As I was out for my nightly walk, I was listening to Christmas music, inspired by the current snowfall. Listening to Christmas music reminded me that it might be time to talk about a long-standing Christmas tradition–the mistletoe. This is especially important as we go into this holiday season, with the flurry of sexual assault allegations very much in the news, and knowing the statistics of sexual harassment–and the fact that it most often is committed by the people we know and trust.
The mistletoe is a long-standing Christmas tradition, and feminist theory has a long history of pointing out problematic traditions. Some traditions we can keep, some should be abandoned, and some need revision to fix the problematic parts. Mistletoes fall under the latter category.
So, here is my guide to mistletoe etiquette:
What mistletoes DO NOT mean:
1. That you are obligated to kiss someone
2. That you are obligated to let someone kiss you
3. That a magical zone has been created under the mistletoe where consent is automatically granted, and legal repercussions are absent.
If you find yourself under a mistletoe with someone you would LIKE to kiss:
1. You may use the opportunity to ask them if they would like to kiss. As an example: “I see we’re standing under a mistletoe. Would you like to kiss?”
If the answer is YES:
1. Stop and think: “Is there any power imbalance here that would mean they are saying ‘Yes’ just because they’re afraid of saying ‘No’? Is there any reason why they can’t legally give consent? Is there any reason why I should not kiss them”
2. Ask follow-up questions as necessary from this moment of self-examination.
3. If completely sure that they have explicitly and clearly consented, and that they are in the legal and rational state to do so then, and only then, may you kiss them.
If the answer is anything EXCEPT a CLEAR and EXPLICIT yes:
1. Assume it is a “no:
2. DO NOT kiss the person.
1. A clear and explicit “Yes” means someone actually saying “Yes” aloud. Nodding, mumbling, making indecisive noises, or saying “Yes” hesitantly should all be treated as “No” unless there is a previously established explicit agreement with the individual otherwise and even then it’s better to play it safe and consensual.
2. Any gender can ask “Do you want to kiss” and any gender can say “No” without judgment and condemnation
Hope you like my etiquette guide. Let’s enjoy this holiday season in a safe and consensual manner! 😀