If you've been reading my blog for a while, you might remember I wrote a post about victim blaming. If not, you can read it here. I mentioned consent in that post, but didn't go into, so today I thought I would talk about the importance of teaching young people about consent.
Firstly, I believe that obtaining consent is important at any age, but I think as adults, we are more equipped to communicate successfully non-verbally.
I think teaching teenagers about consent is one of the most important things you can teach them.
I'm sure sex ed in schools has moved on drastically since I was there, and perhaps now consent is covered in more detail. When I was at school, it was summed up as "girls, just say no" and that was it!
Whether or not this is taught in schools, I think every parent should cover it whenever they believe their child is old enough to understand the meaning. Often in schools, by the time these things are taught, it's too late.
I know parents don't want to think their teenagers are having sex, but in some cases they are. It's better that they are equipped with the facts.
It's not enough to teach a girl to "just say no".
Imagine two people. They have been together a couple of months. They are kissing, and he moves his hand towards her panties. She half heartedly pushes his hand away and mumbles "we shouldn't". She looks down, bites her lip and swallows hard. He tries again. She pushes his hand away again, maybe she even giggles a bit. She say's quietly "it's not right."
An adult male would get the impression from this that she doesn't want to go any further. If he has any decency about him, at this point, he will stop.
Now imagine he's 15.
Body language probably isn't his strong point at this stage, especially if they have had a few drinks.
His hormones will be going wild.
Even the most decent teenager can justify this as she wanted to really, she was just too shy to admit it, she was laughing. And the crucial part - she didn't say no!
It is essential to teach girls that if they don't want things to go further they must use the word "no".
Equally important, is to teach them how to say no.
There is a world of difference between a girl giggling and saying "no, we shouldn't" and looking someone in the face and saying "no, I don't want to".
Assuming the boy she is with is a decent person with even minimal morals (because if he isn't, nothing she says is going to stop him), the second phrase will make him stop. The first phrase sounds like she wants him to persuade her.
I don't think the full responsibility of this lies with girls' parents.
I believe that parents of boys should be teaching them that no means no means no. End of. Not "I'm open persuasion" not "Just do it anyway" but no.
Teach him that if at any point she uses the word no, he must stop immediately.
Teach him that the grey areas are rarely grey.
They are, more often than not, a girl so wrapped up in the boy that she doesn't want to tell him no and risk losing him.
A girl desperate for him to hear the no behind the giggling and the gentle hand pushing.
A girl that wants to hear it's ok to wait.
Teach him that one simple phrase can save a lot of heart ache. Even if she isn't saying no and she seems totally into it. The simple phrase being "Are you sure you want to do this? We can stop anytime you want."
By asking this question and getting an answer, there is now consent without pressure.
Are you the parent of a teenager or pre-teen? Have you taught this lesson yet? If so, how did you go about it? Do you feel it is covered well enough in schools? Let me know in the comments :)