The Healthy Sex Talk: Teaching Kids Consent, Ages 1-21

A list of parenting action items, created in the hope that we can raise a generation of children who have less rape and sexual assault in their lives.

The ongoing horror of rape in the news, from Penn State to the young women raped and killed in India to Steubenville, has proven to be a wake-up call for many parents. We always knew that rape was a problem, but never before have we been so mobilized to create change.

As writers, educators, and advocates of sex-positivity and healthy consent, the four of us have been inundated with requests from parents for advice on how to help create a future with less rape and sexual assault.

We believe parents can start educating children about consent and empowerment as early as 1 year old and continuing into the college years. It is our sincere hope that this education can help us raise empowered young adults who have empathy for others and a clear understanding of healthy consent.

We hope parents and educators find this list of action items and teaching tools helpful, and that together we can help create a generation of children who have less rape and sexual assault in their lives.

There are three sections, based upon children’s ages, preschool, grade school, and teens and young adults.



Julie Gillis, Jamie Utt, Alyssa Royse and Joanna Schroeder


For Very Young Children (ages 1-5):

1. Teach children to ask permission before touching or embracing a playmate. Use langauge such as, “Sarah, let’s ask Joe if he would like to hug bye-bye.”

If Joe says “no” to this request, cheerfully tell your child, “That’s okay, Sarah! Let’s wave bye-bye to Joe and blow him a kiss.”

2. Help create empathy within your child by explaining how something they have done may have hurt someone. Use language like, “I know you wanted that toy, but when you hit Mikey, it hurt him and he felt very sad. And we don’t want Mikey to feel sad because we hurt him.”

Encourage your child to imagine how he or she might feel if Mikey had hit them, instead. This can be done with a loving tone and a big hug, so the child doesn’t feel ashamed or embarrassed.

3. Teach kids to help others who may be in trouble. Talk to kids about helping other children*, and alerting trusted grown-ups when others need help.

Ask your child to watch interactions and notice what is happening. Get them used to observing behavior and checking in on what they see.

Use the family pet as an example, “Oh, it looks like the kitty’s tail is stuck! We have to help her!!”

Praise your child for assisting others who need help, but remind them that if a grown-up needs help with anything, that it is a grown-up’s job to help. Praise your child for alerting you to people who are in distress, so that the appropriate help can be provided.

4. Teach your kids that “no” and “stop” are important words and should be honored. One way to explain this may be, “Sarah said ‘no’, and when we hear ‘no’ we always stop what we’re doing immediately. No matter what.”

Also teach your child that his or her “no’s” are to be honored. Explain that just like we always stop doing something when someone says “no”, that our friends need to always stop when we say “no”, too.  If a friend doesn’t stop when we say “no,” then we need to think about whether or not we feel good, and safe, playing with them. If not, it’s okay to choose other friends.

If you feel you must intervene, do so. Be kind, and explain to the other child how important “no” is. Your child will internalize how important it is both for himself and others.

Screen Shot 2013-03-19 at 11.20.00 PM

Allowing kids power in everyday choices helps grow self-esteem  – Flickr/Enid Yu

5. Encourage children to read facial expressions and other body language: Scared, happy, sad, frustrated, angry and more. Charade-style guessing games with expressions are a great way to teach children how to read body language.

6. Never force a child to hug, touch or kiss anybody, for any reason. If Grandma is demanding a kiss, and your child is resistant, offer alternatives by saying something like, “Would you rather give Grandma a high-five or blow her a kiss, maybe?”

You can always explain to Grandma, later, what you’re doing and why. But don’t make a big deal out of it in front of your kid. If it’s a problem for Grandma, so be it, your job now is doing what’s best for your child and giving them the tools to be safe and happy, and help others do the same.

7. Encourage children to wash their own genitals during bath time. Of course parents have to help sometimes, but explaining to little Joe that his penis is important and that he needs to take care of it is a great way to help encourage body pride and a sense of ownership of his or her own body.

Also, model consent by asking for permission to help wash your child’s body. Keep it upbeat and always honor the child’s request to not be touched.

“Can I wash your back now? How about your feet? How about your bottom?” If the child says “no” then hand them the washcloth and say, “Cool! Your booty needs a wash. Go for it.”

8. Give children the opportunity to say yes or no in everyday choices, too. Let them choose clothing and have a say in what they wear, what they play, or how they do their hair. Obviously, there are times when you have to step in (dead of winter when your child wants to wear a sundress would be one of those times!), but help them understand that you heard his or her voice and that it mattered to you, but that you want to keep them safe and healthy.

9. Allow children to talk about their body in any way they want, without shame. Teach them the correct words for their genitals, and make yourself a safe place for talking about bodies and sex.

Say, “I’m so glad you asked me that!” If you don’t know how to answer their questions the right way just then, say, “I’m glad you’re asking me about this, but I want to look into it. Can we talk about it after dinner?” and make sure you follow up with them when you say you will.

If your first instinct is to shush them or act ashamed, then practice it alone or with a partner. The more you practice, the easier it will be.

10. Talk about “gut feelings” or instincts. Sometimes things make us feel weird, or scared, or yucky and we don’t know why. Ask your child if that has ever happened with them and listen quietly as they explain.

