Sex Ed: Teaching consent
Trigger warnings: Sexual abuse of children
As unexpectedly as a virgin giving birth I found myself in charge of teaching sex ed to 6th graders. It’s been an interesting (and sometimes depressing) experience. We don’t have any of that “Abstinence Only” crap over here and while the parents were informed in advance, they were not asked for their consent, so I get to teach fact based sex positive actual sex ed to a bunch of 12 to 14 year olds. I mostly just took my colleagues’ material but some of it wasn’t to my liking so I’m in the process of reworking it.
One of the topics I wasn’t quite happy with was the one on sexual abuse. It wasn’t wrong as such, no horrible victim blaming, but too abstract in my opinion and only about sexual abuse by adults and not about consent. So here’s my reworking. I incorporated the original text, added examples and also questions to make sure they actually read the text.
Hands off! Your body is yours!
“Hey sugar, how about the two of us?” Karina is upset. Does he mean her? What does this guy want from her? She’s just on her way to the sports club. His remarks make her uncomfortable and also a little afraid. Thank god, there’s her friend Janina. Karina quickly walks towards her, they’re much safer together.
Your body is yours. You don’t have to accept it when other people make degrading remarks about your body or catcall you. Harassment is not a small thing and you can fight back. Say loudly and clearly when somebody gets into your comfort zone and call out to others. Inform adults you trust.
The doorbell rings and Mark rolls his eyes. His twin sister Maike shrugs her shoulders, indicating “we gotta go through this”. Aunt G and Uncle K have arrived. Aunt G cries “Maiiiiiiiiike!” and plants a way too wet kiss on her cheek. “What a big boy you are!” calls Uncle K and pinches Mark’s cheek.
In most cases, being greeted and hugged by father, mother, relatives and friends is a nice thing that you surely like, but that’s not the case with everybody and in all situations. Your body is yours and you decide what you do and don’t like. Remember that you’re always the one who gets to decide which physical contact you want. Sometimes we don’t say that clearly because the other person doesn’t have bad intents and we don’t want to hurt them. Actually Mark and Maike really like Aunt G and Uncle K, it’s just the kisses and cheek pinching they don’t like. In those cases it can be helpful to talk to your parents so they can explain your relatives that you’re “too big” for those things now.
When somebody gets too close you got to show your claws. Tell them “No!” and “Stop”. Say “I don’t want this” and make it clear that you really mean it.*
Sometimes adults use their influence and power to force children into sexual acts. Those adults thereby transgress the boundaries of somebody who is younger, weaker or dependent on them. When adults use the trust, vulnerability and dependence of children for sexual acts it is called sexual abuse and is illegal. It’s often done under the cover of being loving and caring. It can be done by strangers but more often it is somebody known to children whom they trust. They often demand that the children keep the abuse secret. They tell them that “terrible things” will happen when the abuse becomes known. They might tell boys that everybody will think them gay or girls that they’ll never get a boyfriend for example. Sometimes they make the child do something forbidden like smoking or drinking. Then they use that knowledge to blackmail the child: If the child doesn’t say anything they won’t spill the beans either.
You’ve got a right to help if something happened to you that may be sexual abuse. You should talk to somebody you trust or call a hotline (local hotline), even if it is very hard for you to do so. You can expect support and advice. Always remember: It’s never your fault, no matter what those adults are telling you.
Anne and Jonas are both 13 and have been “dating” for a while now. They’re always together during recess and they often meet after school. Anne is totally in love and she really likes kissing, but she hates it when Jonas puts his hand under her shirt and touches her breasts. “If you are my girlfriend you got to let me touch them”, Jonas says. Anne doesn’t know what to do. She doesn’t want to lose Jonas but she doesn’t want him to touch her breasts either…
What Jonas is doing here is wrong. Nobody is allowed to pressure others into things they don’t want to do, especially not with phrase like “If you are my girlfriend” or “If you really love me” or similar.
Kai and Johanna are 16 and have been dating for a while now. Johanna wants to “do it” but Kai is unsure. What about contraception and what if they’re still too young? Johanna claims that “everybody else is doing it already”. Kai is worried. Maybe there’s something wrong with him? After all, boys are said to be horny all the time…
What Johanna is doing isn’t OK either. Everything is fine with Kai. It is totally normal to be nervous, unsure, to have doubts and fears, especially if you’re still very young and don’t have a lot of experience. The most important rule is: Everything that both like is fine. You should always take care of your partner so it is a good experience for both, no matter whether it is “only” kissing or later actual sex.
- What can you do when you’re being harassed by strangers?
- What can you do if you don’t like the way a particular relative approaches you?
- Name two lies adults who abuse children tell them.
- Write a letter to either Kai or Anne. What’s your advice for them?
*I have some serious problems here. On the one hand I don’t want to put the burden on the victim. On the other hand German law is still fucked up.