No Means NO

It was seemingly innocent, Grandma was leaving after a long weekend at our house. She knelt down to my little girl and uttered the words, “Give grammy a kiss goodbye or grammy will be sad.”

I felt my skin get hot and my blood start to boil. Yes, this is my mother. I love her dearly. In this instance, I may have gone a little nutso in the eyes of my family. However, my immediate reaction was one of “NOOOOOOOO!”

I firmly believe in educating my daughter about body autonomy. Her body belongs to her, even if she is only a toddler. She has the right to feel safe and in control of her personal boundaries. I refuse to force her to engage in physical contact with anyone—even our closest relatives.

I will not teach my daughter to use her body to make someone else happy. I am perfectly content with grandma’s (or anyone else’s!) feelings being a tad hurt in this situation. Sorry, mom. Hugs. I immediately fast forward to my sweet daughter’s dreaded teenage and college years, where some stupidly handsome boy expects some sexual favor because he really, really loves her and if she really, really loves him, then naturally she will cave. I have witnessed countless women—friends, family, students, acquaintances who have described similar situations. I, myself, have been guilty of going on one too many dates with someone who was clearly Mr. Wrong, solely for the fear of hurting his feelings.
Another incident occurred with a well-intentioned, septuagenarian relative shortly thereafter. “If you give me a hug, I will give you a lollipop.” Now, this is a bit more obvious and I’m sure you can see where my line of thinking is headed. My daughter looked up at me, with those giant green eyes and looked back to her auntie she admires so. She clearly did not want to hug her yet the lure of that brightly colored candy had her thinking. I interjected and said, “You don’t have to give huggies if you don’t want to, baby. Mama will make us a treat after dinner.” My darling aunt, who is the absolute sweetest, seemed taken aback. I explained that I don’t believe in setting the tone that a girl has to give up something to gain something that she wants. I’m pretty sure that auntie thought I was being rude, but that’s okay. I refuse to instruct my child that it is “polite” to hug, kiss, sit on laps, allow herself to be tickled when she doesn’t want to be touched. Forced affection is not love, nor is it good manners! Everyone should have the right to control and protect their own bodies, children included.  

With startling statistics showing that ninety percent of child sexual abuse is inflicted by someone the child closely knows and twenty percent of those victims are under the age of eight (, I don’t think that there is any such thing as being too safe. It is my obligation to educate and to guide my daughter about body autonomy.

Our bodies are not tools to be bargained for affection or material gain. I will not teach my daughter to use her body to get things that she wants . . . whether it is a lollipop from auntie or smiles from grammy. I will empower her with the knowledge that her body belongs solely to her. My daughter may only be a toddler, but her body is her body.

I want her to have a voice that is loud and clear. There are times that I want to smother those rosy cheeks with kisses. There are times that she will put her chubby little hand out to stop me and say, “no, kisses, mama.” I immediately stop myself. That’s right, baby girl. No means no.

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2 Responses to No Means NO

  1. Mary J. October 10, 2017 at 10:08 pm #

    Thank you for writing these truths. I have an almost 6 year old son and what you wrote stands true for him too. Thank you.

  2. Melissa October 17, 2017 at 5:20 pm #

    So you’re saying that if I ask my kid to hug her grandma, I’m responsible if she gets raped later in life? I’m aware that this is a trendy parenting method right now, but I find it pretty disturbing that that hugging relatives is now equated with “my daughter using her body to get what she wants”. Honestly, I don’t always feel like hugging my elderly relatives either, but I do so anyway, because it’s important to show respect and affection to older people and because it helps build family relationships. But that makes me in NO way confused about what sexual assault or inappropriate sexual behavior is (either between strangers and within a family). And you’re not giving as much credit to your kids as you think when you claim that they they won’t be to distinguish these things. There are many societal factors that contribute to women being hesitant to speak up in situations of sexual assault, and I agree that it’s extremely important to be aware of them and to educate our children about them. I talk to my children about these issues, and I try to raise them to have self-confidence and a healthy body image. However, knowing when to say “no” also requires being able to distinguish appropriate and healthy social interactions from unhealthy ones, and I’m not convinced that a philosophy that equates ANY physical contact with sexual assault teaches our kids this distinction. How about we talk to our kids about sexuality more openly and educate them about what sexual assault means instead of being weird about hugs now?

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