Teach them that this “belly voice” is sometimes correct, and that if they ever have a gut feeling that is confusing, they can always come to you for help in sorting through their feelings and making decisions. And remind them that no one has the right to touch them if they don’t want it.

11. “Use your words.” Don’t answer and respond to temper tantrums. Ask your child to use words, even just simple words, to tell you what’s going on.


Guidelines For Older Children (Ages 5-12)

kids talk

Teaching kids to respect one another’s space, from even a very young age, helps grow empathy.

1. Teach kids that the way their bodies are changing is great, but can sometimes be confusing. The way you talk about these changes—whether it’s loose teeth or pimples and pubic hair—will show your willingness to talk about other sensitive subjects.

Be scientific, direct, and answer any questions your child may have, without shame or embarrassment. Again, if your first instinct is to shush them because you are embarrassed, practice until you can act like it’s no big deal with your kid.

2. Encourage them to talk about what feels good and what doesn’t. Do you like to be tickled? Do you like to be dizzy? What else? What doesn’t feel good? Being sick, maybe? Or when another kid hurts you? Leave space for your child to talk about anything else that comes to mind.

3Remind your child that everything they’re going through is natural, growing up happens to all of us.

4. Teach kids how to use safewords during play, and help them negotiate a safeword to use with their friends.

This is necessary because many kids like to disappear deep into their pretend worlds together, such as playing war games where someone gets captured, or putting on a stage play where characters may be arguing.

At this age, saying “no” may be part of the play, so they need to have one word that will stop all activity. Maybe it’s a silly one like “Peanut Butter” or a serious one like, “I really mean it!” Whatever works for all of them is good.

5Teach kids to stop their play every once in a while to check in with one another. Teach them to take a T.O. (time out) every so often, to make sure everyone’s feeling okay.

6. Encourage kids to watch each others’ facial expressions during play to be sure everyone’s happy and on the same page.

7. Help kids interpret what they see on the playground and with friends. Ask what they could do or could have done differently to help. Play a “rewind” game, if they come home and tell you about seeing bullying.

“You told me a really hard story about your friend being hit. I know you were scared to step in. If we were to rewind the tape, what do you think you could do to help next time if you see it happen?” Improvise everything from turning into a superhero to getting a teacher.

Give them big props for talking to you about tough subjects.

8. Don’t tease kids for their boy-girl friendships, or for having crushes. Whatever they feel is okay. If their friendship with someone else seems like a crush, don’t mention it. You can ask them open questions like, “How is your friendship with Sarah going?” and be prepared to talk—or not talk—about it.

9. Teach children that their behaviors affect others. You can do this in simple ways, anywhere. Ask them to observe how people respond when other people make noise or litter. Ask them what they think will happen as a result. Will someone else have to clean up the litter? Will someone be scared? Explain to kids how the choices they make affect others and talk about when are good times to be loud, and what are good spaces to be messy.

10Teach kids to look for opportunities to help. Can they pick up the litter? Can they be more quiet so as not to interrupt someone’s reading on the bus? Can they offer to help carry something or hold a door open? All of this teaches kids that they have a role to play in helping ease both proverbial and literal loads.


Guidelines for Teens and Young Adults

1. Education about “good touch/bad touch” remains crucial, particularly in middle school. This is an age where various “touch games” emerge: butt-slapping, boys hitting one another in the genitals and pinching each other’s nipples to cause pain. When kids talk about these games, a trend emerges where boys explain that they think the girls like it, but the girls explain that they do not.

We must get kids talking about the ways in which these games impact other people. They will try to write it off, but it’s important to encourage them to talk it through, and ask them how they would feel if someone hit them in that way, or did something that made them feel uncomfortable or violated.

When you see it happen, nip it in the bud. This isn’t “boys being boys”, this is harassment, and sometimes assault.

2. Build teens’ self esteem. In middle school, bullying shifts to specifically target identity, and self-esteem starts to plummet around age 13. By age 17, 78% of girls report hating their bodies.

We tend to build up our smaller kids by telling them how great they are. For some reason, we stop telling kids all the wonderful aspects of who they are when they reach middle school. But this actually a very crucial time to be building up our kids’ self-esteem, and not just about beauty. Remark to them regularly about their talents, their skills, their kindness, as well as their appearance.

Even if they shrug you off with a, “Dad! I know!” it’s always good to hear the things that make you great.

3. Continue having “sex talks” with middle schoolers, but start incorporating information about consent. We’re often good at talking about waiting until marriage to have sex, or about sexually-transmitted infections, or about practicing safer sex. But we don’t usually talk about consent. By middle school, it’s time to start.

Ask questions like, “How do you know whether your partner is ready to kiss you?” and “How do you think you can tell if a girl (or boy) is interested in you?”

This is a great time to explain enthusiastic consent. About asking permission to kiss or touch a partner. Explain that only “yes” means “yes”. Don’t wait for your partner to say “no” to look for consent.

Educating our middle schoolers about consent means we don’t have to re-educate them later and break bad habits, perhaps after somebody’s been hurt.

