Want to Kiss Your Grandchildren? This School Program Says You Need 'Consent'


Grandparents on social media are crying foul after a school program in one Australian state is telling children that they need to “consent” in order to receive a kiss from Grandma or Grandpa.

The program, Respectful Relationships, is being used in schools across Victoria to teach sexual consent to young children, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

There’s nothing wrong with that on its face, of course, but the problem lies in the details and execution.

The opening paragraph of last week’s report should begin to clue you in as to how deep the issues go: “For many children, a sloppy kiss from grandma was a rite of passage growing up. Now it is being used as a light-hearted example to help empower children against potential sexual abuse.”

Yes, there’s nothing quite as lighthearted as using affection from your grandparents as an example in a program primarily designed to teach children when their sexual boundaries are being violated. I see no issues here at all.

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The program is designed to inculcate a concept called “enthusiastic consent,” which is more or less what it sounds like. Down under, where this whole thing is playing out, one government minister described it as “You must explicitly ask for permission to have sex.”

“If it’s not an enthusiastic yes, then it’s a no,” Pru Goward, New South Wales minister for the prevention of domestic violence and sexual assault, said last year.

Similar standards apply, of course, to unwanted touching and bodily contact.

The question is what educating children to this standard means, particularly at a younger age. At least in Victoria, the Respectful Relationships program — which grew out of a proposal by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse — believes using familial affection as what we might call a “teachable moment” in the States is perfectly reasonable.

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“We’re talking about situations such as grandma wants to swoop in for the big sloppy kiss and if the child doesn’t want that to happen what can they do,” Margie Buttriss, a childhood educator with HUSHeducation, said.

“And they can respectfully say, ‘No thanks, Grandma, let’s have a hug instead.’ Or if it’s someone they don’t know, ‘Let’s high five, let’s fist bump.'”

You can probably guess that there are other controversies with the program. For instance, one case study used involved having students role-play as a 17-year-old bisexual with 15 sexual partners.

Respectful Relationships has drawn criticism from public figures in the past, with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison saying that the content was “skin-curling” and that it played a role in his decision to send his children to private school. (When noting his objection to the program, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. threw in that Morrison was “a devout Pentecostal.” Nice touch.)

However, it was the program’s example involving grandparents that really seemed to strike a nerve on social media.

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The New York Post collected a few of the more choice responses from Twitter.

“‘No thanks Grandma’: Children taught to say no to sloppy kisses to understand consent. This rot bought about by some extreme lefty who never had a granny,” wrote Dennis Barr, who says he has “great-granddaughter Aussies.”

“So a kiss from granny is now abuse?” a user named Jill said.

And one American user compared it to a certain, ahem, political figure over here:

Meanwhile, another writer said, “I know these people mean well, but they are taking the humanity from humans. Don’t touch, don’t feel. It’s 1984 in practise.”

To unpack all of the problems with Respectful Relationships would take forever. Yes, I’m sure those behind the program mean well; I have no intention of impugning their motives. Meaning well and educating well, however, are two vastly different things. Assuming that this has an impact, there’s a very good chance it won’t be a good one.

Nothing devalues the idea of consent quite as much as using it on the most mundane interactions a young child has, particularly when they’ve been considered socially normal for eons and have no demonstrable harm. Kids may be malleable to a certain extent, but they also aren’t dumb. If they’re being told, against all logic, that normal familial affection is in the same league as unwanted touching of an untoward nature, they’re going to discard whatever else they hear. They know when nonsense is being peddled.

Yes, this is Australia, but this ought to be a canary in the coal mine. This is perfectly capable of being exported. Ideas like this don’t usually remain in their native habitat for long, after all. When political correctness runs amok like this, there needs to be a firm and immediate push back. This is a program that needs urgent reshaping.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture