Grandma, The Rapist

Years ago, the word “rape” was reduced to meaninglessness. So too was “sexual assault,” a conclusory phrase that offered no clue as to what actually happened, but wrapped it up in the “survivor’s” grievance of victimization for having suffered…something. But as uninformative as “sexual assault” was, rape still held the cache of creating a mental image of a man throwing a woman to the ground in a dark alley, ripping off her clothing and overpowering her while ramming himself into her.

It was a horrifying image, the sort that any decent person would find horrifying and repugnant. And those making accusations cared nothing about abusing what happened to some to color themselves victims of an enthusiastic sexual encounter after a couple of beers that gave her the right to claim the next day, month or year that she was raped. This was dangerous enough, but what about grandma?

Before scooping up your grandson, niece, or little cousins for a hug this holiday season, the internet would like you to know: “Kids who think they need to comply with adult requests for affection are more likely to be sexually abused.” This warning is the punchline of a recent article entitled “Why You Should Never Make Your Child Hug Anyone”. It’s representative of a miserable discourse that briefly relented during the elbow-bumping days of the pandemic, but has otherwise spilled over regularly in the past decade. The Today show has featured a therapist mom who won’t even hug her own kids without consent, while the Girl Scouts of America trotted out the topic in 2017 as a sort of #MeToo movement for kids —#MommyAndMeToo, perhaps?

This new festive tradition, where we tell our wizened elders to piss off and keep their grubby hands and lips to themselves, obviously has its roots in the all-consuming contemporary dialogue about consent. But this holiday season it hits differently. Rejoice, for gone are the grim days of socially distanced drive-by birthday parties and Thanksgiving over FaceTime; once again, Grandma can be treated like an avatar for child molesters the world over right to her face.

We haven’t yet reached the point when sensitive mommies lose their minds because grandma gives little Billy a hug because she loves him as grandmas have loved their grandsons forever, although sensitive mommy won’t tell Billy to “hug grandma” if he would rather use his time breaking things or shrieking his demand for gummy bears, but we’re not far from prosecuting rapey grandma when we realize that the prosecution of Junot Diaz was over a chaste peck on the cheek.

The recirculation of articles like these coincides with another notable entry into the every-touch-is-a-bad-touch canon, triggered by a recent update on the MeTooing of author Junot Diaz. Diaz, a Pulitzer-winning fiction writer, was mostly (not fully) cancelled in 2018, after an accusation from writer Zinzi Clemmons that he had once “cornered” and “forcibly kissed” her. Accounts of verbal abuse and interpersonal cruelty from other women swiftly followed, along with rumours that dozens of additional allegations were coming down the pike — or would, if not for the victims’ fears of retaliation for speaking out.

This was all about “sexual assault,” but the recent outing of facts by Ben Smith broke the omerta of MeToo by describing what actually happened.

The bombshell, four years later, is a heretofore-unreported revelation in Smith’s article: that the kiss in question was not the open-mouthed, tongue-thrusting assault most readily conjured by the word “forcible”, but a peck on the cheek. Yet for every person who was thrown for a loop by this information, there was another just as willing to die on the hill of “A kiss on the cheek without explicit prior consent is assault, actually”. In the former category was the writer Thomas Chatterton Williams, tweeting bewilderedly: “Imagine getting up and preparing to publicly accuse someone of assault and knowing full well that what you were actually referring to was a kiss on the cheek.” In the latter category was Diaz accuser Monica Byrne (who described a public but heated dinner party conversation with the author as “verbal sexual assault”), as well as recently-fired Washington Post reporter Felicia Sonmez, herself one of the #MeToo movement’s more controversial figures.

Did the accusers hang their heads in disgrace as they admitted they took a banal greeting, a kiss on the cheek, and wrapped it in the lies of sexual assault to manufacture offense? Of course not. They instead locked arms to boldly insist that if they felt like it was an assault, then that’s what it was and only a rapist would question their lived experience.

This is not just about the inexpressible, ugly weirdness of kids being instructed that it’s okay to recoil from Grandma because her hugs are non-consensual (while Grandma is in turn instructed that if her feelings are hurt, she’s guilty of the same horny entitlement that leads men to commit sex crimes). It’s about the pathologising of normal human togetherness, and the normalising of an extremely online brand of misanthropy, all with the pretence that this is the only way to be a decent human being, the only way to show you care.

As Kat Rosenfield explains, this irrationally fragile sensibility has metastasized from rape to any violation of one’s right to isolate in a bubble.