4. Nip “locker room talk” in the bud. Middle school is the age where sex-talk begins in gender-segregated environments, like locker rooms and sleep overs. Their crushes and desire are normal and healthy. But as parents and educators, we need to do more than just stop kids from talking about other kids like they’re objects. We also need to model how to talk about our crushes as whole people.

If you overhear a kid say, “She’s a hot piece of ass” you could say, “Hey, I think she’s more than just an ass!” You can keep it jokey, and they’ll roll their eyes at you, but it sinks in. They need a model for grown-ups who are doing things right. Even saying something like, “It’s also cool that she (or he) is so awesome at tennis, isn’t it?”

5. Explain that part of growing up is having changing hormones, and that hormones sometimes make it hard to think clearly. Sometimes that means our desire feels overwhelming, or that we’re angry, confused or sad. It’s common, and perfectly okay, to be overwhelmed or confused by these new feelings.

Tell your kids that no matter what they’re feeling, they can talk to you about it. But their feelings, desires and needs are no one’s responsibility but their own. They still need to practice kindness and respect for everyone around them.

6. Mentor teenage and college-aged boys and young men about what masculinity is. Men need to talk to boys about what’s good about masculinity. Ask what hasn’t been so good about our culture of masculinity in the past. How can we build a more inclusive form of masculinity that embraces all types of guys: from jocks to theater kids to queer folks to everyday you-and-me? These conversations can encourage a non-violent form of masculinity for the future.

Boys need to start talking about building a healthy masculinity starting in middle school and continue through college, because transforming masculinity is vital to transforming rape culture.

7. Talk honestly with kids about partying. Make it clear that you don’t want them drinking or using drugs, but that you know kids party and you want your kids to be informed. Ask them questions about how they are going to keep themselves and others safe when they’re drinking. Questions such as:

– How will you know when you’ve had too much to drink?

– How will you handle it if your driver has had too much to drink? (Make clear that your child can always call you to come get him or her if needed).

– How will you know if your drinking or drug use has reached a dangerous level, or crossed into addiction?

– How does your behavior change when you’ve had too much to drink? How can you protect others from yourself in that situation if, perhaps, you become an angry drunk or start violating people’s space or safety?

– How will you know whether it’s okay to kiss someone, touch someone, or have sex with someone when you’ve had a lot to drink? Explain that decisions sometimes become cloudy, and signals become unclear when we are impaired. How will you be sure that you are reading the other person’s signals accurately? Suggest that they always ask for permission to touch or kiss another person, especially when there’s drinking involved.

– Although it should be obvious, explain that a person who is drunk, high or otherwise impaired should not be touched, harassed or sexually assaulted. Teach your children to stand up for, and seek help for, a fellow partygoer who has had to much too drink.

– Be careful about the language you use with your kids about partying. The responsibility is never on the victim to have prevented his or her assault. It is always on the perpetrator to make the right decision and not harm anyone.

8. Keep talking about sex and consent with teens as they start having serious relationships. Yeah, they’ll tell you they know it all, but continuing the conversation about healthy consent, respecting our partners, and healthy sexuality shows them how important these themes are to you. It also normalizes talking about consent, so talking openly and respectfully with partners becomes second nature to teens.

9. Finally, teens are thirsty for more information about sexual assault, consent, and healthy sexuality. They want to learn, and they will find a way to get information about sex. If you are the one providing that information—lovingly, honestly and consistently—they will carry that information out into the world with them.

Having good information encourages kids to be UPstanders, not BYstanders. Not only does the world need more Upstanders, but kids really want to be a force for good. And we can give them the tools to do so.


Learn more about Jamie Utt. Book him to speak to your school or organization

Get to know Julie Gillis. Visit Julie’s website.

More of Alyssa Royse’s writing can be found here. Visit her website.

Information about Joanna Schroeder is available here. Follow Joanna on Twitter.


Read this post in Spanish, too! La Platica Saludable de Sexualidad: Enseñando Consentimiento a Nuestros Hijos, Edades 1-21


Read more:

A Letter to My Son About Consent 

What Happens When We Don’t Teach Our Boys About Sex

25 Things I’d Like My Sons to Know


*This point has been slightly amended to reflect the fact that children should not be helping grown-ups with out a trusted adult’s assistance.  

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Lead photo: Flick

About the Editors

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  1. Such a great read! Teaching consent at a young age is a great start towards combating the issue of sexual assault in society. I am running a blog dedicated to raising awareness towards sexual assault and debunking the myths commonly associated with it. Please come and join the conversation at

  2. This article is nothing more than idealist claptrap, despite its good intentions in my humblest of opinions. The idea of teaching future generations that they have to ask permission to physically interact with another human being on just about every level is just ridiculous. I would argue that the overwhelming majority of rape cases are NOT predicated on a man’s lack of understanding of consent, but rather on the rapist already being predisposed to violence, and being devoid of empathy. The idea of asking a woman pretty please with cherries on top can I have a kiss, is just utterly ludicrous to me. Am I suggesting you should force yourself on someone? Of course not! But in my experience, this kind of nonsense ^ does not spark female attraction, so is nothing applicable to real life. Why can’t we discuss a sensible middle ground here? For example: lean in for a kiss, gauge the person’s (male or female) reaction, and then follow through / pull back depending on said reaction. Could this lead to a bit of awkwardness? Sure, possibly. But you know what? Tough sh*t! Welcome to reality. We are never going to arrive at a point in society where everybody is 100% happy, and never has to feel uncomfortable for a single second in their entire lives. To pursue such an ideal is idiocy. We can try to teach future generations to respect one another, and try to teach them right from wrong, but many of the suggestions in this article are misguided.

