Consent Matters: Part Four

"The Talk:" Boys vs. Girls

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Consent Matters: Part Four

Alloria Frayser, Writer

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I love my parents, but when it came to the topic of sex, they kind of just threw me out to sea in hopes that I’d learn to swim. Luckily, I learned (with the help of my older siblings who learned the hard way) how to navigate my way through the ocean with minimum to no physical injuries. Mental injuries, however, are a different story.

There was a lot that I had to learn the hard way, much like my siblings. I was an anxiety-ridden, sensitive little kid. I didn’t understand how or why people could be so cruel to one another, or why my life wasn’t like the kids’ I saw on Hannah Montana or Zoey 101. Still anxious and sensitive, I’ve now come to realize that life isn’t two-dimensional, much like the concept of sex and consent.

For those who don’t know already, I surveyed seniors here at Central Hardin and received 91 responses. Out of those responses, 46.2% of them said they were NOT given “the talk” by their parents, but 95.6% said that they felt well-educated about sex and consent. If they weren’t given the talk by their parents, then who gave them the information they know? And if our school system hasn’t effectively given us the proper knowledge to make conscious decisions regarding sex, then is this education coming from a reliable source?

One thing I’ve noticed is that girls are held to a much higher standard than boys are when it comes to sex. This is an issue stemming from sexism and the oppression of women in society. If a girl has sex with multiple people, she’s seen in a negative and provocative light. If a boy, however, does the same thing, it’s considered an accomplishment.

I believe that society has a sexist view of what girls should be taught and what boys should be taught, and that needs to change.

Take Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, for example. Both are organizations that reach young kids across the nation, teaching them important lessons on a variety of topics. I went on the Girls Scouts website and found dozens of articles that give girls and parents advice on topics such as sexual harassment, confidence, leadership, bullying, and healthy living. These articles are such great resources to parents because it helps give parents the confidence to tackle such challenging issues with their children. One specific article I found is called “Sexual Assault Is a Big Deal. Especially in High School.” It gives many shocking statistics about sexual harassment among young girls. Did you know that 1 out of 3 girls has been sexually abused before her 18th birthday? The article quotes Girl Scouts’ developmental psychologist Dr. Andrea Bastiani Archibald who says “This message that sexual assault is just a teenage indiscretion, that it’s akin to horseplay, or that it’s ‘normal behavior’ for adolescent boys is damaging not only to girls, but to all young people.” Luckily, organizations such as Girl Scouts are taking the initiative to change the content of the message we send to our children. I highly encourage you to take a look at some of their articles.

Then, I went to the Boy Scouts website. While the program is recently welcoming of girls, I didn’t see anything catered to parents or students about important issues like I saw on the Girl Scouts website. I don’t mean to discount the great work that that organization does (not to mention the fact they ’ve opened the club up to girls), but it’s almost as if our society expects nothing out of boys. We’re constantly hearing “boys will be boys,” but boys wouldn’t be this negative definition of the word “boy” if we taught them how to take responsibility for their actions.

I did more digging on the internet and found this article written by a group of authors on a parenting website that lists “14 Things You Must Teach Your Son About Sex.” The article had really good info on how to go about bringing up certain topics, but two things that caught my eye were numbers six and seven on the list: Consent and Refusal. The writers said that “if your son can’t explicitly tell his partner that he wants to have sex, then he’s probably not ready to have sex with that person.” This statement stood out to me because of its simplicity. When you think about it, consent is based on one of the most basic lessons we learn relatively quickly during the first few years of our lives. We either have permission, or we don’t, we either give permission, or we don’t. That statement not only goes for boys, but it should go for girls as well. Of course, consent isn’t as simple as “yes” or “no,” but it can be depending on the situation.

Number seven, Refusal, said that “Your son needs to know that he’s allowed to say “no,” “not yet,” “slow down,” or any other term that means he’s not willing or not ready.” The article stresses that it’s important for boys to know their options for when their partner is moving too fast or if they’re just not ready. The stereotype that boys are always ready for sex is one that needs to disappear. I think this article is a great tool for parents (or kids who do their own research like me) who need guidance on such touchy subjects, as well as teaching parents to hold their sons accountable for their actions.

I’ll admit, society has progressed a lot recently as far as feminism and gender equality goes, but we still have a long way to go. Boys should be held accountable to the same standards that girls are. All genders should be able to identify consent and able to give consent in a way that’s effective and obvious. We as a society should encourage dialogue about these topics in order to take steps toward this goal.