ONCE upon a time, before we found ourselves truly through the looking glass, a parent kissing their child would not a headline make. Though in an age of grand cinema conspiracies and Boris hair-truthers, what passes for news is far beyond the fundamentals of a journalistic education.

During the Women’s World Cup quarter-finals, when England played Norway, David Beckham kissed his seven-year-old daughter! This seemingly banal act of public parenting was deemed to be a scandalous scoop by Piers Morgan, a man with the integrity of a used teabag and all the emotional intelligence of a fridge, and thus it was thrust upon us for “debate”.

I did as the perplexed invariably do, and typed “kissing your child” into Google to take the current temperature on the matter. What followed was a litany of articles, forum threads and think pieces on why it’s wrong to kiss your child on the lips. Huh. This parental volte-face has gone entirely over my head. I must have missed the memo that familial familiarity is now sinister.

In expressing my confusion at the story and my support for a dad simply being a dad, though most agreed with me, I was still called a paedophile. Someone suggested I might as well “swirl my tongue around in there” too. Someone else said it reminded them of child abuse.

In both of these views, the constant seems clear: this is the sexualisation of an act that need not be sexual. I’d argue that it is by default non-sexual, given how common it is to kiss as a greeting, or as a mark of respect. I kiss my rabbi and my friends at shul on a Saturday morning. If your kissing vernacular is limited to that one dimension, then you are being deprived of the vastness of the human experience.

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I’ll admit my bias – I come from a long-line of kissers, be that on the lips, the cheek, the forehead or the hair. We have not and have never been shy about expressing our love and affection for each other. At 32, I still kiss my mum and my grandparents on the lips, or the cheek, depending on what’s offered up in the moment. It has not ever been weird, nor has it become so with age. My kids will happily initiate a kiss with grandparents they adore.

I know if you come from a less haptic family, where displays of physical affection are not the norm, it can seem a little off – but it is important to remember that for many it is absolutely normal, and though it might not resonate with you, it’s a little ritual that means a lot to those involved.

All of my children, from the high-schooler to the P4, volunteer kiss on the lips, and let me tell you it is a delight. When they come to me of their own volition, seeking love and affection, I am reminded of what actually matters in life. It often improves my day and theirs. I know that my children are fast outstripping that need and desire for affection from me, so I am always glad of it. Nothing makes my little black heart happier than when my girl kisses me before leaving the house to see her friends or one of my giant boys sits on my lap and throws his arms around me because he wants a hug from his mum. I will happily oblige until they tell me they don’t want to do it anymore.

The real issue here seems to be our tendency to sexualise absolutely everything, especially, and most worryingly, young children. If you are looking at a picture of a father and daughter sharing a moment of affection and seeing something taboo, then perhaps it’s time to reflect on what has changed in our culture to morph that entirely benign and extremely common act into something deviant.

If when looking at that girl instead of seeing her as the child she is you start to worry about potential sexual activity, that is a symptom of the problem. In the media, on television and in advertising, their bodies have become increasingly sexualised. Eight-year-olds can buy heels and stringy bikinis, padded training bras are commonplace, and by the time a girl reaches 13, she might end up on a “sexiest TV stars” list like Stranger Things’s Millie Bobby Brown. We see the impact of this on girls as they emulate the style, makeup and poses of much older women on social media.

That girls are told their value lies in sex appeal is what is unhealthy, and discomfort around that all-too-common image is likely what is colouring views of an innocent kiss.

Instead of pointing the finger at the first sign of discomfort, perhaps that feeling should be used as a prompt to look inwards. Why would a parent’s love for a child provoke such a response? If the child and the parent look happy and are sharing a special moment, whose business is that? If this is the language of love in their house, and there is nothing to suggest otherwise, then why make a fuss? You might find it weird, but you can also choose not to project that weirdness on to someone else’s family dynamic.

There is nothing inherently sexual in a kiss. Some biologists believe the practice evolved from mothers engaged in mouth-to-mouth feeding with their young. There are even some cultures where kissing is entirely the preserve of parents and children, and, indeed, other cultures where kisses are not the norm, yet they are still making plenty of babies.

A kiss can be a simple, spontaneous expression of love – and when consensual, it’s something we need more of in the world, not less.