    • It says a great deal that you read the article and believe that the entire process of teaching our children about awareness and respect for their bodies, moods and wants, as well as other people’s bodies, moods and wants, is only about asking permission for sex.

      You have not actually said anything that specifically cites how any of the steps followed in this article would be harmful.

  3. Great article – I am actually doing a “Healthy Sexuality” group for parents & caregivers this evening, and I look forward to incorporating many of these tips! One slight amendment I would add to the last section is that teaching “good touch/bad touch” can sometimes be problematic since sometimes “bad” touches feel good. Talking through “safe touches/unsafe touches” can sometimes cover more ground or add clarity for kids/youth. Keep up the fantastic work!

  4. Aswin Menon says:

    I agree with all the concepts mentioned.But the ages mentioned will only solve the problems that occur later in the lives of these young boys and girls like rape,consensual sex etc.It does not cater to safety of younger children-there is no point the children knowing “Good touch and bad touch” after 5th grade ,as majority of the cases, the abuse would already have happened by then-and then it’s just fire fighting that we can do to make sure that the children snap out of it. I think alot of steps mentioned need to be reworked and told to the children earlier to ensure their safety.

  5. You don’t have to wait until age 1 to teach consent! With RIE (, we learn to ask for consent, or at least to warn a child of our intentions with them from BIRTH! As soon as we begin interacting with them in caregiving activities (feeding, diaper changes, bathing, etc), we always let them know what we will be doing to their body and we invite them to participate as much as they are able. Many of us see as early as two weeks old, that our babies are always finding ways of demonstrating consent or refusal to us, an we respect and encourage their responses. I have never had to teach my son not to touch without consent, because it is all he knows from his dad and me — to never receive affection without his consent. Now, at 2.5yo, he still has no problem confidently telling me no if I ask if I may give him a kiss, and expresses extreme displeasure at affection given to him by others without his consent. It shocks me the number of parents I have seen tell their little ones to apologize to mine by giving him a hug or a kiss. I keep reminding him to say no and that he can stop them if he doesn’t like it. It’s so important to model, from birth, the type of interactions you want your kids to learn.

  6. Hey guys, I’m part of the volunteer committee for SlutWalk Salt Lake City, Utah. This year, we’re really making an effort to make the event more family-friendly and help parents learn how to talk to their children about assault and consent. This article is PERFECT. I’d love to print it (with your names and the website) and distribute it with some of our other printed materials at the walk. I can’t find any other way to contact you, so I hope I can hear from someone soon giving permission for me to do this. Thank you for the important work you’re doing. -Valerie

  7. Craig Adams says:

    Good article. But what to tell your son who had his genitals cut at birth (circumcision)? We now know how important the foreskin is to sexual pleasure and to protection of the glans, an internal organ. Circumcision diminishes pleasure for a male and his partners.

  8. American doctors betrayed generations of moms & dads, and kept them in the dark about the cruelty of Genital Surgery on baby boys. Circumcision is a social disease that infects the human conscience, destroying our ability to recognize our own malice and cruelty. It is not a poetic metaphor to describe the surgery in America as the Circumcision Experiment. In the broad scope of human history, no other people have practiced genital disfigurement in secret, upon an infant in the cradle, and then gone on with life as though nothing had been done to the child. All other peoples who perform genital disfigurement on their boys and girls incorporate the experience into the child’s upbringing by public, ceremonial repetitions of the surgery on others, making it a conscious reality that the society acknowledges among themselves, and teaches to their children.

    In America, however, it has been performed in secret for over a hundred years. Our men grow up without awareness that their penises are abnormal, unlike those of European, South American, and Asian men, in fact, unlike men throughout world history. Our women grow up thinking that a disfigured penis is normal, the equivalent of ten fingers and toes on our limbs. So the Circumcision Experiment goes on behind closed doors, never revealed to its subjects, who grow up believing in their personal freedom, never knowing that the most intimate aspect of their lives has been irretrievably altered and disfigured, with unknown results, for the most important aspect of the Circumcision Experiment is that no records may be kept, no statistics may be compiled, no conclusions may ever be reached. The Circumcision Experiment is meant to be a permanent experiment on American men, an experiment that seeks no other result except that it must continue forever.

    If our nation was strapping down baby girls, penetrating & ripping open their vaginas with metal tools, crushing & slashing their vaginas with other shiny tools, would we use a polite euphemism for the horror?… I admire men and women who stand up for our nation’s sons… the others who turn away from the horror, or minimize it, or even deny it… one question, how do YOU live with yourselves?

    All human beings have an inalienable right to refuse genital surgery. Most Americans don’t even know what a normal penis is, or how it functions. Here’s a brief video, less than two minutes, that will open your eyes to the loss & destruction … close the space to make the link work… http://ww

  9. I hope this discussion of consent includes bodily autonomy on genital cutting. How can we teach our sons consent if we stole their consent at birth and had their genitals ripped apart?! Yeah, protection and consent start at birth, teach them that THEIR consent is important by not stealing it. This article is great, just keep that in mind.

