It was just another night. I picked my daughter up from her painting class, and we stopped by the local épicerie (that’s a small corner grocery store for those not in France) for some bubble gum and candy. Our Tuesday night ritual. C was beaming with joy as she explained to me what she had painted that night.
She went into the store, picked out her candy like she normally did and proudly brought it to the cash register. The older man behind the counter smiled at her and said “Do you want this piece of candy? You can have it for free IF you give me a kiss.” My daughter looked panicked. She clearly did not want to give this man a kiss at all, but she also wanted the candy very badly. “What the junk? No my little girl will NOT give you a kiss!” is the sentence that should have immediately rolled off my tongue. But instead I sat there completely frozen, in utter shock at what was transpiring right before my eyes. I felt so dumbfounded I couldn’t even react. C was torn. She did know two things—she wanted that candy and she didn’t want to give that man a kiss. We were both frozen.
But then I looked down at my daughter, and something awakened in me. She looked so completely lost; she didn’t know what to do. At that moment, I snapped out of it. I turned to the man and said firmly, “Thank you very much, but we’ll pay for the candy.”
It may not seem like a big deal. It may seem like such a small thing. You may be saying to yourself: “Oh he was just a nice old man who was trying to be kind.” Kisses are very frequent in France. You give people kisses on the cheek to greet them. But to me, this seriously crossed a line. To me, it was a classic example of how our daughters learn and feel pressure from a very young age to concede to what others want them to do (often what men want them to do), even if they don’t want to do it themselves. In reality, that old man was asking her to put his pleasure before her wants, and that’s never OK.
So as we walked home, I talked to C about what had happened. I explained to her that if she didn’t want to kiss someone or hug someone or have someone touch her in any way, her answer should be “No,” without hesitation. No one could make her do something with her body that she didn’t want to do, and if they tried, then she should tell me immediately. In this #Metoo world, I figure you have to teach the rules of consent as early as possible. So no sir, my little girl will NOT give you a kiss!
Laura Drewett is the CEO and Co-Founder of Pourquoi Princesse. She’s also a mom to a boisterous, vivacious little girl and a calm, cuddly little boy. An American, she lives in the south of France with her husband and kids.