Unwanted Touching: Unacceptable at Any Age (Yes, Even Age 6)

In this week’s news, a 6-year-old boy in Colorado was suspended from school. The reason? He had repeatedly kissed one of his classmates, despite her telling him to stop.

The girl’s mother, Jade Masters-Ownbey, noted that the boy’s behavior had been an ongoing problem. The boy had pursued her daughter “not once, but over and over…not with her permission but sneaking up on her…not without warning and consequences prior to suspension,” according to the 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 Record.

Meanwhile, the boy’s mother, Jennifer Saunders, characterized the boy’s actions as stemming from an “innocent crush.”

When the school suspended the boy for sexual harassment, it caused a furor. People have been asking: Can a boy of six years old actually commit sexual harassment? Popular sentiment seems to be that it’s not possible, that the school is overreacting. A “boys-will-be-boys,” laissez-faire attitude seems to underpin these sentiments—which in my opinion is dangerous.

To be fair, the boy’s behavior does fit the definition of sexual harassment, despite his tender age. He repeatedly pursued and kissed a girl, making unwanted advances on her because he had a crush on her.

And to the school’s credit, the administrators don’t seem to be overreacting or engaging in worst-first thinking; the suspension wasn’t the result of an overzealous zero-tolerance policy. According to CNN, the school doesn’t categorize student behavior as sexual harassment after an innocent grade-school kiss. They only do so if unwelcome contact or touching continues over a period of time.

Nevertheless, the pressure from outraged observers has been so intense that the school dropped the sexual harassment claim. The boy has also returned to school.

But it really bothers me that no one is talking about the bigger picture: the fact that we need to teach our children—even very young children—about bodily autonomy and consent. Shouldn’t that be the takeaway from this case? We should be having a cultural conversation about how to raise boys who know that girls’ bodies are not theirs for the taking—who respect both themselves and others.

As I wrote previously, those of us who are parents of boys need to work on this issue. We need to teach our sons about two concepts–consent and respect–from an early age, in age-appropriate ways.

For example, my five-year-old son loves to hug and kiss his friends. He is sweet and affectionate, and when he first sees a friend or when it’s time to say goodbye, he wants nothing more but to wrap his arms around that friend and give him or her a big kiss.

Sometimes, his friends reciprocate, but sometimes, they clearly don’t want the physical contact. So, since about the time when he turned four years old, and he seemed old enough to understand, we’ve told him that he needs to ask his friends for permission first. We taught him to ask, “Can I give you a hug and a kiss?” We’ve also told him he needs to respect their answers, even if it’s disappointing, and I’m glad to see that this is now his usual approach. He gets their consent.

Then, there’s the matter of respect. When my son was three and a half, he became interested in wearing nail polish on his toenails and fingernails after seeing me get a summertime mani-pedi. I agreed to paint his nails, but before sending him off to preschool, I prepared him for the possibility of pushback from his friends or even his teachers. “Some people at school might not like your nails,” I warned him. “But you like them, right?”

Admiring his shiny blue nail polish, he told me, “I really do!”

“So,” I coached him, “if anybody says they don’t like your fingernails, you tell them: ‘It’s MY body!’ Because it’s your body, and you get to decide what happens to it. No one else does. Can we practice? I will pretend to be another kid who doesn’t like your nails, and you can tell me, ‘It’s MY body!’ Okay?”


A few practice scenarios later, and he was great at saying, “It’s MY body!” as a confident response to comments that disrespected his right to make decisions about his own body.

This was a great lesson for him to learn, because a few months later, when we set the rule that he needs to ask his friends for permission before hugging and kissing them, this helped us to foster an empathetic perspective. We were able to explain: “It’s HIS [or HER] body, and he [or she] doesn’t want you to hug and kiss right now. So you have to respect his [or her] wishes.”

All this is helpful in the present. I’m glad my preschooler has a basic, age-appropriate understanding of respect and consent, even if he doesn’t know those words yet. Everything we do now paves the way for future conversations, and I know that as he approaches adolescence, it will be easier for us to discuss consent and respect with him.

Since the broader culture gives such terribly mixed messages to our boys, I want to make it clear: consent and respect are not options. They’re necessities.

