Why Consent Is Important in Teen Relationships
Our society has created a set of expectations around sexuality that makes navigating it challenging.
There are so many things that we’ve been told about sex, dating and teen relationships that it feels impossible to figure out how to act or behave.
So we become confused and frustrated.
This leads to anxiety and depression, leading to risky behaviour.
We need to stop blaming teenagers for being confused. The blame lies squarely on adults who have failed to create a safe space where young people can safely explore their identities and desires.
Instead of trying to control teens, let’s help them understand their choices’ real risks and rewards.
Guidance on teen relationships
Let’s support them in creating healthy relationships instead of shaming them for having unhealthy ones.
Teenage boys often struggle to understand why girls reject them.
What’s wrong with me? Why won’t she talk to me? What am I doing wrong?
Girls who reject boys often don’t seem to care whether or not he likes her.
He feels rejected because he doesn’t understand what’s happening. He thinks he should be able to read women’s minds.
He wants to know what makes him so unlikable. But he’s too young to ask his parents and embarrassed to ask strangers on the internet.
So he tries to figure it out himself.
He reads books about relationships and sex. He watches movies where people fall in love at first sight.
He plays video games where he gets to pick the gender of his avatar.
Teenage boys have been told that sex is dirty. That it’s dangerous. That it’ll hurt. That it’d ruin their lives.
That it’s wrong.
Wrong messaging on teen relationships
These messages come from parents, teachers, religious leaders, politicians, friends and peers.
They’ve been reinforced throughout childhood and adolescence. The result is that many young men internalize these beliefs.
They become convinced that sex is inherently wrong and that they shouldn’t engage in it.
This leads to anxiety and uncertainty around sex.
So instead of talking to girls or experimenting with sexuality, they avoid doing either.
Instead, they spend most of their time on social media, playing video games and watching TV.
Teenage boys feel uncertain and anxious because they are trying to navigate the complex social landscape of male sexuality while simultaneously trying to figure out who they are.
As young men, we’ve been taught that there are certain things we should or shouldn’t do. But we’ve also been told that we’re expected to conform to a set of expectations that aren’t always clear.
This uncertainty makes us feel vulnerable and anxious.
So we often act on impulse rather than thinking things through.
Our brains are wired to respond quickly to dangerous or threatening situations.
That’s why we tend to react first and then rationalize later.
We need to slow down and pay attention to what’s happening around us so we can understand where we stand.
To help teenagers develop healthy relationships, we must teach them how to navigate the complexities of male sexuality.
a new study from the University of Surrey examining how young people engage in sexual culture has found.
The research explores how boys are taught about consent at school and how they relate to and interpret educational messages about consent.
This was done through school observations, focus groups with boys, and teacher discussions. It was difficult to find schools offering consent education that was particularly relevant to children in these communities. Finding schools that provided good advice to pupils in these communities was difficult.
Emily Setty, senior lecturer in criminology at the University of Surrey, said, “I found that most boys found the consent instruction at school helpful and that it provided them with a good set of rules that they could adhere to.” They struggled with the dilemmas they faced when they first started having a sexual relationship.
Education should deal with the realities of ambivalence, ambiguity, and uncertainty, rather than trying to smooth this over by offering them a set of rules to follow to obtain their consent. Getting consent and affirming sexual relationships is certainly not easy. We need to be more proactive and help young people to negotiate those bumps and turns.
Consent is a conversation between two people. It’s a process where both parties give permission. If either party doesn’t feel comfortable, then there isn’t any consent.
Consent in teen relationships
So if you’re going to ask someone to do something sexually, you need to make sure that they feel comfortable doing it first.
That means asking questions. Being clear about what you want. And being honest about what you’re feeling.
A good rule of thumb is that if you wouldn’t mind having sex with someone, then it’s probably okay for them to do it too.
But if you’d rather not, then you should say so.
There are some situations where it may seem inappropriate to ask for consent. For example, if you’re drunk, high on drugs or otherwise impaired. Or if you’re in a position of authority over someone else.
Or if you’re using force or coercion against someone. But most other times, just saying “no” will go a long way towards making things safer.
And remember, no matter what you decide, stopping at any point is always okay.
If you’ve ever felt pressured to give or receive sex because you didn’t feel comfortable saying “no” to a partner, then you may need to consider talking to a trusted adult who can support you in making decisions about your body and sexuality.