Nora is grinning and bearing her belly. I look up from writing and smile, “Uh-oh, is my hand going to tickle you?”
A squeal of laughter and she’s off running after answering, “YES!” Owen joins in and chases after her giggling, “Nawnie-nawnie-na-na, sista’!!” We tickle her tummy and then Nora turns to Owen, “Oo-ie?! Do you need tickles too?” He giggles and runs away.
Nora takes pursuit and I distract her with whipping a scarf around in the air to give Owen time to run and hide if he needs to. She’s entranced and comments, “Wow, Mama, you’re pretty good at that.”
I counter, “Pretty good?!” She gets the joke and laughs. Her laugh ends in a guffaw as we look over at Owen grinning and holding up his t-shirt tucked under his chin to bear his belly. We sweep in to tickle him to his delight.
Consent doesn’t have to be more complicated than that. Offer affection, accept rejection, and (to all the Brock Turners of the world) take “no” for an answer. Especially when they’re unconscious dipshit. I have to wonder, if the same thing had happened to a man at the hands of a woman, how would people react? If the same thing had happened countless times before? Because the first hasn’t (in my research) and the latter has. Daily.
Joe Biden’s reaction to recent events brought me to tears. I felt the air leave my lungs with admiration and relief to hear a man of such stature and influence to put into words what I hope every father, every man, every individual, should feel in reaction to behavior like Brock Turner’s.
“…I am filled with furious anger — both that this happened to you and that our culture is still so broken that you were ever put in the position of defending your own worth…
A culture that promotes passivity. That encourages young men and women on campuses to simply turn a blind eye…
And you were failed by anyone who dared to question this one clear and simple truth: Sex without consent is rape. Period. It is a crime.”
It’s our responsibility as parents to teach our children that their bodies are their own and the bodies of others’ are never to be viewed as objects that they are entitled to. “Boys” should not be synonymous with violence anymore than “girls” should be with victims.
Our gender doesn’t dictate our actions anymore than our sexual preference. What does dictate our actions are the influences we are raised with and the foundation of simple kindness and nonviolence towards others.
Maybe Brock Turner needs to bypass Stanford and return to preschool to learn sayings like:
“Hands are for helping, not hurting.”
“Friends help each other, they don’t hurt each other.”
“Please, no, thank you. I don’t like that.”
“Stop, I need space.”
After all, we know that Brock’s father failed preschool as much as he failed parenting his son. To him a reprehensible act of violence is a “moment of action“.
I implore all parents to question the lessons they are teaching their children so your child isn’t writing a letter to explain their devastation and struggling to protect their rights some day as a survivor. Or would you prefer the opposite? Your child standing in court, in disbelief at being prosecuted for actions you endorsed, implicitly or explicitly, by modeling an attitude of acceptance towards violence.
So feel free to pull a face or roll your eyes when I ask my two-year old son if I can pick him up or change his diaper. It does seem a little odd at moments but, you know what, he knows I respect him and his body. That he has the right to say “no” and that I will honor it the best I can. He sees me treat Nora the same and has learned to treat her accordingly. I see it when he reaches for her hand to hold and asks, “P’wease?”
If only someone had taught Brock that lesson eighteen years ago.