Creating a Culture of Consent
Read our volunteer, Frankie’s, take on the importance of consent below.
What is consent? Consent, in any situation, is a strong, enthusiastic YES, when NO is a viable option. Consent is mandatory during any sexual encounter with anyone, but consent is also necessary in every situation, not just sexual encounters. We must give and get consent in social environments, too. Just as you should not engage sexually with someone without consent, you should not hug someone, feed someone, make them tea, or do anything that they do not explicitly want you to do. While consent is usually discussed in terms of sexual experiences, it should be a key part of our culture as a whole.
One of our favorite videos to get the point across. Seen it?
The phrase “rape culture” is pervasive, and describes the reality of sexual violence and harassment, across a broad spectrum, experienced by millions every day. Working counter to this is “consent culture,” an ideal to work toward. It normalizes and popularizes consent, not limited to sexuality. Consent can be asked for and given every day in dozens of ways, through checking in, being verbally direct, offering options, and respecting people’s choices. Too often it is also often in dozens of ways as well. Attitudes of entitlement can often lead to people not consistently asking for consent, which can result in other people losing their autonomy and power. If we are entitled, we are less like to consider the needs, wellbeing, and desires of others. An entitled world becomes selfish and self-serving, not a community in which anyone wants to live.
Building a culture of consent can, and should, begin at a very young age. Some middle and high schools teach consent as a program or as part of a health class. However, high school is often a late start to introducing ideals about consent. By the time children have become young adults, they’ve been exposed to toxic norms about relationships, interacting with others, and entitlement for years. Teaching teenagers about consent is great, but earlier education has the ability to focus less on undoing unhealthy behaviors and more on raising youth on healthy norms from the start.
Consent is a lesson to teach early and often. It is also necessary to model consent as adults. When parents, relatives, family friends, and authority figures normalize consent, kids are more likely to be comfortable discussing consent and understanding what is meant by consent and consent culture. They can feel more confident holding their own personal boundaries, and more conscious about asking others for their preferences. Informed children become informed adults, and informed adults become informed role models, parents, mentors, and more. This is how we grow consent culture and eliminate ignorance.
Curious for more information? Here are additional resources:
How to talk to children about consent
Video and discussion questions to help talk to kids about consent