Another day, and another celebrity being accused of child abuse for doing something perfectly normal with their kids. This time it is dad Perez Hilton who has come under fire for posting a shower selfie with his toddler son.
Let’s start with the ridiculous child abuse accusation and try to back it up from there. In “you have got to be kidding me” news, celebrity blogger Hilton was met with a tidal wave of Internet backlash when he posted what appeared to be a nude shower selfie with his 2-year-old son, Mario, to Instagram. Hilton, whose real name is Mario Armando Lavandeira, Jr., is a single dad to Mario and 5-month-old Mila.
Sure, the adorable photo got more than 3,000 likes, and it also got close to 500 comments — many of which were downright judgy. Some Hilton followers called the daddy-son bath time shot “creepy,” while others didn’t pull any punches when they said that the act was child abuse.
In response to his haters, Hilton replied, “I had my bathing suit on, and I didn’t feel the need to clarify that in the caption.”
He’s absolutely right. Hilton shouldn’t have to explain himself for doing something that any normal, loving father would do. The followers accusing this doting dad of crossing the line either don’t have small children who refuse to wear clothing at least once a day or are still living with their puritanical heads in the sand, expecting well-adjusted people everywhere to remain covered at all times.
Not only is bathing with your kids not creepy, but it’s something parents have done for centuries — and still do, in many cultures. Our nudity hysteria is entirely modern when you consider that parents have been hanging out naked with their kids since the dawn of time. (And Gwyneth Paltrow still bathes with her older children too.)
Instead of scarring a kid for life, a parent who takes this hands-on (and pants-off) parenting approach has a unique opportunity to teach their child several important lessons, starting with an age-appropriate awareness of the human body.
It could work a little something like this: A parent showering with a toddler can discuss autonomy in a way that a child will understand — for example, you can’t touch someone else’s body (and especially their private spots) without permission, and vice versa. As a child gets older, say 4 or 5, a parent who has cultivated this openness in their home can lay the foundation for healthy sex education to come — building on the concepts of consent and body acceptance, without shame. Dutch sex ed programs start as young as age 4 and have been using these principles to teach healthy sexual expression and to protect against sexual abuse in children for years.
So before we’re so quick to call a loving dad a child abuser, let’s think about what’s really going on here. It’s entirely possible that Hilton, like the rest of us, is just trying to parent the best way he knows how. And from the looks of it, he’s doing a great job. He’s an active dad working to build an open and accepting relationship with his kids — a far cry from the true definition of child abuse. Even if we choose not to learn from Hilton’s progressive parenting style, at the very least we can cut him a break.