Today is Saint Patrick’s day, a holiday celebrated by folks with Irish ancestry or nationality, in recognition of the contributions of a first century missionary. I had the privilege of being in Cork, Ireland on Saint Patrick’s Day in 2009 where most businesses and government offices were shut down for the day. I enjoyed seeing how the Irish celebrated the date of Saint Patrick’s death with amazing costumes, a parade in the middle of town, windows painted (see picture below), hanging out with friends, and a meal with family.
This event has morphed from a religious holiday honoring Saint Patrick’s establishment of the Catholic church in Ireland (where the color blue was associated with knights in the Order of Saint Patrick) to an Americanized celebration of all things Irish, including the Irish independence movement and the color green. Somewhere along the way, we also started teaching children to pinch people who aren’t wearing green on March 17th, and to kiss people who are Irish. An entire line of commercialized products have emerged – “Kiss Me, I’m Irish” t-shirts, “pinch proof” green shamrocks on buttons, green beer, and many more.
Regardless of what someone’s t-shirt says or what a tradition may be, it is important to get consent before touching or kissing another person, no matter their age, what shirt they are wearing, or what has happened between you in the past. . When someone is wearing a shirt that says “Kiss Me, I’m Irish”- this does not give anyone permission to kiss that person. When someone is not wearing green on Saint Patrick’s Day, it is still not okay to pinch that person without their consent.
When we allow touching another person without their consent to be the norm – even pinching, which hurts! – we make it easier for predators to blend in with the crowd. Research by David Lisak confirms that a small percent of folks are responsible for the majority of sexual violence. Most sexual predators are serial offenders, and they know what they are doing – they are intentional.
…uh, most people know that, actually.
Let’s celebrate our holidays in ways that honor and respect people’s bodies and personal space. So this Saint Patrick’s Day, save the kisses and pinches for someone in your life who wants them, after getting their consent. Or be a trailblazer and start a new Saint Paddy’s Day trend!