Bodily Consent and the Image of God (And A Free Book Giveaway)

My friend Abby is bright, intelligent and amazing, I secretly think there may be two of her… She’s a High School English teacher and mother of two who has in dominating online media with her TedX Talk and articles for Huffington Post.

Her passion for healthy sexuality and consent based parenting is contagious. Today she is not only sharing a piece of that but giving away three copies of her book, Consent Based Parenting (which is on .99, come on!)

When it comes to bodies, and what we teach about them, our house has one rule that trumps everything else. Everyone is in charge of their own bodies. The exceptions are few and far between. If someone is making choices that will cause them harm, then we intervene. Otherwise the rule stands.

Everyone is in charge of their own bodies.

This is not always the easiest way to parent. Because everyone is in charge of their own body, I do not always get to choose what my kids wear, even to church. I sometimes cringe when my wild girls in their rain boots and rainbow tights sit next to their perfectly coiffed peers. Would it kill them to want to wear shoes and hair bows that coordinate with tasteful dresses? It has been difficult to explain to long-distance relatives why my girls are not necessarily going to “Come give aunt-Pheobe a HUG!!” But the rule stands. Everyone is in charge of their own body. If my kid doesn’t want to hug you, I am not going to make her. Period.

We have this rule, that everyone is in charge of their own body, because we want to be as clear as possible with our four and five year old girls about their own bodies and what is and is not expected from them.

The unspoken expectations on women’s bodies can be overwhelming and confusing. Look good, not too good. Be assertive, but not bitchy. Don’t be a prude, but never put yourself in a compromising position. Do flirt, but not too much. There is no way to win. This game is set up for my girls to lose.

The game is set up, really for everyone to lose. If our bodies are seen as pieces in some kind of power game where the object is for each person is only playing for themselves, then someone is going to get hurt. It is guaranteed. I don’t think that is what God intended. In fact, I am sure of it.

God calls us to mutual submission, and you can’t have mutual submission if someone isn’t in charge of themselves. Submission is something you choose. Not because you owe it to someone else, and certainly not because someone is forcing something on you.

In order for us to interact with each other as sexual, bodily beings, we must recognize the image of God in each person, and respect them accordingly. This starts from the beginning. It starts with our kids first interactions with their bodies and the world. It starts with teaching our kids that they are in the image of God in word and deed. I show my kids that they are made in the image of God by allowing them as much autonomy as I can. And, I want to teach them that everyone else is made in the image of God as well. If mommy is made in the image of God, then that means you can’t hit her just because you are mad, or hang on her when she is tired and hurting. If your sister is made in the image of God, you can’t force her to play with you just because you are bored. You can’t hit your friends, and if they don’t want a hug you need to respect them.

My kids are far from dating age, but as a high school teacher, it is very clear to me that those days are coming. Before we start talking about sexual feelings, and restraint, and making responsible decisions in very heated situations, I want them to have a strong sense of respect and autonomy. I want them to be comfortable and in control of their own bodies. I want them to be able to recognize their feelings and decide whether or not to act on those feelings. I want their choices to be THEIR choices.
I hope that my girls are comfortable in their bodies. And I hope that comfort comes from respecting the image of God in themselves. I can model this for them by respecting the image of God in them. For my house, that means everyone is in charge of their own body.


Screen Shot 2016-02-15 at 1.43.11 PMAbby lives in the city of Atlanta with her husband and two feisty girls. She has been teaching English for the last ten years and blogging for the last five. She swears a lot for a teacher and mother, but she just likes all the words. She is currently working on a manuscript about her first year of teaching in an inner-city school. She is also working on teaching her four-year-old how to feed herself. She blogs about education, mothering and spirituality at Accidental Devotional.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


If you like this, there’s more words in store, to keep up easily use the box below to have new posts from this blog delivered to your inbox.

Enter your email address:Delivered by FeedBurnerAnd when share with your friends, well that makes me pretty happy. 

You can also find me on twitter,  Facebook and Instagram as well. Join the conversation on all fronts, that’s my recommendation…

  • http://uphillanddown.wordpress.com megan w

    THIS. My husband and I have already discussed the whole “Give X a hug” thing and how we both remember hating having to be hugged without our consent. We have agreed that we don’t want our children to experience that. Our daughter (our only so far) is only 8 months, but we’re already working on the mentality. If she doesn’t want to go to a stranger she doesn’t have to. Thank you for sharing this!!

  • http://simply-rea.blogspot.com Rea

    I’ve been pretty consistent in making sure that the boys know that they are never required to kiss or hug anyone, and for the most part I think we have relatives who respect that. (Although their grandmother does like to tease them by writing ‘give grandma a kiss’ on her whiteboard when they come to visit. They immediately write ‘don’t’ in front of it. And throughout the day they will change it back and forth and into different wording.) I don’t know if we’ve every really said in so many words that they are in charge of their own body, but we’ve been very clear in teaching them that No means No. If they are bugging their brother and he says ‘stop’ or ‘no’ that should be the end of this. (Granted, we are still working on this lesson, but I hope that the deeper lesson is sinking in.)