Opinion

A naked body doesn’t equal sex, so why is it a big deal to bathe with your kids?

Media personality Perez Hilton recently came under fire after posting a photo of himself in the bathtub with his toddler son.

Media personality Perez Hilton (real name: Mario Lavandeira) is used to controversy: The 35-year-old has made a career of blogging about countless celebrity mishaps. But right now he’s the one at the centre of a public debate, and it all started after he posted a harmless (not to mention adorable) selfie of him and his toddler son in the bathtub together.

Hilton frequently shares family updates and posts photos of his two kids—two-year-old Mario and five-month-old Mia—on social media. On October 3, he shared this bathtub photo with the caption “Our family motto is: #fun! We try and incorporate fun into as much of the everyday things we do! #Bathtime.” Unlike many images of the celebrities he covers, this photo didn’t feature a wardrobe malfunction—just two happy, smiling faces.

People responded immediately. While a lot of the feedback was positive, some called the photo “creepy” and referred to Hilton as “the next Michael Jackson.” Media outlets quickly picked up the story, with one TV commentator going so far as to say the photo was a “trigger” for sexual-abuse survivors. Feeling threatened, Hilton felt the need to respond, telling the Daily Mail, “I had my bathing suit on, and I didn’t feel the need to clarify that in the caption. Everyone does what they see fit as a parent. Personally, I enjoy putting on my swim trunks and taking a shower with my son as often as possible. I’d rather do that than leave him unattended, which will not happen until he’s older and I’m confident that he can be safe alone.”

Many parents came to Hilton’s defence, some even posting photos of themselves—or their partners—in the bathtub with their kids.

I’m not sure I would post a photo of myself in the bathtub from when my kids were little, but I think all the pearl-clutching surrounding the Hilton photo is ridiculous. It’s absolutely normal to shower or bathe with your kids when they’re young. Both my husband and I showered with all three of our kids until they reached a certain age. In fact, the only strange thing about this whole story is that Hilton claims he was wearing a bathing suit.

We’ve always thought being naked with our kids provided us with an opportunity to show our kids what regular bodies look like. A naked body doesn’t equal sex, and it’s a parent’s job to make sure their kids recognize this.

With regards to Hilton’s situation, though, there’s an element of homophobia at play here. As a single parent, Hilton conceived his kids with the help of an egg donor and a surrogate. He is raising Mario and Mia with the help of his mother and a nanny. Some of the comments he received referred to him as a “pervert” and included degrading references to the fact that he is homosexual. The image is neither offensive nor inappropriate in any way. If you’re not comfortable taking a bath with your kids, that’s totally fine—just know that it’s neither uncommon nor inappropriate that some parents are fine with it.

Despite the backlash from some, Hilton hasn’t cut down on posting family photos. In fact, he recently shared one of his son in the bathtub with the caption “Don’t let the world change you. Change the world!”

Emma Waverman is a writer, blogger and mom to three kids. She has many opinions, some of them fit to print. Read more of her articles here and follow her on Twitter @emmawaverman.