Our walk home from school is always full of interesting tidbits from each of my daughters. Today my oldest—currently in fifth grade—informed me that the boys in her class were collecting spit in their mouths to show all the girls in their class. To gross them out. Because that’s the kind of thing fifth grade boys do. But my concerned mommy switch flipped when I thought I heard my daughter say “They were kissing all the girls.”
“What? That’s sexual harassment! They can’t do that!” Yes, I was already preparing a rant in my head for the school principal.
“Showing us their spit is sexual harassment?” Confused daughter tilts her head sideways as she speaks.
“Oh, I thought you said kissing…”
“I said spitting… Why would kissing us be sexual harassment?”
“Because they can’t just kiss you when you don’t want them to. They don’t have your consent. If someone ever tries to kiss you when you don’t want them to you yell “No” and run away. Find an adult.”
“What if we WANT them to kiss us?” Chimes in my younger 8-year-old daughter… Blessed handful doesn’t begin to describe her.
“Well, I hope you won’t kiss anyone anytime soon, even if you want to.”
Older daughter redirects the conversation. “But it’s not like you ask someone before you kiss them. Daddy didn’t ask you before he kissed you for the first time, did he?”
“Well… yes, he did… he said, ‘Is it ok if I kiss you?’”
“What?” Her expression told me all I needed to know about how wrong we’ve gone. All of us.
Communication is not a Romance Killer
Young girls don’t think consent is romantic. But why? To my daughter, her daddy asking me if it was ok if he kissed me is so much less dreamy than if he had just sensed that I wanted him to and done it. But asking is more romantic, isn’t it? It means he cared whether I wanted to or not. It means he considered my boundaries, mood, and deepest desires. Listen, I love Rom-Coms as much as the next gal, but there’s something we’ve gotten wrong. Communication is not a romance killer. Because of a steady diet of random lovey mush dispersed in girl horse movies and shows (my oldest daughter has the classic ‘girl loves horse’ thing going on) my daughter has been trained by Hollywood (or more likely, Canada) that men should assume to know if a girl wants to be kissed and act on those instincts. Though I applaud the #MeToo movement and anything that makes survivors feel more supported and able to stand against their predators, more needs to be done. We need to address this stigma in media including but not limited to little girl horse movies, other movies, books, comics, and the small screen. We need to show our characters communicating even when silence might seem more exciting.
The Writer part of my brain wants to know why we would rather show the silent anticipation of a kiss instead of something else. I’m not sure of the answer, but my hypothesis is that we’ve seen it that way—over and over until it’s been pre-programmed into our brains—and so that’s the way we write it. Would we ever write a scene like my first kiss with my adorable and considerate husband? Probably not. But why? I can guarantee you that there was no lack of whimsy in that moment. I still remember exactly where we were, what time it was, and how his lips felt and tasted. So here is a challenge to all my writer peeps out there… purposefully write relationship scenes that take consent into consideration.
After a few minutes of pause my younger daughter weaved the conversation back toward her question.
“Why shouldn’t I want someone to kiss me?”
“Because when you kiss someone, there are feelings involved.” Mommy is speaking from experience.
“Why did someone invent ‘spin-the-bottle’?” The older one is now interested in this vein of thinking.
“Because some people think kissing is just fun. They don’t understand that when you make those emotional attachments to people you are giving away little pieces for your emotional heart. You never get them back.”
“OH! It’s like that song!” Younger daughter says.
“What song?” I can’t possibly think of any song that talks about this topic.
“Last Christmas I gave you my heart, but the very next day, you gave it away…”
Pan to the three of us singing loudly all the way home and our neighbors with puzzled expressions as we approach our building.
Good luck getting that song out of your head.
P.S. This is my 50th post! Yay!