Rape Culture, Consent, and Young Children

With all of this talk about “Rape Culture” of late, I feel I need to point out some really fucking obvious things that often go overlooked by parents.  First, know that your child will be affected by rape/sexual assault; as a perpetrator, a victim, or a friend/family member of a perpetrator or victim.  Hell, or even all of the above.  If you are unaware of how prevalent rape culture is in our society, or if you are worried about how to raise your child in this ass-backward world, this is for you.

What it boils down to are some major flaws in the way we parent our children, the way we were parented as children, and the way our parents were parented as children, and so on…you get the idea.  God, I hope you get the idea.

Fear not! I don’t want any parents to feel lost or hopeless.  So, here’s what I’m gonna do, I’m gonna break it down for you. From where I sit, it comes down to three things:

1: Raising obedient children.  “Because I’m the parent, that’s why!”  Listen up, if that’s your attitude, you’re missing the point.  Your goal as a parent should be to raise a functioning adult, NOT an obedient child.  Children need to be taught how to make good choices, how to take responsibility for their behavior (both good and bad), and have a sense that their thoughts and feelings are not an extension of you, mom/dad/caregiver.  Here’s a hint that’s easy to remember; your child is not a mini you.  No matter how much you want them to be, they are not.  Get over it now, so that you can raise a happy, healthy child.  They won’t always make the same choices you would make, and that’s okay.  Give them loads of opportunities to make loads of choices, even ones that you don’t like. Remember, you’re raising a functioning adult!

2:  Not having and/or enforcing boundaries.  You know what I’m talking about, threatening a punishment you will never follow through with, giving-in to begging 30 minutes after you said “no” the first time, because you’re just sick of listening to it.  Both, really, really bad ideas.  Really.  I mean it.  If you want to confuse your child, do those two things.  I’m 1000% anti-spanking, but if you threaten to spank your child, you damn well better be prepared to do it.

So… Why do these things matter?  Because they teach your child that you’re the boss? No. The opposite actually. They teach your child that people have (and should have) boundaries, and that those boundaries are to be respected. It teaches them that it is okay for them to have boundaries too. AND that anyone who is not respecting their boundaries is not a good, safe person. (Right here I want to scream, “FUCKING DUH!!!”) Your child cannot set boundaries if they don’t know what boundaries look like. Your child cannot enforce said boundaries if they’ve never seen it done.
Boundaries are a huge deal in every aspect of life. It’s never too early to start teaching your little one about them. 

3: Teaching children that their bodies are not their own.  You know how you do that?  You physically snatch them up without a word when it’s time to go somewhere.  You use time-outs where you have to restrain them.  You tell them, “That didn’t hurt.” when they bump their head, or fall down. You use any type of physical punishment at all.  You force them to clean their plate, and/or use food as a bribe, punishment, or reward when it suits you.  You punish them when they miss their potty break.  You make them give Crazy Aunt Lisa a hug and kiss when they don’t want to. You intervene when they are not completing a task quickly enough for you, or to your liking.
No, I am not shitting you.  All of these things send the message to your child that their body doesn’t belong to them.  It may be subtle to you, but it’s loud and clear to itty bitties.  And the worst part (I love when parents say, “They won’t even remember…”), it gets wired into their developing brain.  So that later, when they’re grown-up, they will have all kinds of weird body issues…but won’t remember why.  And we wonder why people need therapy.

The above are also good ways to teach your child that they don’t need to respect anyone else’s body either.  Not exactly what you were shooting for, huh? 

This is what we’re talking about when we talk about “consent”. Your body belongs to you. And other people’s bodies belong to them. You don’t put your hands on someone without their permission. You don’t snatch toys away from another child. When someone tells you to stop chasing them, you stop. These are just examples, but again, you get the idea.

Please know that I understand that parenting is REALLY fucking hard, and that you’re a human being. So, let’s just say that there are ways around enforcing EVERY single rule, ALL of the time, that still respect your boundaries. There are many situations where you have to touch your child without their permission. But for our purposes here, I need to stress these points in black and white language.

And one last point: parents and caregivers, you don’t have to be perfect. Just do your best.