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It is important that even children understand this because rape culture doesn't just bloom when you become college age.

Picture this: Generic holiday movie. Old family member, bending a wrinkled cheek down to an elementary school age child. Well-meaning parents pushing them forward with, “Give great so-and-so a hug!” Usually played for laughs because this is harmless, right? Here's the thing though: Life isn't a movie and forcing your kids to give people affection actually does real harm. To keep it simple, forcing your kids to kiss and hug relatives or friends makes it harder for them to understand and practice consent. It normalizes ideas that no doesn't mean no and silences their abilities to stand up for themselves in uncomfortable situations. On the longer timeline, it reinforces the tenants of rape culture. What you learn as a child continues to influence you as an adult. We don't age out of the teachings of our youth, we just continue to live by them unless we are able to do the work to unlearn them. When you tell children that they must consent to giving affection, even if they don't want to in order to avoid being seen as rude, you are telling them that their bodily autonomy is less important than upsetting someone else. People, especially those socialized as and assumed to be girls and women, have it constantly drilled into their minds that they should put the comfort of others above their own and, in many cases, above their safety as well. This isn't a concept that develops mysteriously, it is one that starts very early. This socialization teaches us that we should push our feelings and desires away, that they come second in any situation where someone else has more social authority.

The gun crisis in America is so severe that people would actually have a child elsewhere with solid gun regulations, just not here.

TW: this article contains descriptions of murder and gun violence. On October 28, 2000, I was with a dear friend when we were held at gunpoint during a robbery. The assailant shot my friend point blank in the head, and she died in my arms.  My life jumped off the rails as I went down a dark path, battling post-traumatic stress disorder that haunts me to this day. Every time there is news of a new bout of gun violence I am newly traumatized and remember that horrifying day like it was yesterday, not almost 18 years ago. And since there is a shooting virtually every day now, I am struggling daily to cope with the impact that gun violence has wrought upon my life, my friend’s family, and everyone who loves us. In the wake of the Parkland shooting that took place just 13 miles from my home (and during which the daughter of my husband’s colleague was murdered), my husband and I were never more certain about our choice to not have children. Being a gun crime survivor, the trauma of surviving that event has never fully left me and one of the biggest side-effects was my decision to not have children because of America’s absurd obsession with guns. I wondered if there were others out there who had similarly decided the gun threat in this country was too big a risk when it came to having their own children. It wasn’t hard to find a group of people who feel the same. Donya Johnson is a flight attendant based out of Minnesota, and a lifelong childfree-by-choicer, who tells me, “Since gun violence has become the norm in public schools, it further validates my decision not to have children. Schools should be a safe-haven to learn and explore life, not a place to meet your maker.” Wisconsin-based journalist Jennifer Billock made her decision to not have children far more recently, in just the past year. “I wanted kids,” Jennifer says. “But I don't think I can happily bring a child into this world when guns are such a major issue… I'm a naturally anxious person, and the idea that I'd have to worry about sending my kid to school because they may or may not get shot is not something I think I could handle. I already have mini panic attacks when I'm going to the movies.”

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