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Teaching my 2 year old how not to rape

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Rape Culture is real. And rape culture teaches our kids that an absence of ‘no’ is an implied ‘yes.’  Think, for one minute, how many people think it’s ok to cut off part of a guy’s penis simply because he’s a baby and won’t remember. Simply because he can’t say ‘no.’

And violating consent doesn’t stop there.

My son is two. He likes his friends. He is very social and kind and he shares without be prompted. I hear him offering his friends turns on his bike or giving them part of his favourite snack all on his own. He also likes to give hugs.

And I think most people would see a child who is affectionate as something that is cute and sweet and sociable.Which it is, when everyone involved wants to be hugged and touched. If they don’t, we have a problem.

Yesterday my son had a friend over, and as they were leaving he asked for a hug. His friend, a girl, did not want to give him a hug. I heard her dad try to persuade her, and he even said, ‘One day you’ll like hugs from boys.’ (Facepalm with me please.)

I said, ‘If your friend doesn’t want a hug, that’s her choice. We don’t force hugs on our friends unless they want them. Maybe you can give her a high five?’ 

The two toddlers willingly and enthusiastically gave each other high fives.

We teach our sons not to rape by teaching them that they have the right to give or receive hugs, but so do all of their friends. Affection is only “cute” when it’s consensual. We teach our children that they are the ones who choose when to show affection. We teach our children to respect the autonomy of their friends. We teach them that yes means yes and everything else means no.

We say it over and over, “If your friend doesn’t want a hug, that’s her choice.” So that when they’re six or ten or fifteen or thirty-five, they know, unless it’s an enthusiastic YES, it’s an implied no.


Hi, I’m Earth, have we met?

  1. Wonderful.

  2. Amanda Finke on said:

    Fantastic, Maria.

  3. Wow, this is disgusting. Feminists are not just shaming older boys about their bodies and sexuality, but now they are now shaming toddler boys by making them believe that affection is rape??

    If you want to “teach” your son not to rape, PROTECT HIM from BEING the VICTIM of rape! Rape is a learned behavior, the product of a person being sexually traumatized, raped or severely abused in earlier childhood. Shaming your son for being loving and kind only shames him, and shame is abusive.

    • There are a few things fundamentally flawed in your argument, or perhaps you didn’t read the post? For one, I was not shaming my son’s sexuality, I was teaching him bodily autonomy. His friend is under no obligation to give out physical affection, and neither is my son. Both children are autonomous people with the right to accept or refuse hugs. And if it’s hugs when they’re two, you better believe it’s something more serious when they’re older. Teaching our children the power of informed consent and refusal begins from the moment they are born.

      Second, you tell me I need to protect my son from becoming a victim, and how better to do that than empower him with a sense of autonomy, so that he KNOWS he has the right to refuse affection, even from people in authority. I’m sorry you seemed to miss the entire point because you are seething mad at feminists. Perhaps you also don’t have a comprehensive understanding of rape culture and how it manifests.

      Rape culture comes about by a collective misunderstanding of consent and autonomy, and because of misunderstanding consent and autonomy, our rapists do not even know they are rapists. Perhaps you’d like this post here, where I explain this concept as it relates to child circumcision.

    • How is teaching a boy to respect another human being’s physical boundaries shaming? Explain what shaming was done? I can’t STAND when people force their children to acquiesce to the demands of physical affection from another person. Seriously. She taught her son to respect boundaries that day. And she taught the little girl she was entitled to hers. Those are two crucial lessons every child needs to learn over and over if we are to avoid the epidemic of co-dependency in our nation from growing even larger.

    • That ‘affection is rape’ is not at all what Maria is saying, Laurie. Rape is not learnt, but Rape is encouraged or discouraged by the environment created by Society.

      I agree that we should not force our kids to give hugs, and specifically we should not force a set sexuality on our children. Our children have varying sexualities without our assistance, thank you very much.

      As a boy who grew up gay & knew he was gay since age 5 or 6, I can say that such a comment as “you’ll like these hugs [from the opposite sex] when you’re older” would’ve offended me even as a young boy before I fully understood my sexuality.

      Parents need to know when to steer and when to step back and let the kid drive… Children are smarter than we tend to assume.

    • What? Rape is learned, a product of being sexually traumatized, raped, or abused in childhood.

      Really. Rapists rape because they were raped. Well who raped the rapist, and the rapist before that, or the rapist before that?

      Yes. Rape is the product of sexual abuse. No one ever commits the act of rape if they themselves haven’t been sexually abused.

      This is one of the most backward comments I have ever read.

      • I understand the problem some people have with the description she chose, but I understand what she meant completely. By teaching her child about consent at that age, for hugging, she is setting the stage for her child to seek consent for any type of touching. That’s completely age appropriate. (Sent the previous comment in early).

