No means no, right? Seems straight forward. Add in hormones, immaturity, cultural norms, media messaging, relationship nuances, etc. etc. and things start getting not straight forward fast. Yet, no still means no and teaching our children and young adults about what the word “consent” means – and does not mean – is a good place to start to change what we learned through movements like #MeToo.
Why is teaching consent so important?
In an article by Edutopia, a foundation founded by George Lucas to advance education for K-12 students, they shared research that one in four girls and one in 20 boys are sexually abused before the age of 18, and about 35 percent of sexual abuse victims are under 12 years old – elementary school age.
And while many will argue that teaching about consent is not the responsibility of the schools but of the parents, research would show that just isn’t happening. In a Planned Parenthood survey, they found that of their participants only 19% said their parents discussed how to ask for consent in sexual situations. And of that group, daughters more so than sons are taught about how to say no to sexual activity, how to reduce the risk of being sexually assaulted, and rights and support services available if they have been sexually assaulted. So, while yes, the conversation should take place at home – it is not widely happening. For those that did have access to some form of sex education, less than a third of people were taught anything at all about consent and among those that did receive some education it primarily taught them how to say “no” and unlikely taught them about how to ask for consent. *
What can be done?
Edutopia shared a case study of an elementary school teacher who knew she needed to do something to chip away at the behavior that created the outcry of the #Metoo movement. She decided there was something she could do and started teaching her third-grade students about consent. “While consent is most often linked to sex, she wanted to teach them about the core of what consent means – permission. And while sex is removed from the conversation she’s having with children, her goal is to help prevent sexual harassment and assault by teaching about personal boundaries, how to say no, and how to respect no.”
Many states in the U.S. have set guidelines on how to discuss consent in their curriculum and teachers are exploring how best to teach and discuss this with their students. “Teaching consent is an important part of educating your child about sex health. It’s a fundamental concept that can be taught at any age. It lets your child know that their voice matters, and they have choices. They’ll also learn to respect the choices of others as they understand the concept of consent.”**
Want to learn more about the importance of consent and the programs out there, what different states are doing, and explore different resources to spark and fuel your own conversations? Check out the following sites to learn more:
- YES! (Your Empowered Sexuality) Intersectional, consent-based, shame-free sexuality education to all people using interactive workshops, social media, and other mediums.
- Verity: Consent for Kids Video
- Defend Innocence: The Importance of Consent and How to Teach It to Your Child **
- Planned Parenthood: Overwhelming Support for Consent Education in Schools *