Different families have different sensibilities when it comes to affection. I recall few hugs or kisses in my childhood. That just wasn’t the kind of family we were. My wife’s family operates on the other end of the spectrum. It can be awkward going from one affection culture to another, but it shouldn’t be a source of serious controversy.
Actress Hillary Duff would tend to agree, as indicated by a recent episode involving her four-year-old son and social media. From Today:
Hilary Duff had a great day at Disneyland with her 4-year-old son, Luca Comrie. To commemorate the moment at the “happiest place on Earth,” she posted a picture of her with Luca in front of It’s a Small World, mouse ears and all. The picture had one apparently noteworthy detail: mother and son were kissing on the lips
— Hilary Duff (@HilaryDuff) December 13, 2016
Most of the comments under the picture were supportive. “So sweet!” said one fan. “You two are adorable!” said another. But a few comments were not. “Oh my!… get a room!” tweeted someone with the Twitter handle @cliffordblack5. “You’re sick.”
Observers don’t have to be comfortable with parents kissing their kids on the lips. But acting as if such familial affection proves in any way sexual says more about the commenter than the parent. Who even thinks like that?
Quickly, Duff clapped back at any real or potential haters. “For anyone commenting that a kiss on the lips with my four-year-old is inappropriate, go ahead and click a quick unfollow with your warped minds and judgment,” she tweeted. The tweet has been liked over 3,800 times so far.
The story evokes memories of similar episodes where wholly benevolent family behavior has been misconstrued by observers as inappropriately sexual. In 2012, a Minnesota State football coach faced felony charges related to videos of his own children taken after a bath. He was later acquitted, but his life and that of his family were never the same.
Sexual abuse is real, and we ought to be alert to evidence of real offenses. But such zeal should be tempered with the recognition that families often engage in benevolent non-sexual intimacy. Family affection should not be frowned upon.