Consent and Kittens
My kitten and I have been struggling with the concept of consent.
Katniss loves to bite, to the extent where she seems to believe it’s an uncontrollable urge and a necessity to her wellbeing. I realized this early on, and so I’ve always been very careful to never play rough with her or otherwise give her the impression that I’d like her to bite me. I’ve never wanted her to bite me, and I never will.
And yet, she finds endless scenarios to pretend I’ve given her an excuse to do so anyway.
- When I cuddle with her in bed
- When I kiss or tickle her
- When I wear clothing that exposes tempting areas of skin
- When I’m too tired or drunk to object
- When I don’t say “NO” when she’s preparing to bite
- When I didn’t say “NO” the previous time she bit
- When I don’t say “NO” loudly or forcefully enough
- When I say “NO” too loudly and upset her
- When I don’t push her off or run away
- When I push her off or run away and make it a fun challenge for her
- When I walk around without the protection of a spray bottle
- When it’s only a real fast little half-bite
- When she just really really really wants to bite
Although she gives the impression that she believes these to all be valid excuses for biting, I know better. She eagerly awaits these opportunities, takes full advantage of each, and makes a show of mock confusion when I scold her after she’s bitten.
She knows perfectly well that I don’t want her to bite me, she just doesn’t care very much about the pain it causes me and thinks that her desire to bite is more important. So she does it anyway because she wants to and because she can. Respecting consent is simply beyond her grasp right now.
I feel like I always have to question if maybe I’m expecting too much. Maybe lack of consent is unclear, resisting temptation and reading people are hard, there are honest mistakes, it’s not that big a deal.
But I know I don’t want Katniss to bite me and she shouldn’t be doing it if I don’t actively encourage her to. And I know she knows what she’s doing is wrong. With her, it seems crystal clear. None of those scenarios make it okay for her to bite me. None of them.
Katniss is about four months old and four pounds, and her favorite toys are electrical wires, her tail, and the kitchen dish sponge. Sometimes she wakes me up trying to burrow underneath my body while I’m asleep, and sometimes she hurls herself at the wall because she thinks she can stick to it.
If this ridiculous little creature can understand that violating consent is wrong, even if she can’t control herself yet, then surely any human with years of life experience and a brain nearly as large as she is can understand consent and resist violating it.
So then why is it still so fucking hard to hold people to the same standard?