Do you kiss your children on the lips?
Former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham sparked online debate this week when she posted a picture of herself kissing her five-year-old daughter, Harper, on the mouth.
While the majority of comments on the photo were positive, some had a more critical tone.
"Eww sorry I'm old-fashioned, it looks like they're making out," wrote one Instagram commenter. "It looks like lesbians," wrote another.
Some commenters argued that Harper was getting too old for such displays of affection.
"If you don't give your child the chance to grow out of [kissing their parents] and realize it's something couples do … what happens when they go to school and learn the good touch/bad touch stuff? More confusion," one wrote.
It turns out the suggestion that kissing your child is a sexual act is a really, really good way to anger affectionate parents.
Parents took to social media in droves to post photos of themselves kissing their children in solidarity with Beckham.
Can someone enlighten me as to why I shouldn't kiss my child on the lips? Why is Vic Beckham under attack?? pic.twitter.com/Zo2HdeR7VB— @carrutherssocks
In total support for Victoria Beckham kissing her daughter on the lips. Here is my wife doing the same. pic.twitter.com/0QWSNEnt3L— @pquirke
Even pet owners got in on the conversation.
People slating Victoria Beckham have a word. I kiss my boys on the lips, doesn’t make me a peado…..oh pic.twitter.com/wINEicho3j— @Inkypinkypunky
Many social media users noted that they still kiss their parents on the lips as adults.
looool as if Victoria Beckham is getting slated for kissing her 5 year old daughter on the lips, I still kiss my mum🙄🙄😩😩— @Ellenalilyf
It makes me laugh reading that people have sexualised @victoriabeckham kissing Harper on the lips. I'm 21 and still kiss my mum on the lips— @saralouisehxo
A question of consent
In a column for the Telegraph, writer Cathy Bussey argues that the argument over Beckham paves the way for a larger debate around consent.
"There's nothing wrong with parents and even other family members kissing children on the lips — as long as children are happy with it," she writes.
Remembering being forced to kiss family members out of politeness as a child, she writes "What children do with their bodies should be, as far as possible, up to them. That means not being forced to kiss Grandma or great uncle Jim goodbye if they don't want to."
Disagreement between doctors
In 2010, in response to a picture of actor Harry Connick Jr. giving his eight-year-old daughter a smooch, child psychologist Charlotte Reznick argued that parents should avoid kissing their children on their lips.
"If I had to answer when to stop kissing your kids on the lips, it would be now," she told parenting and lifestyle site The Stir.
Among her many arguments (one being that a kindergarten-aged child could be "stimulated" by a kiss), she said, "It's just too confusing! If mommy kisses daddy on the mouth and vice versa, what does that mean when I, a little girl or boy, kiss my parent on the mouth?"
However, clinical psychologist Samantha Rodman, who blogs as Dr. Psych Mom, disagrees. She says that children can understand, for instance, their father kissing both them and their mother because he loves them both.
She adds, "If Daddy is making out with Mommy like Rizzo and Kenickie in the back seat of the car at the drive-in, I am hoping the daughter doesn't get the same kind of kiss. Thus it is even clearer. Daddy and Mommy kiss like grownups, and Daddy and daughter kiss like family."
The argument over Beckham's kiss calls to mind another controversy last fall, when blogger Perez Hilton posted a picture of himself in the shower with his two-year-old son (the photo didn't contain visible nudity).
Some Twitter users found the post, and perhaps Hilton showering with his child in general, inappropriate.
Like Beckham, he had his defenders.
@PerezHilton too cute! Also why do people have to take something so innocent and sweet and make it into some bs this is a cute pic!— @cole2227
@PerezHilton i don't understand everyone's beef? This is so normal.— @chappersX
Beckham's husband, David, meanwhile, avoided controversy altogether by posting a photo of Harper giving him a kiss on the cheek — something the entire internet seems to agree is kosher.