There’s one thing we’re frequently told and ordered throughout our lives: kids and “swear words” should not mix ever. Kids should neither hear them nor say them. If a form of entertainment uses any of these “swear words”, depending on the specific words, kids should be forbidden from it.

Oh, and the unlucky kid who should – gasp! – actually say any of these words? He’ll be in for swift physical assault, be it in the form of a smack or a bar of soap shoved in his mouth. You know, because he said a “dirty” word and soap is needed to “clean” his mouth, isn’t that just an adorable excuse for forcing an item into the orifice of someone’s body without consent?

Okay, this all needs to stop now. Could someone tell me just what harm a kid could possibly come to from hearing a bad word? No one has ever been able to answer this question. Is a kid’s life irreparably ruined if someone nearby drops an F-bomb? Will she spontaneously combust?

Only “reason” I ever hear is “but he might repeat those words!” And if he does? Does the world collapse when a 10-year-old says “ah, shit!” after dropping something? Are some evil spirits conjured because one of the “seven words you can’t say on TV” came out of an under-18 mouth? What, oh what, could this event possibly cause that results in the young speaker meeting with harsh physical punishment for… saying a word?

Ah, of course. It’s adult privilege at its finest. Adults have the privilege of… free speech. You know, that thing that’s supposed to be an inalienable right for everyone? And here we have perhaps the most common, well-known of infringements on young people’s free speech, the idea that if they say one of a certain set of words deemed “evil”, and therefore only adults may say them, then they have sacrificed their bodily autonomy (what little they are allowed anyway). Once a young person has said one of these words, all his purity and innocence is suddenly gone, and a nearby adult must assault him in some way to somehow cleanse him, I guess.

Because, of course, it’s okay to harm a child or teen if they have – gasp! – offended an adult somehow. And how have they offended the adult? Because everyone knows “children” are supposed to be pure and innocent, and they must retain this purity and innocence at all times, and should they deviate from it even in the slightest, such as by spouting “damn it!” after stubbing a toe, then they are worthless. People often think our society reveres children, but not really. What is revered is the adult ideal of children, the ideal of how children should be, how they should, by adults’ definitions, be always pure and innocent, and it is the highest crime for that purity and innocence to be breached. Such as by the child hearing or saying these “evil” words. You know, the words they’re already going to use once they’re older anyway, if they aren’t already secretly.

Therefore, adults’ ideal of childhood purity and innocence is always more important than a young person’s free speech or bodily autonomy! And this is somehow supposed to be protecting children. If by protecting children you really mean protecting adult privilege, sure.

You can’t truly believe in free speech yet have the nerve to believe young people shouldn’t have it. Oh, you’re bothered that “some punk kid” is using filthy language? Well, too bad. Because there is absolutely nothing that kid could have said that could be anywhere near as repugnant as your sanctimonious urge to silence him violently.

Support free speech! Young people, use any words you want! They’re just as much yours as anyone else’s!