Ask a parent what their concerns are with regards to their children, and you’ll quickly realise how parents’ worries are deeply gendered. Most parents of female children are concerned about the safety of their young girls. And rightly so. Crimes against women and children have been on the rise in our country, and someone raising a girl in this climate is justified to be anxious about her safety.
Keeping in line with this, an increasing number of young parents today educate their girl children about good touch vs bad touch. But, how many teach young boys the same? Not many, I’d reckon. Amidst the rising awareness of issues related to girls and women, the safety of young boys sometimes gets sidelined. This is especially true when we think of child sexual abuse. We mistakenly assume that only young girls need to be protected from sexual abuse. That boys are not potential victims of such a crime. This is a problematic assumption on many fronts, and there are hard numbers to prove this.
Data suggests that anywhere between 3% to over 50% of the victims of child sexual abuse are boys. Activists and advocates working in the area say that male sexual abuse is grossly underreported, and I can vouch for that having personally heard stories that were never reported. Young boys are just as vulnerable to sexual abuse as young girls are, and deserve to be taught about good touch vs bad touch.
If boys aren’t equipped with the words to talk about sexual abuse, how will they cope with it?
One young survivor of child sexual abuse I interviewed for my book, Dear Men: Masculinity & Modern Love in #MeToo India, told me that it took him years to even realise what had happened to him was abuse. With no representation in the media of male survivors, and no vocabulary to talk about his experience, it was only as an adult that he began to understand his childhood experiences. The aha moment came to him while watching an episode of Aamir Khan’s Satyamev Jayate, where gay activist Harish Iyer, spoke about his abuse.
Not talking to boys about good touch vs bad touch gives them the message that it’s not relevant to them – that they don’t need to know because nobody would touch them in a bad way. Consequently, if they were to face any form of sexual harassment at any stage of their life, they wouldn’t know how to talk about it.
Teach boys about good touch vs. bad touch so they can learn to respect consent
Talking to boys about good touch vs bad touch is one small step toward creating a consent culture where everyone’s bodily autonomy is respected. By teaching them that their body deserves respect, and that no one has the right to touch them in a way that makes them uncomfortable would also prevent them from doing the same to another. We respect other people’s boundaries only when we understand and respect our own. This is one actionable step every parent raising a boy can take today, so he may grow up to be a kind, compassionate, vulnerable, and respectful man.
The views expressed are the author’s own.