Georgie Porgie pudding and pie, kissed the girls and made them cry.
— English Nursery Rhyme
There was an article in The Canberra Times this morning that I found rather disturbing. The author of said article, Cat Rodie, was describing an experience her six-year-old daughter had at school with a game known as ‘Kiss Chasey’. Essentially it is a game of tips, but instead of merely ‘tipping’ the chaser catches hold of his/her victims and proceeds to tickle and kiss them.
Furthermore, according to Ms Rodie, this game has been played ‘in the schoolyard for decades’. Centuries apparently, because she goes on to say ‘there are even nursery rhymes about it’.
What I found disturbing was not, however, the suggestion that Kiss Chasey is a common schoolyard game; despite the fact I have never seen it played myself over the 40 years I have ‘been at school’ as both a student and a teacher.
It was also not the assertion that the nursery rhyme, Georgie Porgie is about the game; it isn’t, but more about that later.
The thing I found most disturbing was what the playground duty teacher supposedly said when Cat’s daughter reported being held down and kissed, even though she had told the boys she didn’t wish to play. (Remember, the child is SIX.)
When my daughter told the teacher on duty, she was told that it was “just a game” and that the group of boys just wanted her to join in. The teacher also told her that the boys probably liked her and that she should be pleased that they wanted to play with her.
For starters, I am appalled that a teacher in this day and age would say this. I would love to put it out there and say, with authority, that no teacher would ever respond this way and that it must be a misinterpretation, or even an exaggeration, of what actually happened. Sadly, I am not confident in that assertion, so I can’t say it.
I was also appalled when Cat admitted that she herself had a bit of a giggle when her daughter told her what had happened, but I quickly amended that feeling as the rest of the article went on to talk about the abhorrent practice of trivialising this sort of behaviour in kids and that we should be teaching them from an early age about consent.
This whole article no doubt came about in the wave of similar articles and reports following the Australian Human Rights Commission’s report on sexual assaults on university campuses; it’s the way the media works. While the whole issue is of grave concern, my concern now is what is happening in our primary schools.
Despite a large number of years in the school system myself, with a broad range of experience, in the grand scheme of things my experience has been limited. Maybe I have just been lucky to have been in schools where this game of Kiss Chasey, or others similar to it, have not been tolerated.
Maybe it is much more wide-spread and ‘acceptable’ than my experience shows.
If so, then I fear for our children. I fear for future generations if our current six-year-olds are still seeing this ‘game’ as OK. We can have as many reports damning sexual assault and harassment as we like; we can have as many recommendations and policy changes as we like — but the truth of the matter is that we are currently breeding a whole new generation of people who will not understand what ‘consent’ is.
P.S. While the original Georgie Porgie nursery rhyme is not about the schoolyard game of Kiss Chasey, it is about a man by the name of George Villier (1592-1628) who had morals equally as abhorrent as this game. George was the lover (and ultimate user) of King James I, but also had an affair Anne of Austria (later the Queen of France, married to King Louis XIII) and likely a large number of other ladies (i.e. the ‘girls’ in the nursery rhyme who Georgie Porgie ‘kissed and made them cry). The story goes that King James I frequently intervened on behalf of George and got him out of a great deal of trouble. However, the Parliament (i.e. the ‘boys’ in the nursery rhyme who ‘came out to play’) eventually got sick of it, and stopped the King from sticking his beak in and saving George.