With all of the news stories circling around about sexual assault and sexual harassment, I can’t help but feel a little (okay, A LOT) terrified for my kids as they get older. I am forever seeing articles and posts about how we will protect our daughters. I also see posts about teaching our young boys consent from an early age. However, if you’re like me, and have both genders, I’m sure you find yourself with some conflicting ideals. Let me explain…
I speak to my almost three-year-old daughter daily about her body and her boundaries. I tell her she has the right to say no to hugs and kisses if she doesn’t feel comfortable with them. When it comes to family members, I ask her to give an alternative – high five, fist bump, etc. If she asks us to stop tickling her, we stop (she usually follows that up with “do it again!” but it’s her choice). I mean, it is HER body. If she ever came to me saying a man forced himself on her or exploited her body for his personal pleasure, these Mama Bear instincts would kick in and I would want to kill him. I wouldn’t need an investigation. I wouldn’t need to hear all sides of the story. I would hands down believe my daughter and do everything in my human power to make sure justice was served and that man animal would no longer be on the streets. I’m sure all parents of daughters share this same sentiment.
Then I have my son. I am already teaching my four-year-old son about consent. I haven’t used that word with him yet, but I am teaching him to respect people’s space, respect other’s wants and needs, and to respect himself. My son is a hugger and all around very affectionate. He runs up to his friends and his classmates and always gives them the biggest hugs. The teachers in the school all rave about how much they love his daily hugs. Sometimes, he will give his friends a kiss. I remind him not to grab and kiss his friends and to respect their wishes if they don’t wish to be hugged. While he tries to remember, sometimes his innocent four-year-old loving side comes out. But what happens if one day he hugs or kisses the wrong kid and the parent gets furious? Thankfully, so far, all of the parents have found his affection sweet. However, I recently read a story where a five year old was expelled and charged with sexual assault for hugging his classmates. He’s five. My first thought was, that could be my son! It’s terrifying! As he gets older and enters the dating world, I’m going to be a nervous wreck. What happens if a girl accuses him of something? Something false? If it were my daughter making these claims, as mentioned above, I’d believe her! How scary is that as a boy mom?
Now, I understand how hypocritical this sounds. I would believe my daughter hands down even though her accusations would be against somebody’s son. Isn’t it innocent until proven guilty? Isn’t this the last thing I would ever want for my son? I can’t wrap my head around this either, but after speaking to other moms of both genders, the sentiment seems to be the same. We are equally terrified for our children, but for very different reasons. As parents, all we can do is teach our children to respect their bodies and others. We need to teach our children about explicit consent and that there is no such thing as implied consent. We need to make sure our sons and our daughters both have a very clear understanding of what consent looks like and pray that they have the tools to keep themselves out of dangerous situations.