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*Trigger warning: this article mentions sexual assault

One thing I remember about middle school is taking a sexual education course. However, this course did not teach about consent, which I think is very important to teach children at a young age about consent. A lot of women and men around my age do not understand consent to the full extent. And when I say this, I am not talking about people who blatantly disrespect others’ boundaries. I am talking about several things, which could be taking a condom without permission during sexual intercourse. I have had a handful of friends tell me this has happened to them, which is not okay. To put this an example that everyone will understand, say if you were sick and required to wear a mask inside the building, but you took yours off, you are now disrespecting the boundaries of others in the building and putting others at risk. Another example is if someone consents to sexual intercourse, but they have established limits. If their partner disrespects their limits, it is now non-consensual. Or if someone says stop in the middle of the act, and that person does not stop, it becomes non-consensual.

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels

Consent should not be something that is only taught in college. We all have to take Title IX training, but I feel like that should be available to middle school and high school students. When I was in middle school, there were people that were sexually active, and we should not shame them for that. But rather, we should be teaching them how to be safe. Teaching consent should not fall directly on schools; it is a community effort. Parents don’t typically want to think of their children having sex, but you cannot prevent that. As you cannot stop children from doing things, they are people with autonomy. The only thing you can do is ensure that you provide your child with all the knowledge they need to make their own responsible decisions. We should not be teaching abstinence-only; sexual education should be inclusive to people of the LGBTQ+ community and teach consent. Moreover, I believe that children should be taught consent in a way that they can understand. But it can also be as simple as another child wanting a hug and one of them not. Teaching children how to set boundaries at a young age can save them from a variety of things.

My last and closing argument for teaching consent to children is that it builds communication skills. When children are not afraid to set boundaries and enforce them, it makes it easier in life to maintain and enforce limits. I know many college students who are afraid to set boundaries, and I have trouble setting boundaries because they were not taught at a young age. This may not seem like a big deal, but it could mean the difference between being pushed over and standing up for yourself. As someone with two little sisters, I feel like it is my responsibility as their older sibling to guide them and teach them about this. In addition, being a woman myself, I really wish consent was taught to me at a younger age. 

Kaitlyn Austin is a senior majoring in Political Science with a concentration in Civil Rights. She is always in the library doing homework with her friends.
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