      • daffodil_fox on said:

        As a psychologist and counsellor who spent years working with survivors of sexual abuse and rape, I must say that this is actually not true. Research shows that below 50% of sexual abusers were themselves sexually abused. Rape and sexual abuse is not just about sex, actually, a lot of time is not mainly about sex. Rather, it is about the need to control, to have power, to dominate someone. True, many abusers suffer different types of violence and trauma in their childhood, but not all. As much as we would like to defend ourselves from this thought, we must realize that there are some normal, psychologically healthy people who choose to rape and abuse of their own free will, and who feel entitled and supported by the rape culture. Another argument against the “the abused becomes the abuser” myth – the vast majority of victims of sexual abuse are girls and women, while the majority of the abusers are men. If this myth was true, the majority of the abusers would have been female, while in fact female perpetrators constitute a small minority. I’m afraid the real causation here is not as simple as we might wish it was.

  4. Pingback: » Teaching my 2 year old how not to rape Todo Michael Jackson

  5. Pingback: Want to Teach Your Son Not to Rape? Protect HIM from Rape! | Laurie A. Couture

  6. “Affection is only “cute” when it’s consensual. We teach our children that they are the ones who choose when to show affection.”

    ^^^SPOT ON! We should not force kids to be affectionate when they are inclined otherwise. This plants the seeds that forced affection is okay, and leads us to Maria’s excellent point.

    Kudos. I will parent my future kids differently thanks to this post.

  7. Jessica Sanchez on said:

    You did a good job Maria. You are absolutely right to teach your son about autonomy and the rights of others to have their personal space not be intruded upon. I don’t know what Laurie’s problem is but she obviously does not get it. We all have a bubble and there are times all of us, no matter how naturally affectionate, don’t want even our closest loved ones to invade that bubble. One of the things I’ve been taught in nursing school is about respect for bodily autonomy and personal space. Some patients like to be touched and some do not. I have no doubt were your child a daughter you would give the exact same advice. You do a wonderful job of balancing your views. And thats what we need more balanced feminism. Feminism that recognizes the harm caused to all our children. I hesitate to call myself a feminist anymore because I’ve seen how some of them act and its to the opposite extreme. So, now I’m rambling so I’ll just end by saying Good Job!

  8. Wow. Spot on. I’ve got 4 boys, and I will now parent them differently.

    I took this post for how it was meant. Teaching children (all children) that it’s okay to give hugs and affection as long as both parties are happy to do so.

    I will no longer try and convince my toddler to hug anyone.

  9. I’d like to see a study that shows that all (or even most) rapists are themselves the victims of rape.

    I believe most studies show that these men are the “victims” of a family and culture that promotes patriarchy and male privilege.

    Maria, we all need to stop forcing our children to give and accept physical contact, not only with other children, but also adults. Growing up, how many times were you forced to kiss your auntie with the whiskers, or hug your uncle who smelled funny? When I had little kids, if they didn’t want to give grandma a hug, I never made them do it.

    • I couldn’t agree more. Teaching my son to defend his autonomy is just as much part of our lives as teaching him to respect the autonomy of his friends. We don’t force affection, ever. Because what does that teach? That autonomy can be violated when someone has authority. I don’t want him to learn or think that either.

      • Right. Nobody owes anybody any physical affection. And as far as this lesson somehow being equal to “shaming” him like that one lady said, I just don’t see it. On the contrary, you’re empowering him!

  10. Thank you for this.

  11. Danny on said:

    While I understand what you’re saying, this is perhaps the worst title for an article I’ve ever seen. What you’ve taught your son is basic respect for others and perhaps pausing to think how our actions affect others, it’s a bit inflammatory I think to use the word rape, and it also implies rape is sort of intrinsic to male nature. Instead of how not to rape, you should just say how to be a good person.

    • The title is intended to be shocking because it is precisely these subtle violations of consent that build up and define rape culture. Further, if the genders had been switched, would you be assuming that I think boys are natural-born sexual predators? Teaching our children to both respect and defend their autonomy is a major part of teaching our children about consent, regardless of their gender. Indeed, women are also capable of sexual assault, and indeed, our male victims of sexual assault are often blamed and shamed, and are most certainly silenced.

    • Maria on said:

      Completely agree.

  12. I’ve seen variations of this question come up in the wake of Steubenville. I’ve said several times lately that it’s important to educate boys and men about rape, because we do a piss-poor job of it. We do teach girls and women, but we present a very slanted, one-sided, and often harmful picture of what rape is and who’s responsible. We need to do better.

  13. This is so perfect. I always feel uncomfortable when my family forces my nephew to hug and kiss, I just didn’t ever understand why. This is completely why. Affection should never be forced.

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