Black Women Writers @ Southwestern University

An English / Feminist Studies / Race & Ethnicity Studies Course Blog

Teaching Consent; Re-thinking “the sex talk” and ongoing sex education


Our class discussion today covered a lot of (versatile, important) ground, but one of the things that has absolutely cemented itself in my head for the day was our discussion of Esch’s “sexual exploration,” and more importantly, of her sexual agency – whether/to what degree she has any. From this point, we moved on to the very flawed dynamics that the American education system has with sex ed, and the fact that a lot of people/institutions believe that sex education is something exclusively for the parents/guardians/family to teach and talk about. Obviously, this is flawed (as many people pointed out today), because some people don’t have a home that they return to, or if they do, will have parents who are equally uncomfortable talking about these things as they are with the matter being taught in children’s schools.

All of this is a very long-winded setup to say that this discussion made me think of an article I read about a year ago from a website called The Good Men Project (super humble title, I know), titled “The Healthy Sex Talk: Teaching Kids Consent, Ages 1-21.” (Available here:  )

Though it may not be perfect, this particular piece offers a lot of easy, awkwardness-diffusing advice so that kids grow up learning to be comfortable with discussions of sex – and especially with talking about consent; it stresses the importance of teaching and respecting a child when they say “no”, so that the child can understand the power and weight of that word, and can feel comfortable using it. (Unlike Esch, who found losing her virginity easy than saying//explaining “no”.) Of course, this article frames a kind of idyllic family situation as well – it assumes there are concerned guardians, listening children, etc. But I think a lot of its points are useful, and though they are presented as parenting tips, it seems to me they could be incorporated in some teaching practices for the marked ages – especially the frank discussion and strict adherence to the words ‘no’ and ‘stop’. Again, it is not a perfect formula, but it made me think of entry points into a very difficult and important conversation, and about how these talking points can be incorporated and reinforced over time. As I work at an childcare center during the summer, I found the “for very young children” section particularly helpful and thought-provoking; that kids can be taught and learn, at such a young age, the power of certain words and actions, is incredible to me – both because children are ridiculously smart and intuitive, and because it’s appalling that our education systems fail to incorporate these kinds of lessons early, often, or at all.


2 thoughts on “Teaching Consent; Re-thinking “the sex talk” and ongoing sex education

  1. I left our class on Wednesday full of intense emotion; thanks for posting this. The sexual education in schools and even in homes is a mess. I don’t know know where to begin with that, or what we can do about it as mere college students.

    However, I think that your point made at the end of the post, about being aware whenever we are around children, is extremely important. We can’t go in and fix the education system (at least, not yet) but we are all around children in some way or form – whether that be in mentoring through Operation Achievement, babysitting, or even just walking in the Georgetown square. We can’t really sit down and provide a full sexual education with a child, but we can model it. We can say the words “no” and “stop” and mean them and respond. We can treat them tenderly and with care, and we can remind them that they are worthy of love and connection and belonging.

  2. During our class discussion on Wednesday about sex education there were many moments in which I wanted to discuss how American culture emphasizes the individual rather than the community. I always think about how as American’s we are taught to be patriotic and proud of our system. Almost to the point that we often become ethnocentric and measure other ways of doing things against out culture, as if it is a universal yard stick.

    There are other cultures that focus efforts in a more socialistic way and organize their education system with that same idea. There were so many moments during class that I wanted to yell about how American’s should consider the “it takes a village to raise a child” lesson. I think that lessons is especially relevant to sex education.

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