An Australian sexuality expert has divided the Internet over suggesting parents should be asking their babies for permission to change their nappies.
Deanne Carson, the founder of Body Safety Australia, said her recommendations are in order to secure a “culture of consent” from birth.
Speaking in an ABC News segment about teaching consent to young children, Carson explained that while she works with kids from the age of three, she also works with parents of newborns.
According to the expert, to establish a culture of consent from birth means asking permission before changing your baby's nappy.
"I'm going to change your nappy now, is that okay?" Ms Carson said of her approach to infant consent. "Of course a baby isn't going to respond 'yes mum that's awesome, I'd love to have my nappy changed'" the researcher, speaker and author continued.
"But if you leave a space and wait for body language and wait to make eye-contact then you're letting that child know that their response matters."
Ms Carson's comments have attracted a mixture of understanding and backlash on social media. Reportedly, Sky News commentator Rowan Dean labelled the advice "left lunacy".
Twitter users weighed in on the debate and one person replied to her thread saying:
Implying a baby can give consent opens a very dark door. This offers credibility to those who harm kids and claim consent. Parents are legally, morally & emotionally responsible for their children for a reason. We are the first and last line of defence & we take our job seriously— Jennifer Nicholls (@JenniferRathen) May 11, 2018
Another added that asking for an infants consent sound "absurd":
To be fair, asking infants for consent to change their diapers sounds absurd. I imagine there are ways to foster a culture of consent that are more common-sense, and less susceptible to ridicule. Let's focus on those!— Dan Hoelck (@DanHoelck) May 10, 2018
A consent form was suggested by a person highlighting how ridiculous she felt the expert's comments were.
We really need to calm down. The solution is simple. The day the baby is born, he or she will sign a consent form giving mum and dad permission to change nappies , baths, feeding etc. Why didn't we think of this before?— Jan Selbourne (@JanSelbourne) May 10, 2018
However, other tweets supported Carson's message.
I totally get you on this. Culture is embedded and the embedding starts from day dot. I am sorry your argument has been taken so far out of context and that you are copping so much hate. Thank you for drawing attention to such a contentious topic.— Donna James (@donnamariesyd) May 10, 2018
The conservation around consent is "crucial" and needs to be opened said one reply:
Hey Deanne - I’m sorry you’re getting so much stick for this. As someone who works with YP with very complex needs who may not be identified or considered as being able to give consent I think it’s crucial we open the conversations about it...— SENSRE - Gill Leno (@sen_sre) May 10, 2018
A Twitter user said while she understood the expert's intentions, she hoped Carson would reconsider her stance.
i have no doubt your intentions are pure in wanting to encourage early consent i wish people would talk it out rather than treat you horribly. IMO, the idea that a baby can consent at all is deeply troubling and hurts this cause. i hope you’ll reconsider this perspective. x— Laci Green (@gogreen18) May 10, 2018
Ms Carson addressed the mixed reactions on a now deleted Facebook post, noting that she had been trolled and "ridiculed" simply for advocating for babies to have bodily autonomy.
"I gave an interview the other day about teaching consent to young children," she wrote. "Sadly, some people have chosen to ridicule me (oh no! Pink hair! Must be a lesbian!) and the notion of giving infants bodily autonomy (poo in nappies har har amiright?!)"
For those people, she wrote, I'm posting this.
"One in three girls, one in seven boys will be sexually assaulted by the time they are eighteen years old. One in twelve girls will be sexually abused before their sixth birthday.
"The work we do with children, teachers and parents is international best practice in abuse prevention. It teaches children their rights AND their responsibilities and connects them with people who care and can help. It invites their parents into the discussion and is sensitive to cultural and family values.
"Troll me all you want, add to your blog inches, but remember that when you do, you are negating the voices of these brave survivors of sexual abuse."
In light of the negativity on her Twitter thread, the expert added:
because never in the history of social media have trolls edited out context in order to ridicule someone— Deanne Carson (@DeanneCarson) May 10, 2018
Do you think you need your baby's consent to change their nappy?