Maybe it’s just me and the work that I do every day, but I’ve been noticing more conversations in popular culture and social media about consent. Often times these conversations are due to high profile sexual assault/rape cases, for example Brock Turner (I literally shuddered when I typed his name; Here you can find the powerful letter the survivor of the rape wrote for court) . Although conversations continue, we are still falling seriously short when it comes to having conversations with young people about consent. We assume that kids can navigate what to some of them may appear to be “gray areas” when making healthy consensual choices.
if you’ve read any of my other blog posts, you’ll notice that I often write about topics that I feel strongly about and/or want to make sure my readers are educated around because it’s sooooooooooooo important. Consent is one of those topics.
So lets start at the beginning.
What is Consent? Consent is providing someone permission to or agreeing to do something physical/sexual. Even though someone may give consent, it needs to be ENTHUSIASTIC. Meaning, the person giving consent should be excited and really interested in what they are consenting to. Furthermore, whatever is being asked to be done should be explained at length, that way there isn’t any confusion.
Now here is where it gets really important; I’d even argue what consent ISN’T is the most important part of understanding consent, ESPECIALLY with kids and adolescents:
- Consent is not coercing someone into saying Yes; i.e., if you don’t have sex with me I’ll share the nude pictures you sent me the other day.
- Silence is not consent.
- The absence of no is not consent (enthusiastic Yes must be present!).
- A person cannot give consent if they are under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.
- Consent cannot be given by a child.
- Consent is not given by a person who is passed out.
- If a person is afraid to say no, that is not consent; i.e., if there are any real or perceived threats/danger to said person, they are unable to consent.
- If someone gives consent BEFORE they are unconscious or inebriated, that consent is null and void! Meaning, if you agreed to have sex earlier in the day and that person is unable to consent later (under the influence, passed out, etc.) do not have sex. The circumstances of changed.
- Being in a relationship/married to someone does not imply consent.
- Having engaged sexually with someone previously does not give consent in the future.
- Someone flirting does not give consent.
- If someone gives you consent to one act, consent is NOT automatically given to any other acts; i.e. someone may give consent to oral sex but not anal sex. You need additional consent for anal.
So yes, consent can feel far more complex than what it actually is. This is why it is important to hold ourselves and our kids to a high standard. How do we do this? Model consensual behavior and help our kids understand what consent is AND isn’t. Remember, at the end of the day, consent is open and honest communication. Help them feel comfortable discussing what they want and don’t want with their partners, family and friends. It starts early!