A friend of mine emailed last week to see if I had suggestions of things she should read before having “the talk” with her 9 year old daughter. There had been some chatter at school and she wanted to set the record straight. In an overly sexualized society conversations with our kids about sex and safe touching and boundaries seem to be occurring earlier and earlier. My conversation with my friend made me think of two things.
First, in addition to education on the mechanics of sex and pregnancy and birth control, we need to be educating our boys and girls about healthy relationships. Not just the “no” but the “yes” part of emotional and physical intimacy. If we don’t teach them they will learn somewhere else. On this piece, this recent Washington Post article is on point: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/parenting/wp/2017/05/17/how-to-teach-teens-to-have-healthy-romantic-relationships/?utm_term=.cded52fcb69a
Second, we need to educate about the nuances of consent and the laws of sexual consent. New Hampshire law says a person under age 16 is unable to consent to sexual contact of any kind. That means even “consensual” sex between a 14 year old and their 16 year old classmate is illegal and could lead to an arrest, prosecution and (in some cases) sex offender registration. It could also result in expulsion from school, exclusion from extra- curricular activities and a disciplinary record that will follow them to college.
“No means no” is good. But that is not the only way a partner communicates that sexual contact is unwelcome. There is a significant movement advocating “affirmative consent”, which encourages youth and adults to talk to their partner every step of the way about what they are willing to do. This “Cup of Tea” video is hilarious to us as adults: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hJVN-WBU2bA. But it makes consent make sense. And young clients tell me they remember it, which means it works.
If you want to go for the gold star of sex talks, talk about social media, the words “slut, “whore”, and sexual bullying and shaming. Tell them that putting pictures or videos of sexual acts online is a crime.
So expand “the talk”. Be open with your kids about what is good about sex and intimacy as well as about what is risky. Talk about healthy relationships. And talk about the legal risks, as well as the social and health risks, of sex. If you don’t feel comfortable having this chat find someone who is- an aunt or uncle, family friend, older sibling, pediatrician. It matters.
As always nothing here should be construed as legal advice. If you would like a consultation please feel free to call or email. I’m happy to take some time for you.
Image credit: Teens By A Fountain by garryknight used under Creative Commons Attribution License