For further reading: Why we need to talk to our sons about rape


Rebecca Hains is a media studies professor at Salem State University. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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66 Comments on “Unwanted Touching: Unacceptable at Any Age (Yes, Even Age 6)

  1. Interesting. I used to chase the boys around the playground, trying to kiss them, when I was in pre-school and kindergarten. Not that I ever caught them (I didn’t run very fast), but I always tried!

    I guess that would be much the same thing, huh?

    • It would be the same only if you caught one, kissed him got warned by the teachers to stop and kept doing it day after day. This was not a one time thing and the girl involved obviously didn’t want him touching her.

      • Exactly. It’s age-appropriate to teach children that a behavior isn’t appropriate and to expect them to stop. And if they don’t stop, they will only learn if there are consequences for their behavior. Otherwise, we wind up with situations like the rich 16-year-old in Texas who have never faced a consequence in their lives literally getting away with murder ( http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/wealthy-16-year-old-killed-4-drunken-crash-spared-jail-article-1.1544508 ).

      • If the boys did run away, does that not mean that they did not want to be touched? And it states “I used to chase the boys … “, which clearly means it happened more then once. So the intend was there, so it is the same thing. Just because it was not successful, it does not mean it was right.

        • She stated she used to chase the boys plural not a single boy repeatedly. The boys didn’t say stop or complain they wanted her to stop. In this case the boy was chasing ONE girl he had a target. She repeatedly asked he stop, he was told stop. He didn’t that is harassment period plan and simple. Or do you not see a difference?

          Let me explain it differently. If two or more children play and laugh and have fun that is a game. If child a chases child b who says stop that is no longer a game. If child a continues after being repeatedly told stop by the student, faculty etc then it isn’t a game.

          In the case illustrated she chased the boys who didn’t complain and probably laughed at and with her. That sir is a game.

          • I respectfully disagree. As you used ‘probably’ – you do not know. And not complaining about something does not mean consent and it does not mean that it might not be inappropriate. I am just stating another point of view here.
            I was a boy. I did not like to be chased by girls (or boys). If I went to teachers, the most common reaction was “It’s just a game. Get over it.” At that point I was not able to communicate about what I really felt. Please consider this option as well.

            • You presume by that the boys being multiple boys did they tell her to stop? Did the school also told her to stop? Her statement doesn’t answer this.

              So you cherry pick she chased the boys but have no evidence she was asked to stop. The cases are not remotely similar unless she chimes in and says hell yeah I was told to stop be dam stopping I will do what I want. In that case yes she was 100% wrong.

              Now to your issue. Because the school failed to protect you then they should fail to protect all? See maybe they have changed since you attended school. Wouldn’t that be a good thing that the teachers now say you’re right…young man/young lady stop now.

              Just because you were told its a game didn’t make it right then nor does it make it right now. Again disagree I really don’t care because no where does it say the boys in this case didn’t think it was a game.

            • “Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that tends to create a hostile or offensive environment.”

              This little boy was touching. He was told no. He continued. The school repeatedly told him no.

              Sir that is the very definition of the term. I call him a future rapist because at what age do you suggest he learn the word NO? 12? 18? 21? 50?

              See if he can’t understand NO and STOP then in the future if left uncorrected that is indeed a possible outcome. I did it to illustrate as much your unwillingness to see apples to apples as anything else.

              What we know.
              1) The little boy had a single target one little girl he chased and KISSED (a sexual component)
              2) The little girl said NO
              3) The school either by the little girl (though I doubt it) or the mother calling the school and saying do something now or I will decided to stop the behavior.
              4) The school made repeated attempts to stop it and the boy continued
              5) After exhausting every attempt they suspended the kid and used the term sexual harassment even though no charges were filed.
              6) The mother of the boy got made her little angel was punished and went to the news and made this a huge issue which received zero press before that. So the mom got this on the internet which is important because the school didn’t ruin his life by putting this out there his own mother did.

              This is typical behavior of kids who end up on that path they never learn no nor to control themselves.

              Now you compare this to a girl chasing the boys
              1) She chased all the boys not just one
              2) She didn’t kiss them and as far as we know they didn’t say no or stop. If they did she also dons’t say if she stopped chasing the ones that might have said no or stop
              3) No teachers nor the school got involved and she wasn’t told to stop repeatedly

              That is all we know from the two cases. Do some homework on rapists. The most common excuse used in court. I never learned boundaries, I never learned No. So to say if he isn’t taught no now then when do you teach no? My son knows what no mean and stop at age 2 and knew what boundaries were with others and touching before entering pre-school. At what age do you suggest this little boy learn what no and stop mean? He is more than old enough to understand don’t do that anymore. Stop chasing her.

