Why Teenagers Need to Learn About Consent

By ALLISON RIGLER

Kleinrock posted this poster she used in one of her consent lessons on Instagram and it went viral.

 Schools all across the country have different ways of teaching sexual education. Some states require it, some gloss over it, and some chalk it down to abstinence only and never touch the topic again. Yet, no matter what the sex education quality, the most important factor when teaching sex education is left out all together: consent. 

     Lets face it, at some point in life, people will have sex- married or unmarried. We need to learn what healthy communication and consent looks like in order to prevent the repercussions of unsafe sex. We spook girls with the idea that a stranger will try to abduct and rape them in order to get them to protect themselves, but rape and sexual assault can happen in a relationship too, for both men and women.

   Learning consent can start at a young age, respecting other people’s boundaries and respecting your own is key to knowing exactly what consent is and how it feels. If you ever remember a time when you were younger and didn’t want to hug your scary great grandma, but was forced to, that’s an example of boundaries being crossed and it is instilled in you that there were no other options other than physical affection. Now, that’s a situation that is minor and has no ill intentions for any party, but what about the response to when we went home and told our parents that someone pushed us or pulled our hair or was mean? For girls especially, we were told “that means they really like you,” which set up the precedent that if someone hurts you that means they just really like you. These situations will affect you when you start learning about sex and relationships as a teenager, through school or otherwise- and if we dont know what consent feels like it will be much more likely to get into a manipulative relationship where your boundaries are constantly tested and violated. 

    In light of the Kavanaugh hearings in 2018, Liz Kleinrock decided to take action and teach her third graders to do better.”Whenever I get frustrated about the state of our country, it inspires me to proactively teach my kids to DO BETTER,” she wrote in an instagram post. “Role playing is a great way to reinforce these skills, but they MUST be taught explicitly!” Kleinrock didn’t make the lessons explicit or anything about sex or relationships, she applied it to situations that were applicable to kids, like hugs or sharing food.

    “If you teach anything in isolation, chances are the students will not retain the information,” she told CNN. “So I will continue to build on the lesson — for example, I asked my students to show me their understanding of consent by illustrating comics.

   We learn about saying no to drugs all throughout our public education through the DARE program, so why aren’t kids learning how to say no in everyday situations? According to RAINN (the Rape, Abuse, Incest, National Network non-profit organisation made to support and protect sexual assault survivors) every 73 seconds someone is sexually assaulted.What’s terrifying is that some sexual offenders don’t know that they are sexual offenders because they were never taught what actual giving of consent is and that it can be revoked at anytime. Too many have stories of their partners assaulting them and not realizing it later. Consent is an enthusiastic “yes”, not a worn down “maybe” or “sure”. Nagging someone into consent it NOT consent, it is manipulation. Consent is not just saying yes once, it can be revoked at anytime. Consent is not waived when you’re in a relationship, you are not someone’s property. Consent is not when you are unable to say no. Consent is not silence. Consent is only when both parties say yes.

 If you have ever been in a situation where you have had your consent violated there are many places to turn to for help. It is never the victim’s fault.

  • Talk to family or friends
  • Text 741741 to get connected with a Crisis Counselor. They can help you work through your emotions, identify healthy coping mechanisms, and—when necessary—help you find safety.
  • Get medical help.
  • Talk to a professional- If you feel unsafe talking to family or friends, talking to a therapist or a counselor helps you process what happened and helps to take steps towards your future.
  • Get a safety plan- 8 out of 10 assaults are by people the victim knows, if this is the case, talk with someone you trust about what to do to get you out of situations with or around your assaulter.

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