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I have two daughters who love listening to the sugary soundtrack from Mary Poppins and so I’ve had much more opportunity than some to re-learn the song lyrics as an adult, wonder at what is packaged as children’s media and shake my head at the ubiquity of rape myths. 

So, do gentlemen rape? 

No, according to Mary Poppins as she sings “Jolly Holiday”. Gentlemen do not rape; rape is the province of the lower classes. 

It’s subtle but it’s there. Bert has just sung his part of the duet about what a wonderful person Mary Poppins is – practically perfect, indeed. She really has a high bar to reach in order to merit his praise. What does he have to do, or not do, to gain her praise? Not force her into unwanted sexual activity.

(This part reminds me of parenting: a father changes a diaper and he’s a hero, a mother changes 100 diapers and she is boring.)

It’s all there in the song. Bert’s “blood is blue” because he “wouldn’t think of pressing [his] advantage” which is, in turn, the reason that “a lady needn’t fear when [he is] near”. Add to that mix that “forbearance is the hallmark of [his] creed” and we have completed what is so special about Bert. In essence, because he is a gentleman he won’t push Mary Poppins into unwanted sexual activity; he will not attempt to rape her. 

Is my point that gentlemen do rape? Is it that we set the bar far too low for men?

Actually, I think my point is that this is a children’s song, from a children’s movie. How young children begin their schooling in society’s dominant narratives about men, women and sex.

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