  10. Wyatt whystinger says:

    What an excellent article!

  11. “A list of parenting action items, created in the hope that we can raise a generation of children who have less rape and sexual assault in their lives.” How can we seriously go about this if we keep sexually assaulting half of them a few hours after birth?
    “4. Teach your kids that “no” and “stop” are important words and should be honored.” The infant that’s strapped down in a circumstraint, screaming his little head off and thrashing about comes to mind… how about we start taking his “NO” seriously before we hypocritically tell them a year later that saying “no” is important? Just saying…

    • There’s no need to take a hostile stance against the article and mock it, in order to make what is a valid point. These are all good points of advice. And maybe if this kind of thinking becomes common enough, we will see a generation of children grow up to think carefully about the other ways we have traditionally shot ourselves in the foot as a society and made hypocrites of ourselves. And maybe we won’t have so many practices that we cling to solely for the sake of tradition without having a good reason for doing them.

      In addition to teaching kids respect about their bodies, this advice really gets to the heart of teaching kids how to THINK about their actions – and it teaches them that they can make these decisions while calm and positive. That’s a fantastic thing.

  12. I really appreciate this article on several levels. I am a parent of 2 toddlers and I am also a church pastor who cares for families and individuals in a myriad of situations. Unfortunately, many of the stories I hear on a week-to-week basis, include how individuals have used or have been used by others in a sexually exploitative way. I really believe that the more we can have these conversations with our kids and might I add, with our adult peers, the better. Very good practical advice for those seeking ideas on how to begin these conversations. My only critique (which is minor) is that I respectfully disagree with this statement by the authors.

    “We’re often good at talking about waiting until marriage to have sex, or about sexually-transmitted infections, or about practicing safer sex. But we don’t usually talk about consent.”

    I agree that we REALLY need to talk about consent and we need to do all we can to reduce rape and sexual assault in our world, but I do not know very many adults who are good at talking with their teens about marriage, sex, STD’s or Safe Sex in general. Even among parents who believe, as I do, that sex should ideally be reserved for the life-long commitment of marriage; there is little confidence in how to talk about it or ask questions or leave room for honest dialogue. Basically, I just believe that we are generally not good about talking about sex in a redemptive way as a society. This compounded with the individualistic and disrespectful ways that sex is discussed openly, combines for a double loss in our recovery of dignity as human beings.

    With all that said, I am very grateful for this article and encouraged to join the voice of many others on behalf of our young men and women towards their respect, dignity and humanity. Thank you for writing this!

    • It’s been my experience that “Church Pastors” are generally the reincarnation of Pharisees that often cause more harm, abuse & concealment than the general public (& they ALWAYS claim to be “pro-family”). This is because they live in fantasy-land about human sexuality & in practice, don’t believe the very “gospel” they claim to promote. Hypocrites! To help men in general plus the damaged souls damaged by “Pastor Pharaisee” & his minions, was our organization started.

  13. As a parent and a youth worker, this is EXCELLENT.
    Thank you so much for putting this together! It’s going on my list of must-reads for the parents and volunteers I work with.

  14. We’ve also used our kid’s interactions with pets to model issues of consent and sensitivity. Like if we encounter a dog while out at the park, we insist that before petting the dog that our kid seek permission from the owner. We have also taught him that rather than directly petting an animal, that one should offer their hand for the animal to sniff and watch the animal’s body language, and only pet the animal if the body language was positive. Similarly with our cat, when our kid tries to manhandle him, we tell him to stop, and prompt him to think about whether the cat is likely to want that. We also make a point of respecting our child’s “nos” around things like tickling.

  15. This is, surprisingly, a decent article. While there’s still some gender bias, and I stand by my position that this will do nothing to stop intentional rape of any sort, it will help reduce those “grape” situations. (Grey area rape) Communication is vital in sex, but oftentimes men are worried about killing the mood by asking, in no small part because women often decide they want someone who “just knows”, or expect that face and body language should be enough.

    “Teaching men not to rape” is still an absurd notion that isn’t going to fix anything, and rape is currently such an extreme taboo, that any reference to a “rape culture” is a pure politically inspired fantasy, but we do have a society that is phobic about sex, especially when it comes to teaching children. I wish this would be taken up as a gender neutral, “educate about sex” issue instead of being constantly used to demonize men.

  16. While I agree that respect is an extremely important thing to teach all children, there is a difference in the culture of rape and simple respect issues. As previously mentioned, rape is not about sex, it is about power. And I personally do not think that if a man is raping a woman (or vis. Versa) he is not going to care that she said no. Every person in their right mind understands what “no” means. Instead of trying to teach our children not to take any chances, ever, on anything (after all, as a woman I would feel stupid having to verbally express my intent whenever I was in any form of physical situation.) why don’t we pay more attention to treating the mental and emotional issues that rapists and sexual offenders have been proven to have? As a society we focus so much on rehabilitation, but if educators and parents paid more attention to the emotional well being of our youth, rape can be something that is nipped in the bud during the next few generations

    • Mr Supertypo says:

      I know this is a old comment, but I agree 100% but sadly there are more money and political power to gain in rehab than prevention.

