Just a twenty-something living the dream, trying to check off the bucket list, one entry at a time
Note: As a journalism major, I’m taking an Opinion and Editorial Writing comm class. We write a column every other week for an entire semester, so I figured I’d start self-publishing them here. Enjoy!
Careful America. Your patriarchal puritanism is showing again.
And it is not a good look for you.
Recently a blog post from a British student has been making the rounds on the Internet. In his post, George Lawlor states he doesn’t need the seminars on sexual consent offered by his university, and his proclamations got me thinking about consent education in the United States.
I was 19 when I first learned about consent. And I didn’t learn about it through seminars or classes. I figured it out for myself through conversations and Google.
That isn’t OK. College shouldn’t have been the first time I learned about consent.
Many college kids have sex. Whether their parents like it or not, college kids are going to have sex. So shouldn’t we at least give them the tools to make the experience healthy and safe?
Education on consent is abysmally limited in the United States. This is the country where some states still mandate abstinence-only curriculum. The United States — the leader of the free world — is still teaching its children that abstinence is the only way to approach sex. (For the record, states with abstinence-only education have higher rates of teen pregnancy across the board, according to an article from mic.com).
So it’s no wonder that schools aren’t teaching about consent. That needs to change. This is 2015. We have elected a black president, ended the war in Iraq, legalized same-sex marriage, and convinced Starbucks to deliver. All that social progress, yet we can’t teach our children that “yes means yes”?
Some parents might argue that consent is too sensitive a topic to discuss with children. I disagree.
I’m not a parent and don’t have any authority on raising children, but there is a way to discuss consent in an age-appropriate manner. Many parents teach their children about “good touching” and “bad touching” to protect them from potential abuse. Parents teach children from a young age there are certain parts of their body that shouldn’t be touched, and if someone is making them uncomfortable, they should tell an adult.
If we’re teaching our kids that it’s not OK for someone to violate their body, why can’t we also teach our kids it’s not OK for them to violate someone else’s body?
Consent in any sexual situation is crucial. It’s widely accepted that about 1 in 4 college women will be sexually assaulted during their time on campus. But a less-known corollary to that is, according to the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center, “1 in 12 college-age men admit having fulfilled the prevailing definition of rape or attempted rape, yet virtually none of these men identify themselves as rapists.”
This is where consent comes in. Some college kids simply don’t know the difference between the “yes” of consent and the absence of a “no.” Confusion regarding consent leads to fuzzy sexual situations and dangerous miscommunication.
For the most part in our society, sex is still taboo. People hide behind the guise of protecting the innocence of children. But from what are we protecting them?
We need to educate kids so that when they do start having sex, they’re doing it in a healthy way. By inadvertently teaching children sex is something shameful, we’re preventing them from asking questions and getting the correct facts. We’re not protecting them; we’re contributing to the problem.
The first time someone learns about consent should not be while sitting in a therapist’s office or police station. Consent shouldn’t be a conversation that’s held while the rape kit is being completed. That conversation should be one that we’re continually having with our children.
We owe them that much. They deserve better. And it’s time to start delivering.