The Concept of Consent

It took Covid and immigration to make me realise that I owe many people an apology. I sincerely apologise for being a nonconsensual hugger.

In my journey as a parent and as a parenting coach, I was preaching to the choir about consent. How important it was to ask permission before we touch and never forcing our kids to override their no. Yet there I was, not modelling it. In actual fact, I was modeling the opposite with how I engaged with other adults. Yes, my kids got to choose how they greet, but people who got to meet me… lets just say, I flung my arms open and said “I am gonna hug you, I am a hugger”. I cornered the poor person regardless if they were huggers or not. They could not escape. I became that smelly aunt you tried to avoid. How can a hug be wrong? I am not touching your rear, your private parts with my hands. I am embracing you heart to heart…? It is all innocent?

So where did this start? Growing up, we did not have the choice on how we greeted people. We had no autonomy over our bodies. That uncle with the slobber, the aunt with the onion smell. We had to kiss them hallo. The wrestling and tickling never stopped when you asked for it to stop. Your body never really belonged to you. There was a social contract that you were raised with and that is just how things were. You are a child and adults know best and deserve respect just due to their age.

Physical contact became a social contract of respect and acceptance. If you did not want to touch someone you were rejecting their very being. You were being disrespectful and ungrateful. You were mean and unloveable if you did not hug, kiss or even shake hands hallo.

Due to this, I have one wickedly strong and secure handshake, a bear hug that will make you claustrophobic and a hallo kiss that pretends we have been close since birth. 

In honesty, my personal favourite way to say hallo is a hug. I love the intimacy and care that heart to heart connection. The closeness and trust. I am a hugger, but as a hugger I need to learn, grow and change. To me hugging may be the most open and warm welcoming thing in the world but to someone else it may be total disrespect and an invasion of their bodily autonomy.

Now as a hugger, I have always scoffed at people who did not want to be hugged, especially adults. The power play is different than to a child? Is it really? How can you not want a hug? So my attitude was I will not take no as an answer. I will try to touch you, make that physical connection. Good grief i sound like a predator and I was. I wanted my hug and you could not escape. I “respected” the no, by taking my pointer finger and pressing it against the person’s arm and using word play calling it a hug. 

Covid came around, and one of the biggest things I missed was hugging. I missed hugging my friends and those I cared for, who do not live with me.

Then we moved and we made new friends, and not knowing the culture, I had to learn to navigate new social norms. Then the penny dropped. Our new friends don’t hug. Being confronted with not getting or being offered a hug, made me feel a bit more isolated. I asked a hug once and it was given, but the body language stated that this is the first and last hug. For the first time I realized that I can respect not wanting hugs. I can learn and grow. I was accepted regardless of physical contact like a handshake or a hug. I was good enough. Just my presence alone was accepted, i did not have to invade space to feel welcome and loved. I just had to be.

It consolidated the knowledge, respecting other people’s boundaries and autonomy is more important than my need for a hug. Now i hug my husband more, he luckily likes my hugs, but my new friends? They teach me intimacy in conversation, reaching out and deep care, you don’t need to be physical to show you care. 

I do not want a badge of honour or even praise for realising my abusive behaviour or even for changing my behaviour. It is about realising that we all have that one thing where we throw consent out the door. Where we place our own needs above someone else’s and invade, harm and make others feel powerless. We all need to learn, grow and change. 

Me forcing people to hug me may seem like such a small thing, but it is not. It is violating someone else’s boundaries and that needs to stop. It is about consent. Consent is not just about adults asking kids consent for interaction, but about everything in life. Asking and accepting the no. Respecting bodily autonomy. This is not just men or the older generation who needs to learn this. It is all of us. What is the thing you do that violates someone else’s boundaries?

#C3Parenting #Hugging #Consent #Kids #BodyAutonomy #NoIsNo #MyBodyMyRules #Peace #Learning #Contact #Intimacy

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