              He deserved the suspension period.

            • One last thing. It is not the schools place to teach that in kindergarten it is the parents place to teach proper and improper touching, respect and boundaries before they enter school. His mother failed him by not teaching him basic respect for people, respect for adults, respect for rules. His mother failed in not teaching him boundaries and appropriate touching. His mother failed him in not teaching him any self-control. The school had no failing they finally are protecting a student.

              The school failed to protect my son who was being hit and pushed on the school grounds. When he complained the school said kids will be kids or no teachers saw it we can’t do anything about it. What they failed to know is my kid was already a in martial arts and had been for years. I worried he would hurt someone so I made sure he “put the gloves on” meaning he didn’t hit anyone he solved things with his words.

              So after months of getting nowhere I went to the superintendent with my son he said well if a teach doesn’t see it. I said yes and my son is standing there bleeding and you do nothing. I told him in front of the super “take the gloves off” to which the super said what does that mean. I said nothing.

              The next day my son took out two of these kids laid them out flat. I got a frantic call they wanted to suspend my son. I called the super in and with the principal asked what teacher saw it put them in her. Well ma’am no one saw it but… I said but nothing for months I’ve come to you and you said “No teachers saw it we can’t do anything” so get bent you can’t do anything now. The school agreed to protect my son if he agreed to use his words.

              No more trouble since.

              So in this case my bet is the mother of the girl finally came in to complain before the school did anything and she probably had to threaten lawsuit. My bet then and only then did the school actually protect this girl. Sad really we are supposed to trust our children there and they don’t protect them at all normally.

      • seriously your words are amazing if you really mean it.
        i’ve always respected girls and this unwanted touching thing , harassments ,its a real serious issue.
        appreciate your words
        you can find me at facebook tushararora2010@gmail.com

  2. How very wonderful that you are able to talk to your son about these concepts, as you said it is a necessity that we teach our kids respect and consent.
    As for the school dropping the incident, I think that is a reflection of the community, not just that community, but all over the place, no one wants to talk about these things or deal with them, so we drop it and look the other way as if it didn’t happen, I think we have to learn as a community (parents, teachers, family, neighbors, classmates) how to communicate and face the situation instead of dismissing it.

    • That’s a good point. How can we engage our communities in conversations, to deal with these things head-on? Looking the other way only allows things like rape culture to continue on.

  3. Reblogged this on Rise Like Air and commented:
    I happen to agree that unwanted touching is unacceptable at any age other than a very very few circumstances. I really respect how Rebecca Hains decided to coach her son about his own body and other people’s bodies starting at such an early age. I think it’s a very positive approach to teach our children about what we want them to do rather than continually telling them what not to do. I think this is helpful information for any parent.

  4. You give me great hope. I don’t plan on having children for a few more years, but I’m in that place where I hear about a current even and wonder how I would explain it to a precocious child. Thank you for this take on the suspension, and for the story of the blue nail polish. These concepts really don’t need to be complicated.

    • You’re welcome! I agree, the concepts don’t need to be complicated. The simpler and more straightforward we are with our children, the better.

  5. While I do respect the need for bodily respect and consent, it saddens me to think that seemingly normal human behavior in a 3, 4, or 6-year old–that is, the desire to physically embrace and/or connect with other human beings–has to be discussed in such criminal terms alluding to rape culture and adult perceptions of how bodies should interact.

    • I don’t know about criminal terms. It’s just all part of a continuum. The desire to physically embrace or connect with other human beings is natural and healthy; but respecting others’ desire to NOT be physically touched trumps that impulse. If we don’t teach our children that when they’re young and actually listen to us, when are they ever going to learn? After the age of about 7, children become less parent-identified, so we need to help them assimilate our values as early as possible.

