I don't understand those songs you love
She said this is not a love song
This isn't fantasy-land
Don't go too far..."
–Rush, Cold Fire
"I remember every time I went too far," I said aloud.
"Me too," one of my friends said.
"So, both of you tell me," I asked two of my friends. "You both have daughters. Have you talked with them about consent? Especially when they were teenagers?"
Both friends nodded and said yes they had.
"Thank you," I said, thinking of my own daughters, almost 9 and 11. "No means no. And yes when changed to no means no."
"That's why I'm never running for office," one friend said.
We just nodded. The hormonal rage of teenage angst doesn't stop when we hit 18. Sometimes we keep making the same mistakes as adults, with too much emotional subjectivity in our decision making.
Our discussion then devolved into a circular argument about when we grew up, it was a different time, and these things happened. But every generation grows up in a different time, and these things still always happen.
The last time I got together with my friend of 40+ years, we'd had discussions about the #MeToo movement, patriarchy and the damage that too many men, especially white men of privilege, have wrought on society, women, children and other men of varying backgrounds and ethnicities.
And yet, it's still been hard for us to unravel from the rationale that "we just can't do or say anything anymore," that we'll be next on the empowered female super bullet train out to the boonies to be ostracized and left for dead.
But that's not really true. We can do better by our children, though, both girls and boys, because girls can and do make ill-fated emotional decisions as well, consensual or not. There are guidelines for us all to teach and to follow. We're in this together, to be better together.
There's a simple Kidpower message that states:
Each of us has the right to be treated with safety and respect and the responsibility to act safely and respectfully towards ourselves and others.
My wife works at Kidpower, teaching kids, teens and adults safety skills. I'm also a Kidpower padded instructor who teaches self-defense skills.
In a previous post, I shared that one of the many Kidpower instructors I admire (besides my wife, of course) inspired me with this analogy:
When we're literally on fire, we're taught to -- Stop, Drop and Roll -- to extinguish the fire.
But why are we on fire in the first place? What happened to cause the fire? What things can we do to prevent these fires in the future? To make ourselves safer? To make our families safer? To make our communities safer?
Self-defense skills are important, but consent even more so and so important to teach our children. And our teens and even us as adults, but we should definitely start with our children.
According to Kidpower, children can start to learn the following boundaries and safety rules to ensure positive consent for touch, games, and affection as soon as they can talk, and these rules stay relevant throughout their lives:
Touch or games for play, teasing, and affection should be:
- Safe so that no one gets hurt
- OK with Each Person so that each person says “yes” (people who are scared, sick, drunk, or otherwise impaired cannot say yes; people who say yes without enthusiasm, or while turning away are not saying yes…)
- Allowed by the adults in charge
- Not a secret so Others Can Know, because abusive behavior thrives in secrecy
Having skills for protecting and respecting healthy boundaries in daily activities starting as a child is essential to preventing sexual abuse and assault, and ensuring consent in sexual activities as adults.
I had such a good time with my friends. We only see each other once or twice a year, and the fact that we've known each other for decades, and even through all our mistakes, we all want to do better, to be better men, husbands and fathers. And especially for those of us with children, we have and want to instill the values of personal responsibility and consent. We are the #MeToo guys, and I want my daughters to know that there are men young and old who can, will and are doing better when it comes to consent, safety and respect.
Other past posts about these friends of mine:
- Men of a Women's Age
- Men of a Consequential Age
- Grown Men Friends and Fathers
- Like Men Knowingly Bound to Their Future
- Because That's How It Works With The Guys That Work
- Men of An Unremarkable Age