Crazy little thing called consent

To say this past weekend was an eye-opener would be putting it mildly.

In the words of Ricky Baker…flat800x800075t

(those of you who’ve seen Hunt for the Wilderpeople will get the reference)

Friday night was the Halloween disco at school.  The kids were all super excited about it and were more than happy with their ‘oh fuck we have no money, here wear strips of bed sheet you little mummy you, and here, have some smudgey dirty looking make up and horizontal stripes of masking tape around your top and pants, you little escaped convict you’ costumes.

A boy asked G to go with her.  She was pretty excited and nervous.  It was equal parts cute and equal parts scary.  I know the boy, I like him, and his dad is a cop… I also knew they’d get to the disco and probably stand on opposite sides of the room all night.

Cut to the part where we pick G up.

“Mum, _________ [not the boy who had asked her to the disco] kissed me!  It was gross!  I felt sick afterward, I almost puked”

I presumed it was on the cheek, but no.  She went on to tell me this boy had been dared to kiss her and he’d grabbed her, then kissed her on the mouth, going as far as to use his tongue.

She was very out of sorts and I could tell she wasn’t exactly happy about the situation.

We got home from the disco and I asked her to come into our room ‘for a chat’.  She looked at me with that look that says ‘oh god mum, no, please don’t…’, but to her credit she joined me without protest.

Never did I imagine having to give my (only just!!!) 10 year old a talk about consent, as a result of her being put in a situation where the line had been crossed and inappropriate behaviour had occurred.

Consent is something I believe is vitally important for everyone to be familiar with and have an understanding of, I fully intended to have the discussion with my kids, but I thought when we did have the conversation it would be a pre-emptive thing… not a necessity because of something that had happened – at age 10.

I know a kiss is minor in the grand scheme.  I remember being that age and all the little shenanigans that went on at discos, spin the bottle and the likes.  I completely understand the boy did it as a dare, and that they were all probably pretty hyped up on sugar.

But then I add a few years of age.  ‘Hyped up on sugar’ potentially becomes being drunk.  An innocent school disco becomes a party.  A kiss becomes a boob grope, a hand down the pants, sex.

I realised I couldn’t just excuse what happened and use the excuses of a kiss being minor, ‘kids being kids’, hyped up on sugar.  Put that in the context of a rape and those excuses turn into justifying the actions of a criminal.  Add in ‘you were willingly playing the game too G,’ and you have victim shaming and blaming.

I lost sleep over this.  I felt sick over it.

It was just a kiss.  It was just a game.
But she didn’t consent to the kiss.

As a parent I have a responsibility to teach and empower my child.  It is up to me to give her the tools she needs to protect and stand up for herself, regardless of if she is 10 and it is an ‘innocent’ kiss, or 22 and is being pressured for sex.  She needs to know the importance of no.  She needs to know the importance of stop.  She needs to know, believe, and understand that she is in control of her own body.  No one else. Boyfriend, friend, stranger, no one can make her do something she isn’t ready for, or doesn’t want.

We ended up speaking about consent for a good half hour.  I ended up telling her things I didn’t intend on telling her until she was much older, but I have always had an ‘open book’ type of policy when it comes to the serious stuff.  I am glad I did though, because I could see a little light come on inside her when I did, and it is my hope she will now have a basic understanding that ‘things like that’ don’t just happen to ‘other people’.

I don’t know that I went about it entirely the right way.  I don’t know if I shared too much, but there is no script for such a conversation and I found myself in a situation where I had to act on instinct.

Her teacher has been amazing.  I informed him what happened and we went in and spoke with him this morning.  The situation is going to be dealt with today and the two senior classes are going to be put together for an (age appropriate) discussion about consent.  I am sure it is a discussion the kids won’t enjoy, but I am also sure it is something that will plant a little seed and lead to all the students feeling a little more empowered than they felt upon arriving at school this morning.

The importance of no.  That is what I hope all the kids take away from it; the importance of both saying – and respecting no.

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