There is a fine line, when it comes to educating little girls about their sexuality and bodies, that we all must tread. It’s the line between shaming them for their sexuality, and teaching them their bodies are public property. The line we walk encourages self respect, self acceptance, freedom to choose, and the importance of consent.
Never has that line been more important than in this case of my daughter.
Miss Rose is very body confident and very physical. She seeks human contact constantly, love to be naked, and loves other people to be naked. She likes skin to skin contact, and is fascinated by genitalia and the differences between men and women. She has absolutely no shame, no desire for privacy, and little understanding that other people don’t feel the same about their own bodies.
She is also desperate to please, will do anything for anyone, and seeks approval and love above anything else.
If she were a teenager or adult entering the world of relationships she would be an easy target for abuse. She would be seeking physical intimacy and would be terrified for rejection, and that combination would be incredibly easy to take advantage of.
Fortunately for us she is not a teenager or adult yet, and is not going to be in a physical relationship anytime soon. We have time.
But how do we do it?
How do we teach her that whilst there is nothing wrong with her physical needs, they’re not always appropriate. (I HATE the word appropriate but I don’t know what other word is… well.. appropriate!)
How do we teach her that exploring her body and exploring other people’s bodies is fine, and good, but not always.
How do we get the importance of consent into the head of a three year old who has no clue about the danger, and about the damage not having consent can do?
For Miss Rose seeking consent from others is as important as understanding that others must seek it from her. Being given consent is as important as giving it.
When we’re at the swimming pool and she’s had her shower and is trotting around in her hooded towel, she will often choose to sit spread legged and poke around her bits. I say to her firmly, “Foof time is private time.”
I tell her whilst there is nothing wrong with playing with it, we don’t do it in front of our mummy or daddy. Whilst it’s fine to enjoy what you’ve got, other people don’t want to watch. When she’s older I’ll be explaining that if someone DOES want to watch, to be sure that is a person with whom she feels safe and respected, who is honest with her and respects the sanctity of nudity.
When she is grabbing my boobs, currently they hold even more fascination due to the constant breast feeding I’m doing, I take her hand away and explain that I don’t want her to do that. If I say no, no means no. If anyone tries to grab her boobs and she doesn’t want them to then she too can say no, and insist that they stop.
It’s such a valuable lesson but so much of it is lost on her. I don’t teach her that her body is shameful and I never would, but I do try to teach her that we don’t expose it all the time, but equally so if she does as an adult wish to expose it (not all of it in public… but you know what I mean) then that is fine too!
How do I do this!? How do I ensure my very precocious, very innocent, and very physical little girl understands these complex feminist issues that so many adults are still struggling to understand and respect!?
It’s a huge ask. And one of the most important jobs I have to do as a mother.
Consent is the key. Seeking it, giving it, and fighting for the importance of it being requested and given. And I need her to recognise that if she doesn’t give her consent that the other person is in the wrong if they want to go ahead or, in the worst case scenario, do go ahead.
I never want her to feel ashamed if something happens without her consent, and I never want her to cause someone else distress because she hasn’t had consent from them.
Difficult though the lesson is, I know how damn important it is. She is such a wonderful little girl and too many wonderful little girls end up abused. I will fight for my little girl not to be one of them, and this lesson is the place to start.