Yellow flag

Yellow (moderately unacceptable) behaviour applies when either (1) there is no clear mutual consent or (2) when moderate coercion or pressure is used, or (3) when there is moderate inequality in terms of age, maturity, intelligence. Also behaviour that (4) is not completely age-appropriate, (5) is not completely appropriate for the context or (6) that may be self-harming, is categorised as yellow behaviour. Yellow behaviour is quite ‘normal’ in the development of healthy sexual behaviour, because exploring and pushing the boundaries is all part of the development process.

peeping swimmingpool
Fig 2: While getting changed at the swimming pool, a 10-year-old girl peeps into the boys' cubicles.
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While getting changed at the swimming pool, a 10-year-old girl peeps into the boys' cubicles.

Children are curious and sexuality is the ideal training ground for curiosity. Small children go out and explore and will look through the open doors of a toilet, bathroom and bedroom to see what other people look like. Around  the age of 5 they start to turn to their peers to supplement their knowledge. At this age the child knows that it’s not okay to peep. But specifically because it’s prohibited, it’s made exciting to go and have a peek. In practice it often involves small groups of children who are peeping.

Let’s now assess the behaviour of the girl:

  • Consent >  -OK - The boy does not know that he is being watched and cannot therefore give consent.
  • Voluntary engagement > -OK - He does not know that the girl is watching and so does not take part voluntarily.
  • Equality - OK - They are the same age and so presumably are equal.
  • Appropriate for age/development - OK - Children of this age are curious and find it exciting and thrilling to do things, which are not actually okay to do.
  • Appropriate for the context - -OK -The girl is encroaching on the boy's privacy.
  • Self-respect - -OK -The girl may experience some reputational damage as a result.

Example for response:

  1. Towards the girl: ‘I heard that you were peeping into the changing room, how was that? How do you think the boy felt about it? Are you curious about what a boy looks like? There’s nothing wrong with being curious about boys, but it is not okay to peep because the boy didn’t know that you were watching him. Now you wouldn't like it if a boy was secretly watching you with no clothes on? Peeping into the changing cubicles is not okay. What agreement can we make about this?’
  2. Towards the supporting adult: Children are curious and find it exciting to do things that are forbidden. Instruct the child that it’s not okay and make sure that it doesn’t happen again (supervision).
  3. Policy: Make clear agreements about how to deal with nakedness and getting changed.