What Happened When I Said Consent Begins on the Playground

By Michelle Noehren, Age 34

Yikes. The internet is both a wonderful and infuriating place. I’ve been writing online for years so I’m use to getting some pretty mean comments on my pieces and I can generally let them roll off easily. One of the spots I write with is CTWorkingMoms.com, which is a nonjudgmental community for moms in Connecticut. A few weeks ago I wrote about something upsetting that happened to my daughter while she was at school and the backlash I got from angry men was a bit shocking.

In summary, while my daughter was playing on the playground two boys pushed her against a fence and pretended to shoot her with a gun. Her teachers told me they heard my daughter yelling “no” at them but they didn’t alter their actions and kept her pinned against the metal fence against her will. Working in the field of women’s rights, perhaps I’m particularly sensitive to gendered power dynamics but I was really upset at the time. So I did what I usually do and took to writing to help myself work through how I was feeling. And I did not expect the backlash that followed.

Suddenly comments were coming in on my post that took my breath away. Like this one, which is actually my favorite of the bunch:

Favorite

Wow. No words.

Then this one came in:

Comment1

WTF? I’m a bigot now for speaking out against rape culture, apparently. Also, this person needs to get their facts straight. Yes, women do rape men, but not at the same rate. And guess what? I’m teaching my DAUGHTER about consent too.

I was really confused as to how these people found my post in the first place. At CTWorkingMoms we work really hard to cultivate a loving, supportive space and we aren’t use to getting craziness like this. I discovered that someone had posted a link to my piece on Reddit, and as I read through the Reddit feed there were more gems awaiting me:

Reddit1

A woman who speaks out against injustice is automatically insufferable, because PATRIARCHY.

Reddit2

Apparently I shouldn’t even be allowed to have children because I’m totally messing up my kid by being outraged that she was held against a fence. Makes sense.

Reddit3

Hmmm…

Reddit4

Someone missed the entire point of the piece. Hostile much?

Reddit5

“They just wanted to do what they wanted to do and didn’t care.” POINT MADE, thankyouverymuch.

I’m over these comments now because in the end they just reiterate my point. Rape culture is REAL.

“Rape culture” is a culture in which sexual violence is considered the norm — in which people aren’t taught not to rape, but are taught not to be raped.”

Telling me that I’m a bad parent, that child protective services should be called on me, that I’m clearly an insufferable person as well as a bigot, for simply suggesting that consent is something that can be learned on the playground, is a transparent ( & ineffective) attempt to silence me.

My friend (and fellow writer) Beth said this to me about the response to my post:

I’m sorry that you’ve gotten the response you have, but, in many ways, it means you’re doing something right.  Masculinity is so fragile and men react so terribly when they see themselves reflected back in a criticism about hegemonic masculinity.

#Sorrynotsorry that my piece threatened some people’s fragile masculinity. I’ll just be over here advocating like hell for my daughter while practicing what I preach and continuing to teach her about consent too.

One thought on “What Happened When I Said Consent Begins on the Playground

  1. Amanda R. Lounsbury says:

    I shared this post to my facebook page in support of your article. I’d like to share my “share” with you:
    I encourage you all to read this article, and to revisit its content whenever you begin to argue about something that you are not exactly familiar with (especially if it’s about rape culture/sexual assault and you’re trying to argue with me).

    The comments on Michelle’s post are aggravating, to say the least. Each comment that she features relates directly to the issues I’ve been trying to raise over the past year.

    -Accepting or allowing inappropriate/aggressive behaviors (instead of teaching children what they did and WHY it is wrong) DOES further contribute to culture of rape that allows for violence, especially against women. By refusing to confront the behavior (especially as an authority figure), the actor is enabled to continue such behavior without ever questioning the morality or impact of it on others.
    –The excuse that “Boys will be boys” is outdated and only encourages these children to grow into men who feel entitled to do whatever they wish. We ALL need to be taught to respect the personal space, safety, and privacy of others, regardless of what WE want.
    —No matter how minuscule, any behavior that occurs without the consent of the recipient DOES contribute to a hostile environment. Whether or not it is directly related to sexual activity is irrelevant when talking about how society perpetuates rape culture.
    a power dynamic that favors men.

    My biggest concern with these comments is that the majority of users prematurely decided to discount this woman. It’s not as if they are questioning her or engaging her in discussion on the matter, they are just shooting her down and rejecting her opinion (even though she is totally right!). I appreciate perspectives from all walks of life and although we may not agree, it is possible to have a civil discussion on any topic regardless of your take on the matter. It does not have to become hateful or disrespectful.

    Well, I don’t have any children (whew!) but if I ever do, they will learn to be respectful of others’ personal space and wishes. They will learn WHY it is important to be courteous and respectful to others. They will learn (regardless of their sex) that each and every person has a right to choose yes/no in every situation, and that they have an obligation to make sure the person being acted on has okay’ed such behaviors.

    My message to all of you: When reading online editorials or blog posts, PLEASE read the article in its entirety. If you must argue against the writer, PLEASE make sure that you understand their argument first.

    Like

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