Sunday, October 01, 2006

My First Kiss

was in second grade.

We were both seven, brown haired, and brown eyed.

We sat together in class. I'd try to do my schoolwork and he would try to make me laugh by telling me silly stories. Like how his little yellow hot lunch ticket wasn't really a ticket, it was really a lunch box with an apple, and a sandwich, and all kinds of other stuff inside. I'd often giggle so hard I thought I was going to fall out my chair.

The kiss happened during recess. We sat on the hill by the fence at the back end of the little kid's playground.

I closed my eyes and kissed him softly on the cheek - nervously and hesitant.

I kissed him because he kept chasing me at recess and he wouldn't stop. I kissed him because I didn't know how else to make him stop bugging me. I wanted to go play tag or swinging statues with my friends - not be constantly asked for something that didn't even make sense. Mommies and Daddies kiss and hug. Brothers and sisters kiss and hug. I didn't hug and kiss the boys - or girls - I played with at school. Why would I want to do that?

Why would he want to do that?

Well, because his mother was the yard duty and she thought it was cute. I probably could have tried telling my teacher. There's a good chance this particular teacher would have put a stop to it. There's also a good chance she would have told me to take care of it myself. Recess was our domain and (for very good reasons) teachers and even yard duties often try to not get involved unless someone's going to be physically injured or there seems to be a pattern of bad behaviour going on. Of course, I didn't know at the time that his actions may be considered the latter, all I knew was that what happened at recess, stayed at recess, and that the yard duty was encouraging him.

But what he was doing wasn't cute; it was a miniature version of bullying someone for sex.

Let's pretend for a moment that instead of bugging me for a kiss, he was bugging me for a toy. Not one of the school toys, but my own toy. A whistle, a Garbage Pail Kids* card, a Star Wars figurine - whatever. And he didn't want to just play with it for a while - he wanted it.

Now, most adults would have no problem as seeing this as very bad behaviour on the boy's part. And while many would also consider me a schmuck for giving in, they would agree that the boy should be stopped and I should be given my toy back. Because the same people would have no problems understanding that his behavior was a grammar school version of blackmail: I'm not going to harm you, but I'm not going to let you live in peace if you don't give me what I want. They understand that lecturing the boy and giving me my toy back is how children learn about property rights.

Which begs the question: what were we being taught about sex and coercion? Nothing good, obviously.

It's the whole chicken and the egg thing. We don't teach kids that coercing someone for sex is wrong and so people have a hard time seeing it as criminal rather than just not nice, but since we don't prosecute people for using coercion to get sex, we don't make a consious effort to teach kids that coercive sex is not ok. And since many people are still confused on the whole consent/submission thing (see comments on previous post) it does need to be a consious effort.

We need to make coercing someone for sex illegal the same way that blackmail is illegal because if we don't, not enough people are going to bother to teach their kids to do the right thing. And failing to teach people to not use coercion to get sex is what makes it so easy for the guys that everyone agrees are assholes to go one step up and commit what most peopke think of when they hear the word rape.

A single line in the sand is a hard thing to see and, quite frankly, I don't think it's particularly fair of us to expect teen boys - or girls - to fully understand the difference between consensual sex and rape when we haven't defined for them an intermediary crime involving coercion for sex.

*yeah, I know, I'm old. And no, I never owned one. They weren't allowed at my house.

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