      • I think that’s key. “The desire to physically embrace or connect with other human beings is natural and healthy; but respecting others’ desire to NOT be physically touched trumps that impulse.”
        Thank you also, Rebecca, for sharing your conversation and age appropriate talk with your son about his autonomy. I love your article. It’s spot on. I also think that we need to remember that this issue it a double edged sword. When we teach our kids (by not teaching them otherwise) that it’s OK to ignore the needs/wants of another person in regards to physical touch, We inadvertently teach them that it is OK for OTHER people to ignore THEIR needs/wants. Our kids need to be 100% in control of their bodies, and if they are not, or believe they are not, we open the doors to predators. Not just kid predators. Adults. Sexual harassment and abuse come in all shapes and sizes, and teaching our kids that a friend’s no, doesn’t *really* mean no, is teaching them the same about themselves. We need to empower our kids to have their own voices by teaching them to respect the voices of others. That is not to say that they cannot hug or touch another person, because that’s entirely OK!! As long as the other person is OK with it TOO.

      • I am a pensioner and find it very offensive when people outside my close family hug and kiss me. It does not matter which sex they are, but people presume that if they like it, then others like it, without bothering to find out. It seams to be considered acceptable by most people these days to touch others without their consent. If I recoil from them, then they take offence. Perhaps we should teach children not only to tell others not to touch them, but not to touch others without consent from the recipient. Our melting pot society is full of people from different cultures and subcultures. This is not just about sex.

    • Rape is not an adult issue. Try telling that to the fourteen year old girl who was beaten near to death and gangraped that her issue is an adult issue. If we teach our children boys AND girls about respect and boundaries I might not still be suffering fifteen years after the assault. Yes I am that fourteen year old girl now a twenty-nine year old woman who wishes those men did me a favor and killed me while they were at it.

      Tell it to the system trying to let these animals out and making me relive it year after year. Rape is a real problem and the attitude of I can touch starts young. These men were probably little boys who went unpunished for poor choices as they pertain to respect and consent in the past. These lessons are never to early to begin because weather I am three or three hundred this is my body and you will only touch when I allow it.

      I certainly taught my son these same things. No means no and stop means stop. If he doesn’t like being touched he needs to say the same things. NO and STOP. Little girls need to know it as well. As soon as they can understand the concept they need to be taught so they won’t be the next rapist or rape victim.

      The behavior starts somewhere and it can be prevented if caught early enough and taught early enough. So what did this six year old learn? He learned boys will be boys and NO doesn’t really apply to him. Nice lesson I’d have let the charges stick for two reasons.
      1) It will be erased at 18 anyway
      2) He would learn something valuable in the process and so would the parents who set the example for him
      And I’d feel the same about people touching my son or my daughter. My bet is the parents knew and did little to stop it. The school had to have called his parents. I know my sons school calls home for virtually everything including a fart in class to throwing up, from a fight to and incident.

    • I disagree that this boy’s behavior was “normal.” He wasn’t kissing or embracing other children or adults. He had a single target who did not want his attention and he had been repeatedly told to stop bothering her. IMO, that’s not normal or healthy; it’s quite the opposite. My experience with an overly affectionate two-year old was that he was indiscriminate in who he hugged. But six years old is IMO plenty mature enough to begin learning and understanding the concepts of personal boundaries, bodily autonomy, and no means no.

      Would you have the same problem with using the word “stealing” if the boy had previously been caught stealing, warned about it and then suspended for it? Why are we so resistant to naming the behavior in boys when the behavior is sexual aggression? Why are we so concerned about hurting their feelings by naming the behavior but not so concerned about the girl victim and how *not* naming the behavior and *not* supporting her bodily autonomy impact her self esteem and her ability to feel safe in a school environment?

      And FTR, as a girl child I had very strong feelings about “how bodies should interact” and for me that meant that I did not want to be touched or kissed by boys. Why is it that you assume that only adults have a sense of boundaries and bodily autonomy?

      • I have to say I’m a little bit shocked by the vociferous nature of some of these replies to my original comment—in which, may I point out, I did not attempt to defend the 6-year-old in question, but merely tried to discuss another aspect of this issue and to question the “DO TOUCH/DON’T TOUCH” and “YES/NO” binaries that we assign to physical contact between children of young ages.

        Personally, I think it’s limiting and harmful to equate physical curiosity in children to ADULT sex crimes. Children have to LEARN which types of physical interaction are considered appropriate, and these lessons are imposed upon children by adults, not the other way around–in other words, adults are the ultimate arbiters who define what is considered appropriate, something I don’t believe is necessarily fair. Beyond that, there are varying levels of physical interaction that are considered acceptable in different societies/cultures. In Latin America and Europe, for example, it is customary to greet loved ones, friends, and casual acquaintances with a hug and a kiss on both cheeks. This would NEVER be considered a form of sexual assault and/or predatory sexual behavior in those countries. My point is that we teach children what “predatory” means–even thoough some of those actions, like greeting someone with a kiss on the cheek, are considered natural in other parts of the world. They are but one of the many forms that human affection can take, and teaching children in the United States that affection can be equated with criminal behavior is damaging and tragic.

