It is important that even children understand this because rape culture doesn't just bloom when you become college age.
Picture this: Generic holiday movie. Old family member, bending a wrinkled cheek down to an elementary school age child. Well-meaning parents pushing them forward with, “Give great so-and-so a hug!” Usually played for laughs because this is harmless, right? Here's the thing though: Life isn't a movie and forcing your kids to give people affection actually does real harm.
To keep it simple, forcing your kids to kiss and hug relatives or friends makes it harder for them to understand and practice consent. It normalizes ideas that no doesn't mean no and silences their abilities to stand up for themselves in uncomfortable situations. On the longer timeline, it reinforces the tenants of rape culture.
What you learn as a child continues to influence you as an adult. We don't age out of the teachings of our youth, we just continue to live by them unless we are able to do the work to unlearn them. When you tell children that they must consent to giving affection, even if they don't want to in order to avoid being seen as rude, you are telling them that their bodily autonomy is less important than upsetting someone else.
People, especially those socialized as and assumed to be girls and women, have it constantly drilled into their minds that they should put the comfort of others above their own and, in many cases, above their safety as well. This isn't a concept that develops mysteriously, it is one that starts very early. This socialization teaches us that we should push our feelings and desires away, that they come second in any situation where someone else has more social authority.
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