    • The advice here is very much about paying attention to the emotional well-being of our youth. It is teaching them respect for their own bodies, moods, feelings and wants, as well as teaching them that others also deserve that same respect, and that each of us is the only one who can make decisions on an interpersonal basis as to what is done to our bodies. That is an important foundation.

      Also, it’s quite likely that our own inability to comfortably talk about our own bodies or about sex without feeling embarrassed, shamed or turned-off is due to being taught as children that these are topics it’s easier and better just not to talk about – to try to navigate our sexual lives, male or female, without putting anything in words. It’s deeply ingrained in us, but that doesn’t mean it’s universal and instinctual. Kids can be comfortable with these ideas. Shame and secrecy are almost never useful.

      You raise some excellent points about mental health. We don’t devote nearly enough resources to the understanding, acceptance, treatment and prevention of mental health issues in this country, just as our entire health care system can’t ever seem to be one thing or the other. But then you said “instead,” referring to the education of children in respect and emotional competence.

      Why would we need to choose between either investing time and personal resources in talking with our children about respecting their bodies and respecting other children, or putting more resources as a society into our treatment of the mentally ill? This is not a conversation about creating a school program where children are taught these things – it’s a resource for parents, grandparents, relatives, teachers, anyone who deals with children in a caregiving or guiding capacity. It’s a framework for how you might want to approach talking to your children, and for how to put careful thought into raising them. I think both are very, very important, and not just as means to an end.

  17. All this talk about consent can sound and feel cheesy but people really do internalize it. The first time I was taught about consent was in college, at a school that had a serious consent policy and an education and outreach program to “make getting consent fun”. And yeah, we laughed about it, and yeah we thought we were too cool to need it, but a rough script for consent became part of the community vocabulary. So saying “can I take your shirt off now?” or even “is this ok?” before escalating sexual contact was normalized. Now as I reach my late 20s, I still find it very comfortable to engage with partners from my old alma mater who shared this experience and have learned a common language of consent.

  18. Thank you for writing this piece. I have been trying so hard to get this information through to someone, but he just doesn’t “get it”. Maybe if he read it he will.
    So, thank you.

  19. I think you make some very good points here. These are really the most difficult things to teach a child. But the way you explained them are very easy to do, and from what i can see, they’ll be effective too. Ill try them out with my 6 year old.

  20. And most importantly, buy a Bible and teach them what their heavenly Father expects of them. If Children aren’t taught the truth, then they will follow the morals of American society, which is in essence unethical.

  21. I recently heard testimony of a child who has been properly and tachtfully briefed on all the elements in this article, and more. He was “well-charged” to remain safe. When a slick perpetrator took all of this boy’s protective fiber and wove it into a cloak of secrecy, the boy felt especially like a failure, complicit, and shamed for “allowing it.”

    We need to remind kids that it is NEVER their fault even with all the weapons of tacht with which we arm them. If they find themselves as having been bamboozled, its never their fault — no matter what.

    GREAT Article BTW!!

  22. The article is fine. If there is “gender neglect” or bias, its not all that important if the article helps stop SOME abuse. I worry about an early commenting mother of two boys who seems to feel she’s now well-armed for these “events,” and preparing her boys for battle and “events.”

    Trust me, trust me, trust me…there is NO complete education that will completely arm any boy or girl from an adult, teen or child with bad intent.

    One thing that would really help augment the article is:

    10: Read case-studies or discuss cases of rape, abuse, grooming, trickery, betrayal, etc to your kids…especially the very young. Keep the cases in safe and age-appropriate modes…but for God’s sake, give your kids real live examples of how they can be destroyed.! And that CAN be done without scaring or scaring them.

  23. I agree with the goal of this topic. Reducing rape and such behaviours are a great idea. What I disagree with is pretty much most suggestions the article puts forward. Despite the similarity, rape is not about sex, its about power. And I think if one were to try and use such a program to raise a boy you’d be well on your way to producing a future rapist (or at least someone more likely to commit such an act).

    Little boys do not grow up to be rapist because nanny wouldn’t take no for an answer when she wanted a hug. They grow up to be rapist only after developing a pathological hatred for women and a desire for power that their life has taught them no healthy way to obtain it.

    The article seems to want to convince every boy that before they ever attempt to kiss a girl or even approach her personal space, they must first consider her feelings and then confirm she is ok with his actions with verbal confirmation. This, if actually followed for his life, would prevent rape but only if it was actually followed for life. But it would also pretty much guarantee the boy to being single for most of his natural life (or if married, a miserable wimp). He will grow up confused as to why, even though he is being what he was taught was what a good man should be and every woman wants to be his friend, not a single one of them have the slightest romantic interest in him. Furthermore, he will surely experience anger when pondering why those same women seem to be all about the bad boys who were not being nearly as respectful as him. This of course will lead to more feelings of confusion and self-loathing since our boy has already been taught the new masculinity in which violence (and lets face it, this article isn’t just talking about fighting here. I’m guessing it includes a rather broad view of the word) is wrong. His anger makes him want to hit the bad boy which is wrong, furthering the lowering of his self-worth.