        But obviously there are deeper issues that need to be addressed–there are some physical boundaries that are necessary for children to learn, such as groping someone else’s private parts, which isn’t acceptable in any culture–but you need to balance that with an understanding of the fact that children don’t perceive bodies the same way adults do. And this goes for young boys as well as young girls. To suggest that a 6-year-old who was trying to forcibly kiss a classmate (something that is probably quite common and, I believe, usually a harmless display of affection) be branded a RAPIST and SEX OFFENDER risks imposing a criminal mindset upon that child, and damaging him psychologically for the rest of his life.

        Teaching children that it is not ok to kiss, hug, or touch each other has life-long consequences. I’ll leave off with a quote from Ashley Montagu, an anthropologist and humanist, who has written extensively on the subject:

        ““The impersonality of life in the Western world has become such that we have
        produced a race of untouchables. We have become strangers to each other,
        not only avoiding, but even warding off all forms of ‘unnecessary’ physical contact, faceless figures in a crowded landscape, lonely and afraid of intimacy.”
        From Touching: The Human Significance of the Skin

        • The child was not charged with a crime, not an adult crime nor a juvenile crime. He was suspended from school for *repeated* sexual harassment and because he did not heed the warning to stop. Importantly, the school did not use the word “predatory” in the description of his behavior. This is an overreaction by people who apparently do not understand the difference between sexual harassment and sexual assault. While they can both include unwanted touching, they are not the same thing. No one called the boy a rapist or a sex offender. I find it disturbing that people believe that identifying and naming a disciplinary problem is “psychologically damaging” to the bully but there is no concern for the victim’s mental health when he is allowed to run roughshod over her bodily autonomy and personal boundaries. Apparently it’s all well and good that she learn her place in the male power structure at the tender age of six.

  6. The simple truth is that it *is* sexual harassment. Unwanted touching is very much a part of the definition of sexual harassment. And this case clearly illuminates how male privilege is instilled at a very early age in our boys. There’s the resistance to accurately naming the problem and, instead, resorting to euphemism to disguise the fact that a first-grade girl is learning her first lesson that male privilege trumps her right to bodily autonomy, her right to be left alone and untouched, her right to say no. And the boy is learning the same lesson too, that adults will jump through hoops to justify and excuse his physically aggressive behavior. It’s all part of the rape culture spectrum. Because the excuses never go away, at any age, not in Steubenville, not on college campuses around the country, people in authority continue to excuse away male sexual aggression by ignoring it and/or blaming the victim.

    • ‘this case clearly illuminates how male privilege is instilled at a very early age in our boys’

      I would disagree gxm17. This behaviour is not restricted to boys. Girls can be just as bad to other girls, and also boys. Because society doesn’t recognise this (‘oh he’s a boy he only thinks about sex’ or ‘he has a boner, he wants it’), the boy in question won’t realise that what happened to him was wrong, even if it feels horrible.

      And if the boy in question has that as his introduction to female sexuality, his perception of female sexuality attitude towards sex as a whole, and sexual development will be completely derailed.

      I’ve been there, done it, got the T-shirt. 😦

  7. I definitely agree that we need to teach kids about respecting each others’ bodies from a very young age. I have a five-year-old who is very huggy-kissy with his friends and I am teaching him that he needs to get their consent and if they say “no” he should leave them be. The one part I am a little wary of, however, is the idea of a suspension and/or sexual harassment charge (which I know has been dropped in this particular case) for a six year old. I know it was a repeated problem and perhaps they had exhausted every other option, but all I can see is my sweet little boy that will be six in just six months’ time. He is learning, but he still does it sometimes. He is not being predatory, he just forgets sometimes that it is not okay. I can’t imagine him being suspended from school or even having a sexual harassment charge for that at such a young age. Don’t get me wrong, I wholeheartedly agree that teaching men to respect women’s bodies begins when they are BOYS and it is an important life lesson that is non-negotiable. But I still wonder if they truly did exhaust every possible teaching method before applying a punishment that seems harsh for a six-year-old.

