Consent is this empowering, sexy, terrific thing. Your body is yours. It does not belong to your boyfriend, your girlfriend, your dad, your mom, your preacher, your religion, your government. Your permission must not be assumed, implied, or revoked. That body is yours, lady! And it is awesome.
Consent is the linchpin of the life I want for my daughter.
I have been particularly haunted lately with a handful of memories that make me want to go back and give myself a big hug (and spit in a few faces). I had comprehensive sexual education. I knew that no was supposed to mean no, and sadly, that no means yes is a punchline. What I didn’t learn was a good working definition of consent, and how to wield it: Not just how to say no, but how to say yes, and how to insist your own body is treated with the respect it deserves — by others, and also yourself.
There are many negative consequences stemming from the fear of youth sexuality, as well as the fear of female sexuality. One thing that happens is not teaching our girls about sexuality in a realistic way. Sexuality is more often taught to girls as something to be guarded against as sinful (it’s not) or a source of contagion (an unhelpful frame). As a culture we don’t even teach our girls to accept themselves, much less their bodies, and we certainly don’t teach our girls to accept how their bodies might care to be or not be sexual. Instead we need to give our girls a meaningful understanding of how sexuality is something to be accepted on your own terms.
These days my daughter is young, just over a year old. When I think about trying to do a better job teaching her consent than life taught me, I think about honoring her wishes not to be held or touched by other people when she makes it clear she doesn’t want that, and I think about responding to her nods “yes” and shakes “no” as much as practical.
What have you done to help teach the young girls you know the concept of consent? Respond in the comments.