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Girl Scouts Teach Sexual Consent

The Girls Scouts of America are by all means a relatively positive organization when you put aside concerns of mass child labor where girls are pushed to sell overpriced cookies.

In fact, my mother was a member and then leader for my sister. I was… whatever the designation for ‘guy who carries all the crap everywhere’ is and on a personal level my waistline suffered immensely over the years from a house packed quite literally to the ceiling with an army corps worth of oh so delicious and oh so overpriced cookies.

However, the Girl Scouts organization, at a more official and administrative level, does every now and again march its way into controversy as it seeks to inform and educate girls with sometimes… less than universally shared values.

One such controversial publication was published in the ‘parenting advice’ section of the official Girl Scouts website late last year during the peak of the #metoo movement and is once again making the rounds with the seemingly innocuous and obvious title, Reminder: She Doesn’t Owe Anyone a Hug. Not Even at the Holidays.

While I wasn’t particularly aware of the national tragedy of mandatory hugs – perhaps as per my male privilege although I’ve certainly been smooched by my share of miscellaneous aunts etc. – it certainly seems like sound, if not incredibly easily apparent, advice. No interactions by anyone ever should be induced by coercion, let alone those of children, but… where the girl scouts of all folks take it is honestly really weird. The article reads,

“Holidays and family get-togethers are a time for yummy food, sweet traditions, funny stories, and lots and lots of love. But they could, without you even realizing it, also be a time when your daughter gets the wrong idea about consent and physical affection.

“The notion of consent may seem very grown-up and like something that doesn’t pertain to children,” says Girl Scouts’ developmental psychologist Dr. Andrea Bastiani Archibald, “but the lessons girls learn when they’re young about setting physical boundaries and expecting them to be respected last a lifetime and can influence how she feels about herself and her body as she gets older. Plus, sadly, we know that some adults prey on children, and teaching your daughter about consent early on can help her understand her rights, know when lines are being crossed, and when to go to you for help.”

Now don’t get me wrong, as a ~privileged male~ I’m all for making sure girls grow up to understand that solely they have control over their body and how they choose to interact with others. But this… is just not a great way to go about it and honestly, is kind of sick.

To even approach the concept of say, greeting grandma on the holidays with a lens of sexual undertones and the theme of consent speaks more to problematic personal views of natural human interaction than it does spotlight a problem.

Science shows hugging and other natural *entirely platonic if you aren’t totally weird about it* physical interactions are totally good for you, and of course for your social development. Now does that mean you should be dragging your kids kicking and screaming to give Auntie so and so a hug for that Christmas card? No… but it does mean that when my parents encouraged me to greet, thank, and otherwise interact with my family members, they weren’t opening a gateway to me being sexually violated…

In fact we even allow arguably ‘mandatory’ physical contact to happen all the time, just by the order of government employees at public schools where PE coaches *gasp* force you to engage with fellow children, routine mandatory medical checks for one thing or another are fairly common, and of course who could forget high school DECA programs nationwide violating their students by *brutally forcing* them to give their teachers proper handshakes or face failing grades?

The point being that while making sure growing young women come to understand their personal right to determine physical encounters is absolutely important… this is pretty much the most backwards way to go about teaching healthy human contact as can be; unless you happen to kind of be messed up in the head…

With organizations breaking faith – in some cases quite literally – with the GSA national organization over increasing bouts of varying nonsense such as this, maybe when it comes to saying hello to granny on the holidays we should all just ‘chill out girl scout.’

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6 comments

  1. Thank you so much for your post!!

  2. That Dr. Andrea Archibald has her Panties and Girdle on to tight and she is all wrong and knows nothing about what she is talking about. I bet she is a LGBT member

  3. Your focus on girls hugging grandma and aunties is interesting. Many, many studies have found that children are sexually abused by people they know—neighbors, uncles, older cousins, fathers, stepfathers, and older sibling’s boyfriend, etc—far more often than by a random stranger dragging them down a dark alley. And the children could be boys or girls. So I strongly disagree with the idea that the Girl Scout message is out of line. Children should have a choice, and I always watched my children’s responses to requests for hugs and kisses. If they balked, I supported their decision. It’s a request, not a requirement. They should be taught that at an early age, and they have the right to politely decline.

  4. I think what the Girl Scout handbook is saying about consent is great, they are not saying that all hugs end up sexual they are saying that the child should make up her own mind. If you are not femaleit is difficult to understand the confusion a woman can have about consent, if you are forced to hug and kiss people you don’t want to as a child that can bleed into your adulthood when making decisions about consent.

  5. You state that ” I’m all for making sure girls grow up to understand that solely they have control over their body and how they choose to interact with others.” But how do you expect youth – whether male or female – to learn how to exercise that control if they are not permitted to do so as they mature, to begin practicing that level of control? There is a tendency for adults to minimize how girl’s feel and express themselves. I can’t tell you how many times I heard my parents say things like “Good girls don’t talk unless spoken to”, “If tells you to do something, you don’t question him, you just do it”, “give a hug and kiss”, etc. If a person of authority hurts you – we hear things like “don’t make waves” or “it couldn’t have been that bad”. Not once was I ever told by my parents that if I felt uncomfortable with someone’s physical contact, that I had any right to refuse or push back, and that inability can seriously damage a young person’s self-esteem and sense of self. I’m glad this article was written, to give parents at least a moment to pause and consider. Sure, no one wants to offend Aunt Pinches-Your-Cheeks or Uncle Hugs-a-Lot, but there’s a way to handle it that might be in-between.

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