I left the hospital the other night, having sat with a young woman awaiting a forensic exam (this is to collect physical evidence, i.e. DNA) from a sexual assault she had experienced the night before. As I drove home, I felt very discouraged and confused. This was the 5th female student from a local university that our advocate team had responded to in the past 7 days (and these are only the ones who have come forward, how many more are dealing with this alone?). What the hell is going on? Why do these boys and young men feel entitled to take what they want without consent?
As I continued along the highway, it also dawned on me that this is my generation who are raising the boys and young men currently in high school, college or perhaps recently graduated. I have to wonder, have my fellow parents been talking to their sons about consent and what it entails?
If they are, I am thankful and I also want to ask my fellow Gen X parents this Thanksgiving, to sit with your sons over some left-over pie and have a conversation about consent, whether it’s the first time or the two hundredth time. Below are 3 tips you may want to consider for your conversation.
- Talk about what consent means: FRIES
F: Freely Given (not being coerced, threatened, pressured, begged or physically forced to engage in sexual activity)
R: Reversible– Can agree to engage in some form of sexual activity and change my mind in the moment. Just because someone agreed to sexual activity yesterday, doesn’t mean they are agreeing today.
I: Informed– Understanding the nature of the sexual activity and is sober and conscious enough to be in control of their actions (so someone who is asleep can’t give consent-wake them up to see if feel like engaging in sexual activity. A person who is intoxicated can’t give consent- good rule of thumb, if too drunk or high to drive, too drunk or high to give consent).
E: Enthusiastic- Excited and really wanting to engage in this sexual activity! It’s an active yes, not the absence of no.
S: Specific– Agreeing to certain sexual activity, not all. (Person may say yes to oral sex and no to other penetration).
- Talk with your son about pornography
- Yes, your son has most likely watched porn at some point in his life or does so on a daily basis. Many students listed porn as their primary source of information on sex.
- Young people often don’t understand that porn isn’t real. Misunderstandings can encourage reenactments of violent, coercive and misogynistic sex that is often normalized by porn.
- Don’t shame your son for watching porn but explain it is fantasy and not reality. Discuss that engaging in sexual activity is about communicating with their sexual partner in the moment, checking in, and gaining consent.
- Enjoy your left- over pie
- Enjoy your time together and having a conversation about an important topic.
- Have this conversation again in the next few months.