My child isn’t even three yet and we’re already having “The Talk”. Yes, that talk.
You may wonder if he’s too young to have such mature conversation, but I think it has to begin early if he is to truly learn.
We aren’t talking utility or contraception because the kid just realized he has a penis and I have a vagina. Something we talk about in one way or another every day? Consent.
Consent is the line in the sand that distinguishes between a healthy expression and relationship between two discerning parties and an unwanted or harmful event.
Our first discussion happened one day when we were nursing and my son wouldn’t let go. It was getting uncomfortable and I wasn’t into it anymore (sound familiar?). I firmly said, “You’re hurting me. Let go.” He did not, and I very naturally responded, “My body, my choice.”
This big-eyed beautiful soul was shocked and looked directly into my eyes as he let go. My husband and I kind of giggled at my choice of words, but then I realized just how appropriate they were.
While I love to hug, cuddle, and nurture my son, there are times where I am out touched. It is rare, but in those times I get face to face with him and tell him I need space. If he does not respect that I repeat, “My body, my choice.” Most of the time he acknowledges I need time alone and I’m grateful for the lesson that he is learning so early.
Then there are the times when family members and friends hold their arms out for a hug and he resists. While some of these people have questioned allowing him to abstain from any unwanted contact, I feel it is vital to teach him that he doesn’t have to have an intimate interaction if he doesn’t want one. Because YES, it happens that early. And while I’d love to smooch him all day and often request them, I lay off when he turns his head or says no.
Before I know it he will be of the age where we will talk about sex in every capacity. By that time, I can only hope it is natural for him to know that when someone says no, or is unable to say yes, that means everything is off limits. If s/he’s drunk, it’s a no. If s/he’s underage, it’s a no. If s/he’s unable to tell him that they’re into it, it’s a big fat NO.
You see, this isn’t just for the safety of his partners. I pray that my son will have only safe and positive sexual encounters, but there are no guarantees. Still, he is less likely to be sexually assaulted than a woman of any age. Because of that, he needs to know how to act in a respectful way as well as protect himself from situations that could lead to a danger for himself or his partner.
So at some point today I’ll remind my son that his body is his and mine is mine just as we practice our ABCs because literacy, in all forms, doesn’t happen overnight.