Young people should understand that sexual consent means that both people actively and verbally agree to sexual activity. Sexual activity means many things to different people and is generally a lot more than just oral, anal or vaginal sex. It can include kissing, hugging, touching, rubbing and many other behaviors that people might find pleasurable. If both people do not say “yes,” then consent has not been given.
Young people should also understand that they and their partners have the right to change their mind about what they do or do not want to do at any time. This means that even if they are engaging in sexual acts with a person and their partner changes their mind, they must stop whatever they are doing and respect their partner’s wishes. Not respecting those wishes could be crossing the line into illegal behavior.
Trying to persuade someone into saying “yes” when they are not sure or do not want to have sex is not consent. It is called sexual coercion.
If a person is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they cannot legally give consent. Engaging in sexual activity with someone who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol is considered rape.
A person must be a certain age in order to be able to legally give consent. This age is called the “age of consent,” and age of consent laws vary from state to state.
Adults should make it very clear that a person who has been sexually assaulted is never at fault and should tell a trusted adult if they have been assaulted. Clearly communicating this message can ensure that young people feel safe coming to you or another trusted adult.
If you start essential conversations about topics like consent with your children, then they will know they can come to you with questions. The easiest way to start these conversations is to talk about issues as they come up in everyday life, like while watching shows or movies together.
Consent is unique in that it can be discussed and demonstrated in many non-sexual situations in everyday life. Using each other’s belongings and giving hugs or kisses are just a couple of opportunities to demonstrate consent with your child.
Here are some ways to start these conversations: