Click on the links to see how CNN, The Vancouver Sun, USA Today, Fox News, and The Washington Times are reporting on the 6 year old boy who’s been suspended from school for what the school called sexual harassment. Huffington Post even went as far as calling him a Casanova.
Let’s get some real-world perspective on this story – because I had to switch off my local news this morning as they reported on it because it just sickened me. I’m sick of hearing how he’s only 6 and I’m sick of hearing how the girl hasn’t complained about it (sound like a familiar line???)
Yes, Hunter Yelton is a cute little boy and yes, he’s only a 6 year old child – but let’s look at the points that the mainstream media are totally ignoring and how this story is a prime example of rape culture . In fact, it’s like a kindergarten parallel world version of a how a rape trial plays out in the media…
1. We’re only hearing one side of the view – the perpetrator’s. Even if he is only 6, he did kiss a girl when the school rules explicitly forbid this. Whether or not you agree with the established rules, you have to follow them. Rapists commit rape knowing it is against the law. Media everywhere are reporting a one sided story as if it is proven fact. That alone is massive problem with the media today.
Hunter Yelton’s mother, Jennifer Saunders, said her son and the girl are boyfriend and girlfriend — by first-grader terms, KRDO-TV reported. “She was fine with it, they are ‘boyfriend and girlfriend,’ she told the station. “The other children saw it and went to the music teacher. That was the day I had the meeting with the principal, where she first said ‘sexual harassment.’” Why are we taking this a fact?? Just because Hunter’s mother said the girl was fine with it doesn’t mean that she was. The school wasn’t fine with it and that’s why the school has such rules in place.
2. Would we be having this same conversation if Hunter Yelton had kicked the girl and been suspended??? Why is it less acceptable to be violent towards other children than it is to learn appropriate physical displays of affection?? Appropriate touch means we don’t inappropriately touch others – be it kicking or kissing when the rules (or law) forbid it.
3. Hunter Yelton has previous. Yes, that sounds harsh but Ms. Saunders (Hunter’s mother) said her son has had disciplinary issues in the past and was suspended before for kissing the same girl on the cheek. So when is this kid going to learn to how to keep his hands (or mouth) to himself???? Again, would we be having this conversation if he’d been kicking the girl? Would we be having this conversation if this 6 year old boy had been kissing another 6 year old boy?
4. What about the girl’s right to say no??? I mean we’re hearing a one-sided view that she was okay with it – that they (gag) are boyfriend and girlfriend – but we don’t know that she was okay with it. It’s like this mother is saying that it’s okay to kiss someone, when the rules forbid it, if you are in a relationship. Sound familiar?? I have two daughters, and I tell you now, if anyone was repeatedly kissing one of my kids this way (and against school policy) I would have something to say about it. I would be telling my kids to stay away from any child who hasn’t learned appropriate touch and how to respect rules and personal boundaries. Hunter’s not doing this to everyone (he seems to have a thing for this girl) and it’s not like he’s not been told to stop already. And even if he was, it’s still not okay, and I would still be steering my kids clear of him.
5. When does Hunter’s mother and the news outlets who think the school’s gone too far and say this is normal behaviour for a kid think that Hunter’s going to learn about boundaries and appropriate touch? It is crucial we teach kids about not touching others unless we have their express permission to do so, as well as only doing so within the boundaries of the law (or school etc). If we ensure kids know that they have full body autonomy from a young age, they are far more likely to say understand the wrongness of sexual abuse (from anyone) and report it. This is a serious safety matter. Sexual abuse is not always aggressive and violent and terrifying.
Therapist Robin Shapiro says, “Not all rape is violent or actively coercive. When attachment bonds are used to manipulate kids or adults into sexual activity it confuses the issue of desire, identity, and fault. People can be physically aroused and even orgasm during a rape — by the mechanics of the act. It still doesn’t mean they wanted it.”
