Updated: Feb 2, 2020
Consent, consent, consent. Sometimes I have a feeling that many people are starting to get tired from this topic. Everyone is talking about it all the time, paying too much attention to it, setting healthy boundaries that might create problems to initiate new romantic relationships. I know some people who think like that, however, I disagree. I believe that consent is one of the most important subjects to discuss with our children, and it can’t ever be too much. I believe that to make our society a better place, and consent needs to be one of the guiding rules — so let’s call it the Consent Revolution!
As a parent, I also understand why, for some parents, it might be harder to realize that because we didn’t live in a world that consent was discussed or many times required, so why initiate the conversation now? My answer is that the world today is entirely different than the world we used to live in, and consent was needed back then. The fact that it was not required doesn’t mean it was ok. The world has changed so drastically in many areas in the past 20 years that we can’t make assumptions for our children’s education, or the knowledge they need based on our childhood experience.
Knowing all that, here are my top 3 reasons why we should all talk with our children about consent.
1. Boys should understand consent as equally as girls. As a mother of two boys, and also when speaking with students, many times it seems as if the main focus in our society these days is to teach the girls to say No! The importance of sharing what you are comfortable about and what not, and of course, the importance of knowing that it is never your fault if something happened without your consent. All are valid and important. I want to add that it is also essential that we will teach our boys that they MUST ask for permission. They need to make sure they got a definite YES, that wasn’t under pressure. Consent isn’t only about giving permission, but also about asking for it and teaching them about the art of asking which is to create a space for consent, for respecting the other person, and the art of saying no, knowing your boundaries and knowing your rights. And yes, all children should equally learn about it from those two perspectives.
2. Mixed messages in the media. We spoke with them about the importance of consent, and after that conversation, they turn on the TV or watching a YouTube show, and many times they see the opposite. There is even jokes around zero consent situations, and our children get messages that if it’s funny, or if it is in the Media, it is ok. Since this is our reality and our children reality, this is why it is our responsibility as parents to communicate that to our children. We need to help them understand that this is a show, this is fake, this is entertainment, and we shouldn’t mirror this behavior in our personal life. Our children are smart, and we probably assume that they know that, however, because they get exposed to those messages so many times, it’s important that we will check with them often, making sure they remember to differentiate between entertainment and their reality. We need to share with them that in most cases, there is a consent behind the scene to do the scene, to make the joke. We need to be their mediator.
3. #metoo. You probably knew I’d have that reason. It’s true; today, you can’t have a consent discussion without relating to the #metoo movement that became very strong and influential in the past two years. The reason I’m bringing this as well is because of the higher awareness, and also the more concrete boundaries, things are more black and white, and the grey area has shrunk drastically. More people report today about harassment and abuse. Social media became a powerful tool, and much needed for awareness, but it could also be misunderstood or misused. This is why it is crucial that we will speak with our children about the movement and share with them not only our expectations but the social expectations about asking and giving consent.
Consent was always necessary, what changed is that the awareness increased, as it is taking a broader place in schools health classes curriculums, in the media and social media and our close relationships. The world is defining those days the boundaries of consent, and since we want to keep our children safe, we have to make sure that they are always part of this conversation.