    So to recap. We have a boy who is filled with feelings of powerlessness while he watching his school crushes tell him how wonderful he is one minute for being a great listener while going off the next minute to make-out with the school jerk. Furthermore, the anger he feels over this. Both from rejection and an inability to understand why he is being rejected cannot even be expressed because our new masculinity has already taught our boy that the feelings he is experiencing (such as a desire to hit the jerk in the nose and tell the girl he feels used by her) are bad and therefore he must be bad for feeling them. So he will suppress them and thus feel even more powerless. Now you have a young man who’s known nothing but rejection and bitterness, and shame over any attempt to express it constructively.

    Not saying this is the only cause of the type of men we need to prevent in our society but I do think its becoming an increasingly common one.

    I think if mothers want their boys to grow up to respect women and others then they need to accept that as women, there is only so much they or the countless other women raising their boys in schools and daycare can do. Those boys need to learn from good men. I agree with the mentors idea. Mind you, I would disagree agree with mentors claiming some sort of new age masculinity. I think those men could use some mentorship themselves. Boys need fathers. And failing that, at least father-figures.

    • Nick I hate to tell you this but you are wrong. I am now sixty years old and have had all the female attention that I ever wanted. Although when I grew up I was told to be a gentleman. Gentlemen don’t rape women.

      Also your opinion that teaching boys to not be violent and not hurt people leads to feelings of powerlessness. I was picked on constantly during school and no I never beat anyone up. I couldn’t run that fast. But all of the harrassment meant that I built up a tolerence for fools. I had one of my friends to say that I could out do Job when it came to patience.

      Feelings of powerlessness comes from someone not having power over their own lives. The best example I can think of is a battered woman that wasn’t even allowed to do anything without her husband’s permission or she got a beating! She felt totally impotent. When she started going to group sessions it was a life changer for her. When she left the shelter she felt very empowered and in control. Although she was still having dating issues.

      The big problem that alot of people have is that they think that unless you act. Because of my studing war and weapons since I was about fourteen and some related things I know that I could be extremely dangerous. My chemistry professor did not appreciate my joking about making nitro. Also when I was on the wrestling team I couldn’t be pinned. At the same time I refused to play football because I knew they wanted me for a lineman; my job would be to hurt as many of the other teams players as possible. By that point I wasn’t getting off on hurting people deliberately.

      Instead, years later I was one of those guys that was willing to march into hell to save someone and that is a heavenly cause. Just like the song says.

      The big thing that everyone leaves out of the equation is ethics. In the early part of American history you were not properly tratned and educated unless you took ethics. That is the big thing. What a lot of people don’t understand is that ethics has little to do with ethics. However all of the major religions include ethics. So you can teach ethics without teaching religion.

      So what we need is to teach boys ethics and to be gentlemen!

    • So Nick, you’re basically saying that no woman anywhere wants her feelings respected when it comes to touching or kissing? In your opinion, it’s a big turn off for women if they are asked first before they are kissed or touched? As a woman, allow me to educate you. I have a firm grasp of personal autonomy and consent – I find it respectful if someone asks before doing any of the aforementioned items. Generally, since I have a good concept of consent, I will say something like “Yes, please.” I generally think this covers any following interaction up until the point where I say “No, I’m not comfortable with that.” at which point, I fully expect someone to stop. I find it considerate when my partner stops every once in awhile and inquires if whatever he is doing is alright – “Is this ok?” is all it takes. It’s called *communication* in a sexual situation – and it’s VERY welcome, shows that the guy is very in tune with my feelings, and respects my desires. In turn, I do the same for him by asking if it’s alright if I do something – and stopping if he gives even the slightest signal that he is uncomfortable (verbal or non-verbal). This will usually continue until I’ve built up a trust and intimacy with a partner – at which point they will know my thoughts on the matter with a lot less verbal communication.

      There is NOTHING about asking permission that makes a man a “sissy”, a “doormat”, “powerless” or “less of a man.” All of that is just an excuse for a man to take whatever he wants whenever he wants at the expense of others. That’s not going to work out well for him.

    • My gender theory professor says that teaching young boys healthy homosexual practices will greatly reduce the rape of college girls.

    • This article is about children. Not boys. Any children. It is about teaching children to respect their own bodies, as well as their moods and wants, and understand that they are in control and are the only person who can make decisions about their bodies. It is also about teaching them that just as they’re in control of their own bodies, other people are in control of theirs as well, and each of us is the only person who can make decisions about our own. It’s about doing this slowly, in an age-appropriate way, and teaching children how complex this can be.

      This is not about sex. It is about teaching, and modeling, a foundation of respect and understanding for themselves and for others, so that when they do become sexually active they have good habits that see them actively interested in their partner’s perspective and not just seeking to get their own way.

      How can you agree that preventing rape is a good thing, and then dismiss any talk of fostering respect in our male AND female children as dangerous garbage?

  24. What a great post! Everything here is fantastic advice–hope to see more parents teaching this to their kids, and I hope to be able to teach it to mine as well.

