Don't Project A Sexual Identity Onto Little Kids 

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A smiling infant boy is not a “ladykiller.” A toddler offering an adult a cookie is not a “flirt.” Literally nothing a baby does needs to be turned into a romantic moment, so let’s stop saying things that imply otherwise.

It’s extremely weird to imply that babies are crushing on each other or even crushing on adults, but it happens all the time. Gender is gradually being released from a rigid binary and human sexuality exists on a wide spectrum of desire. You have no idea who that little adorable lump is going to grow up to be. So why is it so common to pretend that kids who can barely talk are in love with each other?

Sexualizing children is always inappropriate; it doesn’t really matter how you’re doing it, but it’s most commonly happening as a way to establish heterosexual norms. Earlier this year, I saw a straight couple talking to a mother with her baby. Within five minutes, the man was pretending the slack-jawed newborn was trying to fight him so he could “get” with his hot girlfriend.

The baby isn’t going to remember that interaction, but it’s likely one of many messages that kid and every other kid receives as they grow up that heterosexuality is absolutely expected of them, even before they know who they are. All of this is just a part of policing people’s gender and sexual identity, of course, and it begins early.

It’s also a part of how we culturally regard friendship between men and women, treating even the most innocent interactions between kids as proof of sexual chemistry. Boys and girls can be just friends, as children and as adults, but especially as children. Instead of asking a 5-year-old boy, “Is that your girlfriend?” about a girl he plays with on the swing, say, “Your buddy seems cool.”

She is. That’s why they’re friends. Plus, they haven’t even gone through puberty yet.


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