it's easy. If adults commit to this lesson, the implications for our future are really, really positive. Of course, this means we must all follow the rules too. Like Luther suggests, this includes "innocent" things like tickling, hugging, and putting your arm around someone. If they say no, that is to be respected.
When we backslide on respecting someone's bodily autonomy when it comes to a simple hug, then we open to the door to thinking that this shit is funny, and then rape culture is ultimately perpetuated.
I know that change doesn't happen over night...but we've got to start somewhere. Why not with our kids?
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