Important stuff: consent

Important stuff: consent

My sex eduction at school consisted of penis in vagina then sperm eruption and contraceptive options. ‘If it’s not on it’s not on’ but I always wondered back then when I was 16, if it’s on but I don’t want it, then what happens?

It seems that all the other big issues around engaging in sexual activity were left to the parents to tackle. Lucky for me, my mum and dad were pretty open when it came to talking all things sex. We would watch Sex and the City together, chat about things brought up in the media, the communication lines were always open. 

So when I told them I was going on dates with this guy I really liked when I was 16, Dad pulled me aside. ‘Isabelle, I know what it was like to be a young man and I want you to trust yourself more than ever with him. If you decide you want to lose your virginity, tell us. We want to make sure you’re safe and you are at home and not in the back of some car somewhere.’

Looking back at this, being empowered to make my own choices, not feeling embarrassed about becoming sexually active and also being able to share that with my parents set the foundations for a healthy sex life. But what worries me in light of the recent insights coming out of Sydney in regards to sexual assault, is what about the kids who’s parents aren’t talking to them? With hormones and sexual energy flying around in these immature bodies, how do we educate kids on sexual consent and at what age? 

I was lucky enough to be accepted as a delegate at the NEXUS Australia summit this week where I met an array of young leaders and social impact entrepreneurs. I got chatting to a young man, straight out of an elite private boys school in Melbourne. He was lovely and I asked him his thoughts on this topic. He said education around porn was covered briefly however, there needs to be WAY more around the concept of consent. He said, ‘I can’t even tell you what goes on and what I’ve seen first-hand at parties. There's definitely not much consent happening there.’ He alluded to the part alcohol plays in these situations but also the fact that he couldn’t call out the boy's behaviour when seeing them at school on Monday as it wasn’t the done thing.

After sitting in on one of The Man Cave’s programs last week with 45 year nine boys, we asked a few to stay back to tell us anonymously what consent means to them. 'Consent means to allow’ one wrote down. ‘Someone verbally saying they want to do something’ another expressed. This got me thinking about the lack of consistency across young boys definition of this highly fuelled concept. Clearly the perpetrators in the cases in Sydney didn’t have an accurate grasp of what consent means, looks like and feels like in a sexual interaction. 

It’s concerning that the issues and crimes our young people are facing around sexual assault is frightfully parallel to our own leadership role models in Canberra. If the adults and leaders can’t even role model correct behaviour then what hope do our kids have? I’m sick of hearing the excuse that it’s a cultural issue when it’s clearly a criminal issue. 

Porn shouldn’t be left to educate our kids on sex. This in itself is fraught with danger and the industry cannot be accountable for the massive negative impacts it’s having on our young people’s self esteem, sexual appetites and misconceptions around consent.

As a mother to a six-year-old boy, I am hoping that his sex education at school will be very different to mine. I want him to learn early on about respecting human bodies, people’s feelings and also to trust his own. No one should do anything that their gut says no to. No one should put anyone else in a position where there is a grey area. It’s very black and white, but the education around sexual consent needs to start young and be mandatory across all of our education systems state wide. It’s time to step up and tackle this head on.

What consent looks like

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