6. The 6 year old girl, as far as I can tell, doesn’t seem to be kissing Hunter and getting in trouble at school for doing so. Is this because she hasn’t been caught or because she knows how to follow the school’s rules?? I expect it’s the latter.
People, we really need to grasp the bigger picture here – it is not okay to touch (violently or lovingly) another person without their permission and express consent and/or when it breaks rules or laws. We need to stop telling little girls that if a boy pulls your pigtails (or does something to you that you don’t like) that it means he likes you. That’s what traps women in abusive relationships later on in life. It’s fundamental that we teach our children that love is respectful.
Let’s teach our children from a very young age that:
*they control their own bodies and they decide who touches them and when and where.
*that when people like you, their actions are respectful not hurtful.
Let’s not forget to applaud the kids who saw the rules being broken and reported it. Let’s applaud the school for taking this whole situation seriously. Because maybe, just maybe, this will cause some awareness of appropriate touch at a young age. And hopefully, as these kids grow up and get to middle and high school, this knowledge will mean no more tragedies like Rehtaeh Parsons‘ abuse and subsequent suicide, and maybe it will finally put an end to this kind of advice that tells women to have sex even if you’re not in the mood just to please your partner. All of these scenarios begin and end with a lack of knowledge about appropriate touch, consent, personal boundaries, and body autonomy.
Teach children about appropriate touch when they are young and we can prevent a lot of rapes, sexual abuse, crimes, and suicides later on.
2013-12-12 12:45pm Update – FOR THE RECORD:
Girl’s mom: School was right –> Jade Masters-Ownbey, the mother of the girl Hunter is accused of kissing, told the local newspaper that the school district was right in protecting her daughter. The mother, who is also a teacher in the school district, said Hunter had tried to kiss her daughter “over and over” without her permission, according to Canon City Daily Record. “I’ve had to coach her about what to do when you don’t want someone touching you, but they won’t stop,” Masters-Ownbey told the newspaper.
Oh, and now we know – the boy’s mum was lying when she said the girl was fine with it. And now we know that all those mainstream media outlets who jumped to the conclusion that the since the boy’s mum said it it must be true, were in fact, not giving a clear picture of the events or even all of the facts. If only one of these mainstream outlets had asked the mother of the little girl involved before making this into an international news mess.
1. A lot of people are completely missing that this article doesn’t ever call the boy a rapist or even a future rapist. It highlights parallels between this and rape trials playing out in the media. (But, we do need to keep in mind, all adult rapists were kids once. And we do need to think about how rapists’ childhoods contributed to them committing rape as adults.)
2. This article is a critique of how mainstream media handled the reporting of the case, and how society via social media has reacted. People find the rape analogy hard to swallow, but many of these are the same people who still think you “can ask for it” and that some girls are sluts.
3. The mass panic over this boy’s academic record, the one-sided reporting, the rush to assume his innocence without ever hearing the girl’s side of the story etc – all the parallels were easy to see. It was the school who labelled this behaviour as sexual harassment, not the writer of the article.
4. The discussion over whether or not this is sexual harassment has totally obscured the big picture. This little girl did not want the boy kissing her and he repeatedly did so. HE HAD BEEN SUSPENDED BEFORE for this behaviour.
5. The world will be a different place if people learn appropriate touch at a young age. And for the record, not all sexual abuse is painful or aggressive or violent (think of the whole fucked-up legitimate rape debate). That’s why it doesn’t matter if this wasn’t an act of violence against the girl.
6. My blood curls when I think of all the times that someone might have told this little girl “he is just kissing you because he likes you”.
7. The school has now recanted the allegation of sexual harassment, labelled the harassment as something else, and allowed the boy back in school…
8. If you are unaware of how childhood shapes future criminal behaviour, read the works of Alice Miller.
9. How many times must this little girl say to no to the little boy before he learns that “no means no”?
10. Why on earth should this little girl be subjected to repeated unwanted acts of physical contact from this little boy just so he can learn to keep his mouth to himself? Can’t he learn this without harassing another child?