I read an article this morning about a six-year-old who was suspended from school in Colorado for kissing a girl in his class on the hand. Little Hunter Yelton was no stranger to suspension. He had been suspended earlier that year for kissing the same girl on the cheek.
The suspension is interesting to me for two reasons. First off, the school labelled Hunter's actions as "sexual harassment"; a term that no six year old should ever hear under any circumstances. Because of the policy, the adorable little boy will be dubbed a "sex offender" in his school, another term that should be null and void in the lives of every six year old. Predictably, his mother is enraged, especially since her little boy is starting to ask what sex is. I really don't think this is the way he should be learning.
The second reason I find this intriguing is because Hunter's affection was not unwarranted. Reports have stated that the apple of Hunter's eye had no problem with the kisses, and that her mother was equally shocked by the allegations against Hunter. I'm not a lawyer, but I'm pretty sure that all of this doesn't add up to sexual harassment, especially when you consider that neither innocent child has any awareness of the concept of sex or harassment.
This same morning, I read a report VICE did on a group of "Pick Up Artists" who were planning something of a group swarm at the Toronto Eaton centre. The goal of the group was simple; if you engage as many attractive women as possible, one of them will eventually have sex with you. Though the "Artists" have stated that some men are in this for the long term and merely rely on the group for support, the ultimate prize is sex with hot women.
Luckily, the Eaton's Centre was on the case. They used the magic of Twitter to let the public know that they were aware of the situation. At that point, security put a bit of a damper on the meeting, ensuring the safety of whatever women were approached by the "Artistic" intruders. The day was saved, and everyone could shop in peace again.
Meanwhile, VICE also posted a video from YouTube entitled, "Defense of PUAs in Toronto and Covering Male and Female Perspectives in Pickup". The video was done by a member of the Toronto Pickup Artists and it is one of the most insulting things that I have seen in a while. Not only does he state that women who wear make-up, perfume, and dress "scandalously" are obviously waiting for men to approach them, he also lists the things that women will want from you once they have been picked up (diamonds, chocolates, and "tissues for when they cry." Unfortunately, the last item is an actual quote).
The fact that people are throwing out the term "Artist" like they throw out their own self-respect aside, this man's perspective made my blood boil. I have been approached by these people before, and at the Eaton Centre no less. I will say from the very bottom of my heart that there are few things I find more irritating than being stopped while I am on a mission to be told, "I'm sorry, I just had to stop you. You're so beautiful. Can I take you out for a drink?" I'm not irritated by the statement, mind you. I'm irritated by its motive, because unbeknownst to the cunning PUAs, I know what they're doing. This especially happens in the summer when I am wearing less clothing, not because I want attention, but because Toronto summers are really, really hot. Besides, manipulation has never been a big turn on for me.
The thing that saddens me the most about these stories is that there is a media correlation between the two; sexual harassment. One caused outrage because of the innocent exploration of childhood, and the other because its goal was to manipulate women in to having sex with them. One of the perpetrators was punished and put on record, while the other was swatted away like bothersome fly. Was the right one punished?
Yes, Hunter Yelton had actual physical contact with the little girl, and yes, the PUAs did not necessarily have contact with the women they were targeting. Yes, it is far more difficult to target the group than it is the individual, but at the end of the day, where is the line? Does sexual harassment have more to do with policy than the emotion attached to the act, to the judicial terms by the powers that be than the sensation of safety and well-being? Can an adult with a fully functioning knowledge of malevolent intent and sexuality be less at fault than a child because they kept their hands to themselves? I don't think so.
Maybe I'm disgusted because as a woman, I like to be treated as a person. Maybe it makes me angry because I wish that parents would teach their sons that women are not mystical unicorn beings and have the same emotional make up that they do. I may even be frustrated because Hunter's story reminds me of my own little love story with my kindergarten sweetheart and how great it was to let a boy kiss your hand without either of us worrying about being called "slut" or "predator". Whatever the reason, I'd like to start living in a world where we love our children enough to tell them that it's OK to show affection respectfully and that if we don't like the attention we are getting, it's OK to tell someone who can make it stop. Respect starts at the beginning, and it's time that us adults stopped to listen as well as teach.
On this day, let us embrace the childhood fantasy of chivalrous love. If you maintain respect for the audacity of innocence and let kids do what kids have always done, you too can prevent another generation of Pickup Artists.
Follow Lauren Messervey on Twitter: www.twitter.com/laurenmesservey