    • I agree with you that as the mom of a boy who will be six in a few months, the phrase “sexual harassment” gives me pause. But as it’s just the term the school used to describe the reason for the suspension, and was not used to file actual charges against the child (which I can imagine some mislead school administrator doing in today’s zero-tolerance world), I can understand its application in this case. But I do have mixed feelings about it.

      • So it is now on the internet accessible to almost everyone. Not filing charges is the one side – making a media fuzz about it is another side. You can now use a search engine and connect 6-years and sexual harassment. And I guess not long in the future there will be connections to names…
        The school dramatically failed to protect this child, it will probably be hunted by this incident – which was very wrong – for the rest of his life. Which might be close to 80 or 90 years. Is this really justified? Will the boy learn a lesson through all that? Will other boys and girls learn anything from that? I pretty much doubt it.

        • You claim the school failed to ‘protect’ this boy you are wrong sir. They protected the girl from unwanted advances and touching by this boy.

          The mother of the boy made this national news not the school. The mother of the future rapist if he doesn’t learn no or stop means he needs to stop what he is doing now. She is the one who thought it unfair that her little angel who was by the school and this articles admission repeatedly told to stop.

          That behavior is criminal and if he learns it now before he gets older then the school did him a favor. At six unless he has no boundaries he knows what no means. If he has no boundaries think the 16 year old in Texas repeated 10 years from now.

          • Madam, you are now honestly calling a six year old child a future rapist?
            Calling him like that is just pushing him in that direction.
            It does not matter who made the whole thing public. Nothing of it should have happened in the first place. Neither the touching, nor terming it sexual harassment. And at the very least calling a little boy a future rapist is just sick. The school did not do that boy a favour, nor did his mother – agreed.
            If a primary school may term social misbehaviour as sexual harassment, they should begin teaching girls and boys about the differences of the sexes in kindergarten.

  8. I wholeheartedly agree with Ms. Hains point she so eloquently scribed, that is, no unwanted touching should ever be tolerated, no matter the age or context. However, this young boy will be labeled a “sexual harasser” the rest of his life. Education records do not disappear. I know this first hand as in my forensic practice, not only do I receive school records dating back decades, but also counseling/psychological/behavioral health/medical records as well as subpoena power trumps privacy privileges. In these records everything is included, good and bad.
    Moreover, thanks to the digital age, this boy will forever be branded as a sexual harasser. Future employers, college admissions boards, potential partners will at the ease of typing his name into google will see this label attached to him. This will forever be a burden he will have to endure and try to explain away his entire life.
    In addition, what treatise, standard, methodology, peer reviewed measure etc. did the school board utilize to reach their conclusion? I suspect no measure exists which contain statistical norms for 5, 6, 7, year olds, etc.
    Lastly, labeling this boy as a sexual harasser trivializes the true meaning of sexual harassment. To be accused of, or a victim of sexual harassment is extremely serious with legal, psychological and monetary, ramifications for both the accuser and the victim. Speaking of victim, I only hope someone is trying to help the girl involved with this, because the public and the school have labeled her, a 6 year old, as a victim of sexual harassment. I can’t get over that and my heart goes out to her. How is she handling all of this attention and does she understand what it means to be a victim of sexual harassment? That label is also something she will have to deal with for a very long time.
    So to me, it is an egregious act, almost criminal to label him as a sexual harasser when he, at the age of 6, is totally incapable of having any frame of reference as to what it means to sexually harass a classmate.

    • Having been a six-year old girl and as an adult woman, I can assure you that it is a positive experience when my bodily autonomy is respected and supported. Unfortunately, my experience as a child was that, more often than not, the boys were allowed to harass me. And yes, it is a form of sexual harassment. In middle school one boy terrorized me for an entire school year. His touching was extremely invasive and he was allowed to get away with it. (I went to the principal for help and his response was that the problem was with my clothing, never mind that school policy didn’t allow girls to wear pants.) What’s egregious is when girls and women are expected to accept physical assault (and yes, unwanted touching or kissing is a physical assault) as simply the price they pay for being born female. What’s criminal is excusing physical aggression in boys and the inclination of some to minimize that aggression with euphemism. Six year old boys are perfectly capable of keeping their hands to themselves and of understanding the very simple concept that no means no. The boy most certainly had a “frame of reference” because he was repeatedly told to stop harassing the girl. (The other boy who was initially involved stopped, so there’s no excuse for the boy who didn’t.) Further the boy was not “charged” with a crime, he was merely punished for behavior that clearly falls within the definition of of sexual harassment. Not naming the problem only perpetuates the problem. Name it. Face it. And teach our children to respect personal boundaries, regardless of gender. This is a lesson that benefits everyone, even the bullies who are still young enough to learn from it.

