It’s a buzz word out there in the world of sex & education.
It’s shaping policy, it’s informing teaching guidelines, it’s name is being called out loudly by anyone who wants to be taken seriously in this field.
By me included.
Because consent is important. Actually, it’s one of the most important things we can help our young people to understand when it comes to exploring love relationships.
But, while we are busy saying it, and espousing it’s importance, I have begun to wonder if we really understand it’s multifaceted nature, and recognise all the ways we are NOT modelling it to our children, whist telling them how important it is that THEY understand it.
For me, consent has it’s foundations in some underlying skill sets that we seem reluctant to talk about. Consent is not just the ability to say “no”, and have that “no” respected. Consent is also about being able to agree to something, in the full understanding of what that thing is.
And that needs a comprehensive knowledge of self, some well practiced boundary identification and a whole heap of self love.
Which, as a woman in my 40’s, I am still failing at – repeatedly.
I am a firm believer in the old adage – “monkey see, monkey do”. Our children watch us, constantly, learning lessons we are most times unaware we are teaching them. And we are teaching them how to navigate consent all of the time.
Remember that time (probably quite recently) when you had a wicked dessert / meal / beverage that you truly enjoyed. And then your friend / boss / sister / spouse had a second helping – giving you the wink – the go, on, you know you want it… So you did. And remember how you felt kind of ill afterwards because you didn’t actually NEED that second serve – it just looked great when everyone else did it?
What do you think you just taught your child about listening to their own body & honouring their own physical boundary?
Remember that time (probably quite recently) that you said yes to something you didn’t really want to do, but felt OBLIGED to? Remember how you felt you couldn’t say no because it was for your best friend / boss / spouse / sister and you didn’t want to let them down – you didn’t want them to think badly about you? Remember how you complained about HAVING to do it, when you really didn’t want to? Remember the slightly pissed off way you went about it – not an unwilling participant, but definitely not an enthusiastic one?
What do you think you just taught your very observant child about the value of yes and no?
Teaching consent is not about sitting your child down and having a serious conversation about how to say “No” to sexual exploration.
Teaching consent is about modelling how to say “NO” in any situation that you do not truly want to participate in and how to say “YES” when the time is right.
It is about showing them how to understand what is right for their own bodies, by drawing attention to simple things like understanding satiety when eating, the need to rest when they have been busy. It is about teaching them how to then honour those things in the moment, when everything is drawing them away from that self caring decision.
It is about modelling mindfulness when enjoying pleasure, recognising how “good” feels in their bodies, how “right” feels, how a “yes” feels. So they can become critically aware of how a “no” feels.
It is all about giving them fundamental tools of self awareness, long before they ever have to navigate the emotion filled, hormone fuelled moments of consent relating to sexuality.
Teaching consent starts with YOUR own boundary setting, self love and ability to say no to what does not serve you.
Do you need some practice?
I know I do.
PS: We have Sex, Love & Self Esteem Parent’s Forums coming up in Mullumbimby, Coffs Harbour, Armidale & the Gold Coast very soon. You can learn loads of ways to help your daughter have a healthy understanding of consent in one short evening….
And if you feel you need a little more work on your own level of self love & relationship dynamics, I highly recommend attending one of The Yoniverse days.