Consent and Teenagers

This is a little video about consent in sexual matters. It can be used to open a discussion about this important subject.

Consent to sexual activity is a very delicate matter, especially amongst adolescents and early teens. Everyone is talking about sex and many are competing with one another to see who will be first to try new activities.

The widespread access to pornography via smartphones and tablets means that young people are learning about sex and ‘love’ from paid porn stars. Daily watching of this material for years before actually getting together with a real person can seriously warp a teen’s understanding, male and female, of what is safe, loving and consensual.

Girls want to be admired, seen as sexually attractive and are generally open to affection. This does not mean they are ready to have sex. They are just learning how to deal with their sexually-charged bodies. As they practice and try out new looks and behaviours, they can seem like a tease to guys. Learning about boundaries and making mistakes are a normal part of learning about communication. Said one 16-year old young woman,

“I don’t know what I want. I just want to be liked…I want to try out what everyone else is talking about and say they’re doing.”

She said too that she has been pushed into performing sexual acts that she regretted afterwards. She doesn’t want to be shamed as a slut.

Boys on the other hand have this powerful sexual energy that they want to test drive with a partner. They also want to be seen as real men in the eyes of other males. They can be very determined and single-minded about achieving those goals. Loyalty to the male group is usually much stronger than the desire to pair bond or couple up with a girl. They are just learning to control that new sexual force in their bodies too. They are also prone to making errors of judgement.

So while the bodies may be exchanging strong, unconscious, sexual signals, it doesn’t mean the mind of each person is ready to engage with sex to the same extent as the other. Nor is it always the male who is the dominant force, many females take the lead in initiating sexual behaviour. This is where the delicate issues of consent, attempted rape and rape crop up.

Educating young people about communication in intimate circumstances is key to improving healthy sexual development.