      • Great points above with regard to no means no and what the author endured during junior high school is inexcusable. No one should ever have to accept physical assault, boys, girls, men, women. Yes 6 year old boys understand right from wrong. The “frame of reference” pertained to the life-long label of “sexual harasser.” I have a 5 year old daughter and I would want the boy in question to be disciplined and counseled with regard to his behavior; it has to stop. But I would not want the term sexual harassment anywhere near a 6 year old boy or my daughter. His reputation is now damaged for life. If we are to treat 6 year olds as sexual offenders, then shouldn’t we also send them through the criminal justice system and imprison them? Juvenile’s who also know right from wrong and commit murder are let out ate age 18 or 21. The reason is they are not measured the same as adults and in this case, the boy shouldn’t be measured the same as an adult or even a post-pubescent teen as a sexual offender. Also, I see gender bias in some posts, i,e, “male privilege” etc. I don’t deny that is unfortunately engrained in our culture and I for one do not stand for it, but this could have happened to my daughter as she is very loving and affectionate and we work with her to understand boundaries, personal space etc. I work with her to understand social cues of when affection is welcome and when it is not. I wonder the reaction if this was a girl rather than a boy?

        • I’m on the run, so I can’t write a lengthy response at the moment, but I just wanted to clarify one thing:

          The school dropped the sexual harassment charge, as described in my article. So, there is no need for concern regarding the boy’s record as relates to this series of incidents.

          • I am aware his file now reads misconduct and the words sexual harassment removed. However, as I indicated, thanks to the internet he will forever have the words sexual harassment attached to his name. Employers, schools, coaches, parents, future partners will always see this via an internet search, the internet never forgets. If he has kids, grandkids, they will see this in his past. Other parents may think twice about sleep overs or tell their kids to stay away from him. He runs the risk of being ostracized by his peers. What’s more, he may even suffer economic damages as employers may think twice about hiring a person known to have a sexual harassment past; they may see him as a liability, the lawyers may advise to pass on the applicant. If he chooses to go into medicine, law, behavioral health, teaching, the military etc., he will have to explain his way into the profession. The Nathaniel Hawthorne Scarlet Letter reference comes to mind here. This boy has been robbed of his due process, his civil rights trampled, and the girl in this case now has to try to understand what it means to be a victim of sexual harassment at the hand of her 6 year old peer. This is why if you publicly or on record deem a person a racist, a bully, a violent offender, a sexual harasser etc. etc., the accuser better have a bullet proof measure, standard, treatise, etc. to support it as the ramifications can be devastating to the victims and the accused.

    • The only reason this is in the news is because the boy’s mother took it there. This truly could have remained a private matter, but an adult didn’t want it to be private. The girl’s mother kept quiet for as long as she could and surely felt compelled to come to her daughter’s defense. The news media snapped it up and shoveled it out without gaining all facts and information; unbiased, I believe it should be called. Now, because the school system has backed down, the mother of the boy will be able to tell him “see, I told you it was no big deal. Go give her a great big hug, kiss, and tell her sorry. Everything will be just fine.”

      • My point, is the boy is in the wrong, but I disagree he is a sexual harasser, public record or not.

  9. Pingback: The Integrity Of My Son’s Body: Consent, Respect, Touching and Teaching

  10. I like how this post ties into bullying – you can’t do things to people just because you feel like it, boundaries are absolute, etc. And it’s silly to think these sorts of things need not be taught to children, because that implies children are pure and innocent, which in turn implies that sexual maturity comes with the possibility of evil, an attitude coming from the more repressive religions. Good work, Rebecca!