One of the most remarkable responses to the Junot Diaz cheek kiss was: “It’s okay not to want any intrusions into one’s space and that should be in fact, the standard.” It’s the “standard” that gets me, which if implemented would establish those of us who enjoy physical contact as deviations if not deviants, in need of stern correction.

Will the new normal be to valorize isolation, epidemic depression and anxiety notwithstanding, lest some human being venture too close to another person’s bubble and be accused of, and canceled if not prosecuted for, rape? Poor grandma will be denied the joy of hugging her grandson, but the risk of any lesser person touching another human being is too great to suffer.

Having successfully flipped the script so that those who yearn for human contact became the avatar for destructive selfishness, while the recluses in their hermetically-sealed bubbles are the heroes holding society together, how are we meant to come together again?

Have we learned nothing?

31 thoughts on “Grandma, The Rapist

  1. Grant

    And then there are lawyers who see an unfair, unworkable standard and think, “How can I represent plaintiffs whose causes of action take advantage of this before the wheels fall off?”

  2. Mike V.

    I wasn’t that wild about kissing my grandmothers and some of my great aunts because they (as did many of their generation) dipped snuff and that just grossed me out. But I didn’t get a vote in the matter. Hugging your elders was what you did. Even if your family wasn’t ordinarily huggers. It was a way to honor and respect them. And, to my way of thinking, allowing little johnny and jane to refuse is disrespectful.

    But what do I know. I’m a cross between knuckle dragging neanderthal and dinosaur.

    1. SHG Post author

      I’m not a social hugger or a cheek kisser, and if possible, I avoid it. I just don’t care for it. What I do not do is call it rape or sexual assault.

      1. Auntie Gertrude

        I’m on my way to Simple Justice Mountain to give you a kiss, Scott. It will not be a forcible tongue kiss, but rather a chaste peck on the cheek. It will be a banal greeting, not a sexual assault, and don’t make me feel bad about it. I yearn for human contact, and am relieved to know I may rely on your refusal to indulge in irrational fragile sensibilities, specifically your reaffirmed refusal to call it rape or sexual assault. While some might consider avoiding social hugging and cheek kissing a “boundary” set for reasons related to “bodily autonomy,” I do not, for I am not “woke.”

        1. Miles

          How, in that bizarrely distorted thing you pretend is a mind, did you manage to conflate boundaries with rape? Also, how do you remember to breathe?

  3. Jake D

    Yep, teach kids to let themselves be manhandled by adults without complaint. That’ll go great when they go to meet the slightly creepy pastor. What could go wrong?

    1. Miles

      Is there a way to distinguish grandma from creepy pastors? If you try really, really hard, I bet you could figure it out.

      1. Jake D

        Do you think child molesters come with labels? Do you think grandmothers have never molested kids? It’s like you think the world is divided between “good people” and “creepers hiding in the bushes”; that somehow kids are supposed to know that they can set boundaries with the “bad adults” but not with the “good adults.”

          1. Jake D

            I’m not sure how you got from “children should be allowed to have boundaries” to “no hugging ever” but I also think its weird to hug someone who clearly doesn’t want to be hugged so clearly I’m insane.

    1. L.O'Brien

      In my opinion, this comment validates everything I think about the small collection of things I know; and THAT makes it all worthwhile!

  4. Bryan Burroughs

    I do this with my son, cause I think it’s a good learning model to teach concepts of consent. My teenage nieces are very appreciative that I ask if I can give them a hug. But not doing it doesn’t make you a rapey shitlord. How the wokies turned this into a litmus test for sexual assault is beyond me, other than that’s just what they do.

    If it’s not your bag, then you don’t have to practice it. But if you encounter someone else who does do it, then play along, it doesn’t really hurt anything. At worst, not playing along just makes you a little bit rude, same as if you don’t take your shoes off at the door. If grams is forcibly hugging a kid who clearly doesn’t want it, she ain’t a rapist, but she does need to cut it out. And you need to visit her more often.

  5. cthulhu

    The Today show has featured a therapist mom who won’t even hug her own kids without consent

    I’d call that child abuse; if you want to be sad, look up “failure to thrive”, and if you want to have your heart broken even more, look up the “wire doll mommy” experiment with baby monkeys. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.

  6. Rxc

    The airlines will have to provide trigger warnings for every traveler to France, to prevent mental meltdowns when the innocent see everyone greet one another with multiple cheek air kisses. And handshakes will become a thing of the past – one never knows what the other person might be thinking as they physically touch your hand.

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