Mom’N’Pop Culture: How a Song Sparked a Discussion on Consent
Meghan Trainor’s peppy song “No” may get mixed reviews and some serious hate from the “rejected,” but the message in the lyrics is clear. It doesn’t matter how a woman is dressed or how she dances, she has the right to say no to unwanted advances. Even though I understand the meaning of the lyrics, instead of paying attention to the message, I often bend the words to my will in an attempt to aggravate my kids. Many times when they ask for something, and it can be anything, I cut them off and break into the chorus.
It goes something like, “Mommy, can you get me a glass of…” interrupted by, “My name is NO, my number is NO, get it yourself NO. You need to let it GO.” Trust me, it’s as annoying as it looks, and after the five-hundredth time, they have learned to let me get it out of my system before calmly asking their question again. Harmless fun, and I always promise to set aside money for future therapy sessions should they need them.
All joking aside, on yet another morning where I’ve read a news post about a judge who gifted a light sentence to a convicted rapist, I feel compelled to share a moment where this song pushed me out of my comfort zone and into a discussion about consent with my four-year-old son. A discussion he started, and I’m glad he did. It never occurred to me to use this song for a teachable moment, instead of making it the household joke.
My son and I were on the way to his pre-kindergarten class and the Kidz Bop version of “No” was playing. I’m a huge fan of Kidz Bop and their ability to make popular songs kid-friendly, so we usually have these on repeat whenever the kids are in the car. I sang along like I always do, and this time, the little one interrupted me after a particular line in the lyrics.
Kidz Bop version lyric: “If that boy ain’t giving up, move your lips and say how it is.”
Little dude: “Mommy, what is that boy doing that that girl has to keep saying no.”
He was genuinely concerned. So, how young is too young to discuss consent?
There are several answers I could’ve given, or I could’ve blown him off completely. After all, at his age, thoughts bounce from subject to subject in a matter of seconds. But my kids deserve better than mommy misdirection, and I launched into a watered down conversation about not bothering and definitely not touching someone who tells you no. I explained that it sounds like this boy wants to dance with the girl in the song, but she doesn’t want to. And she doesn’t have to. She should only have to say “no” the first time, and he (whoever he is) should go away.
The simplicity in the above explanation did bother me a little. I also have a daughter, and this conversation would’ve ended differently had I had it with her. The standard, “No one has the right to touch you,” would be the start of the conversation, followed by how to escalate to a point of defense techniques and how to report if it happens at school. But, is what I preach to her a realistic way to handle the situation?
I remember from my childhood, the many times my bra straps got snapped, my butt grabbed, and even being asked if I shaved down there or what color was the hair. Other boys snickered, and the girls around me ducked their heads, glad they weren’t the object of the harassment. That happened as early as middle school. And I always said no and stop, but I never told an adult, because I was too embarrassed, so it continued to happen to a point where it became a norm.
So, how young is too young to discuss consent? I’d say as early as your child can grasp the concept.
I can only hope that I’ve started a thought process that’s taken root in the back of my little dude’s mind, something I can foster and grow as he develops into a teenager and on into adulthood. Parents can’t control their kids every action, but we can control the messages we deliver about important topics, and sometimes a well-timed song can create a path that eases the discomfort of that topic.
Resource: You don’t need a song to get the conversation started with your young ones. A great article that lists five ways to approach the topic of consent can be found on The Good Men Project website: The Healthy Sex Talk, Teaching Kids Consent Ages 1 – 21