  11. Pingback: The Soapbox: Unwanted Touching Is Unacceptable At Any Age (Yes, Even Age 6) | sexynewz.com

  12. I don’t have a link but , do recall hearing on the news where a 6 year old boy shot and killed a 6 year old girl in the last year or so in school. It sounds to me like a matter of poor parenting on the part of the boy’s mother. Years ago that boy would be put in reform school, but sadly there are no more reform schools these days. I can visualize this same kid as a teenager getting his hands on an assault rifle and “going postal” on his school mates or another large gathering of people in public.

  13. Unreal folks…and so it begins….the above post completely validates my argument…I can’t believe what I just read; sick and wrong…oh wait…I can believe it, as it is exactly what I predicted.

  14. Pingback: Episode 274 FPN Media Sucks Monday: Appropriate Touch and Helpless Kids - The Family Podcast Network

  15. Pingback: Tonight I Will Be Attacked: 1 in 5

  16. today i got touch by a boy and i came on this website to try to find some help to try to get through this. I told my mom about this and right away she told the school i dont know whats going to happen tomorrow but im really scared cuz i dont know whats going to happen. what shoukd i do wish me luck people. btw im 12 😦

    • Victoria, I just saw your comment and wanted to send you supportive thoughts. I hope your school handles it in an appropriate way that makes it clear that it was not your fault, and that the boy is punished appropriately for his actions.

      Now, on the off chance that your school is not supportive, you might want to have a few statements in mind that you can insist and/or repeat:

      “He did not have my permission to touch my body in that way.”

      “I did nothing to encourage his behavior.”

      “I’m not comfortable with this conversation. Can we please call my mom? I’d like her here for this discussion.”

      Also, if any conversation between you and school officials take place and your mom can’t be there, is there a female teacher you trust whom you could ask to attend the meeting, as well? Someone you feel would understand and sympathize?

      Try to be brave and speak up for yourself. You deserve to be heard and taken seriously. Good luck and feel free to check back in here later! You have all my support.

    • Victoria, I am so sorry to hear that. You do not deserve to have your space and your body violated. You are right and he is wrong. Your mother is right to address it. All of that said, I can imagine how frightened you are, and I am sending you all my support and positive thoughts. I agree that any conversation that excludes your mother should include another trusted female adult. The last thing you should feel now is alone. Lean on people. Tell them what happened. Speak your truth. Much love from a mom/grandma out there who knows you did the right thing.

  17. Victoria, good luck; I will be thinking of you today. You deserve to be treated with respect and to feel safe at school.

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  23. welll what can i say its stupid the school doing nothing about my daughter being touched up by boys nor the poilce and socail care wot help me to

  24. Have you bothered reading the details of the case?

    The boy was repeatedly told to stop. He was told no. At what age should a child understand the words NO and STOP?

    2, 6, 12, 19, never?

    Sorry no means no and stop means stop and this boy didn’t care he was doing what he wanted be ban everyone else.

    Yes that is the steel typical behavior of a rapist and if left unchecked and allowed to continue what he was doing then yes that could likely be his future.

    So did I call him a rapist? Nope. Did I contrast and demonstrate his lack of understanding a two letter word? Yes. Do rapists care about that word? Nope.

    He was told repeatedly by the girl to stop. He was told by playground monitors, the teachers, and school administration repeatedly to stop. His parents were informed repeatedly and the boy didn’t care he was going to do what he wanted anyway.

    That Sir Is 100% UNACCEPTABLE At ANY Age And For ANY gender. End of story.

    So at what age do you suggest he learn the word no and be held accountable for ignoring it repeatedly?

  25. Pingback: Unwanted touching - An experience by our 6-year-old - My Chirpy Life

  26. This is not a boys as aggressor issue. My seven year old son is currently the recipient of much unwanted touching/kissing from a girl in his class. He says no and she still continuously hangs on him etc. If he attempts to assert himself to her in a firm manner, he sometimes gets admonished from one teacher or another for talking out of turn. It’s an extremely frustrating situation. This girl has severe ADHD. Please don’t forget that little boys also need help asserting their boundary issues.

  27. It’s sad what you have to worry about even at 6. My youngest is 6
    When I’m preschool 2 trouble maker boys taught her how boys pee poked her in private are and taught her to punch in the nuts and would punch her in her private area. Now in first grade both these boys in her class again. The one boy just told her today to kiss his penis. Kids are obsessed with saying they have boyfriends and girlfriends and its bs. No I dont find it cute. They are too young and need to be told that. I didnt crush til jr high.

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