Sunday, March 26, 2017

Consent: Practice It.


Recently, my niece received detention at her middle school for punching a boy. When her mother questioned this, the principal explained that the boy pulled my niece's skirt up in front of the entire class, and in response she punched him. The school further explained that the boy would not be punished because he did not physically assault my niece. 

Excuse me? 

I mean, I get it. We all grew up in a time where "boys would be boys" was a common excuse when they did stupid shit like snapping bra straps and giving each other wedgies. But how are we still excusing this kind of sexually aggressive behavior in 2017? 

Perplexed, I asked a male friend, whom I consider a great dad, what his advice would be to his daughter if she came to him with a bra-snapping boy problem. He said he would tell her that the boy probably thought she was cute but had no flirt game. 

I literally rolled my eyes, Janes! But I'll gave my friend a chance to catch up because he views the world through his male privilege, and this was a teaching moment. 

"Would it occur to you to teach your son that it's never okay to touch a girl's underwear --- even through her clothes?"
"Well of course that's never okay, but I would hope that's common sense," he texted back. 
"But you just told your daughter that if a boy did that, it means he is flirting." 

I tried not to be too smug in my response. (I did send a light bulb emoji though.) Snapping a bra strap, to him, was like punching a girl in the arm because you like her and then running away. (Also not okay, but --- baby steps.) We could delve into that, but it's not that kind of article. 

Instead, I want to talk about why we assume that boys naturally have the common sense not to touch a girl without consent. We tell them not to touch the stove, or stick keys in power outlets, and to look both ways before crossing the street. We tell them not to bite their friends, not to hit their siblings, and if they can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all. Those are all learned behaviors that we adults call "common sense." Whether we learned them by getting burned or because older adults said them to us all our lives, they are cause and effect outcomes that we don't even have to think about. We just know... 

So why would boys just know it's not okay to touch a girl's underwear without her consent? Further, why are we placing the burden of consent and self-defense on the girls? We should be teaching boys that it is never okay to touch anyone in a sexual way without their permission. We wouldn't have to convince girls that it's okay to defend themselves because they are afraid of getting in trouble if they use force to stop an unwanted advance. 

When I say we, I don't mean just women. Our boys look up to their fathers, big brothers, and uncles. They watch how men close to them treat women and learn from their examples. So surround yourselves with the kind of men who don't accept "boys will be boys" and don't assume consent is common sense. 

#Share #Educate #StayUnchained

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