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Why Talking to Kids About Consent Is Necessary — And Easy

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Oct 12, 2018

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For anyone reading the newspapers, in India and abroad, one thing is clear: the way we were taught — or not taught — about consent, at home and at school, was woefully lacking in substance and nuance. But we have an opportunity to shape children’s attitude’s towards human sexuality now. The #MeToo and #TimesUp movements have forced us to confront head-on what happens when toxic concepts of masculinity, gender inequality, and a lack of inclusiveness are allowed to percolate in young minds. In a way, our children will never need their own #MeToo movement if we start talking to kids about sexual values from childhood.

 

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Talking to kids about sexual consent is not a one-off conversation that can be had when they’re 18. Rather, it’s a series of conversations — discussions about sex (when they’re old enough) as well as about basic human values (which can start very early in childhood). One common misconception about consent is that it’s necessarily only part of “The Sex Talk.” Sure, it would be great for kids to hear their parents specifically discuss what consent looks like in the context of specific situations (e.g., a girl who is very drunk at a party, unsolicited nude photos or requests for nude photos, or bullying behavior or gossiping about sexual activity). But more importantly, consent is part of broader set of values. The good news is that we’re already teaching those values at home, anyway.

We teach kids about compassion, kindness, generosity, and acceptance; these same basic human values extend to behavior in the bedroom. So, rather than thinking of consent as an isolated issue that can only be taught in the context of sex, think of it as a broader reflection of those basic human decency we expect of all kids. We ask them to share their toys, not hit when they’re upset, think about other people’s feelings, and not pick on kids who are weaker, or different. Perhaps one reason that we have so many current disagreements about the boundaries of acceptable behavior is that no one ever coached us to understand that those exact same values apply with intimate partners.

Read: How to have ‘The Talk’ with young kids

Now is the perfect opportunity: Kids now are growing up in an environment in which we are redefining what consent means, or rather, making a concerted effort to ensure its definition supports the perspectives of everyone involved. By continuing to sweep sex under the rug as a shrouded, secret, adult conversation that kids shouldn’t hear, we are leaving an important aspect of human behavior out of our lessons to them about human values. If we truly believe in all the values we espouse to our kids, taking the extra step to tie those values to sex shouldn’t be complicated. And finally, we need to be living embodiments of these values ourselves. Kids will copy whatever they see play out in front of them. Telling them to treat women with dignity and respect will only go so far, if their male role models behave differently.

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Written By The Swaddle Team

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