  25. Marci Peebles says:

    I am the editor of the newsletter for the West Chester Mothers of Twins & More Club, and I would love permission to reprint this in our monthly newsletter which is made available to our 200+ members electronically – please email me directly if this is possible! 🙂

  26. THANK YOU to the 4 wonderful writers of this article for caring about kids! Those who are negative or think they know a whole lot more, form your own blog and I challenge you to come up with a better article for mainstream community members. The authors have done a fantastic job in simplying trying to help protect our kids. WELL DONE writing team and again thank you SO much for taking the time to write and do the research for this article.

    • Anonymous Male says:

      Jayneen, I find it difficult that you are so quick to minimize what I’ve had to say about human equality as I feel strongly about it’s place in the world. My goal isn’t to come off as thinking I know more, my goal is to provide my own observations because I value discussion. People can learn from each other. I love learning from people. Usually I just read but I choose to comment when I feel I have something valuable to add.

      I agree the article is well done, it offers strong and healthy strategies when raising children. I’ve said this already because I truly think this. I don’t recall saying thank you so I will add that at the end of my response to you Jayneen, that’s fair.

      As for your challenge, I’m not a blogger and I don’t want to be one. Also, I think competing against this with my own article would go against a theme of what I’m trying to help strengthen in this article, togetherness. Why would having my own blog be better than commenting on this one?

      THANK YOU to the authors of this article for following their interests and taking the effort to build this article together.

      • Joanna Schroeder says:

        A.M. to be frank, I don’t think she is trying to minimize it, but you didn’t really emphasize the positive before this. But we appreciate the comments above. Thank you for recognizing it.

        Writing about this is VERY hard. Harder than you could ever know if you’ve never tried to do it. Jayneen understands the massive effort the four of us put into this. That’s why these articles need a lot of support from non-bloggers.

        • Anonmyous Male says:

          Well I see it as minimizing what I have to say as I don’t see how any of what I’ve said can be concluded as negative. Other than it being criticism, which I’ve tried my very best to make constructive. Maybe Jayneen will have more to say about her own perspective on it all.

          The first thing I commented on was what I think is great about this article. The second thing I did was point out and emphasize what offended me in this article. I realised in response to Jayneen that I never acknowledged the authors in my comments which wasn’t my intention, so I’m sorry for not doing that sooner. Acknowledgement is beautiful interaction, but most people doing good things don’t do it for their acknowledgement. I saw a lot of acknowledgement once the article had offended me, but I saw a lack of criticism. Naturally I was drawn to criticizing what offended me within the article that was otherwise very well written.

          I agree with you that writing can be hard. Also, that this issue is big to tackle. It so often spirals into specific issues and instances, which is why I have an issue with the teen section. I also understand and relate to the effort the four of you have put into this, and support is always great throughout life. This is exactly why I wanted to share what literally offended me when reading this article. I could’ve closed my browser and ignored this article, the work of four people, and the two issues I’m having with it but that doesn’t feel right to do. At the very least, I can add my voice and perspective into the comments for others to see. I can’t manage to see what is in any way negative about doing that.

  27. Tom Brechlin says:

    #7 …. And I guess this will apply in general and that is parents need to be aware of as much as they can, in what’s happening in their kids lives. My kids didn’t attend a party where I didn’t personally know the family having the party. As a parent, it was my role to let my kids know that my responsibility to be aware of things. Communicate with your kids that as parents, we have a responsibility and that we’re not just being overbearing.

    Another things I would suggest is that you talk to your kids about what the media shows as “love” “fun” “Cool” isn’t in a lot of cases, realistic. That a lot that’s shown on TV and in movies is to attract viewers and don’t care one way or another as to how it may affect their lives. I’m not saying that a parent has to be cynical but simply realistic. Many of these shows can present talking points for you and your kids.

  28. Anonymous Male says:


    That is a personal projection from you and is what I think most people would project into that scenario.

    “In this hypothetical situation, it’s not usually a girl/woman who will take advantage of a boy/man in the shadows on a bench..” Maybe it’s not usual for a girl/woman to exploit a vulnerable male but the gender of a sexual predator is irrelevant to the victim. Women are completely capable of being sexual predators.

    “Sure, I agree that we need to talk about the bigger issue of female media sexploitation and how that effects girls’/womens’ self-image, but I don’t think you hit it right.” My message was directed specifically at rape culture, but generally it applies to exploitation in our culture/world. A person could equally be robbed in my scenario, or murdered, ridiculed, assaulted etc. The article is talking about sexual consent so that is why I talked about the scenario in regard to rape culture. I’m not talking about any gender specifically as you mistakenly thought I was, hence the use of gender neutral pronouns. The male body is objectified in “sexploit” media and whether or not it’s an equal extent to female objectification is irrelevant. The way it’s done for both sexes in “sexploit” media is equally as unhealthy for equal reasons.

    Personally, when I was a teenager I had been sexually harassed by a teenage girl because she had an obsessive crush on me. It was sexually uncomfortable and inhibited me to get closer with different females. I wasn’t interested in her on more than a friend level but I didn’t know how to say no as rape culture (my high school) would ridicule me by labeling me as gay for turning down the behavior. She and my, at the time, friend told people I was gay because I respectfully declined a relationship with her. Prior to this experience I had always struggled with saying no to girls because it made me feel bad. I would date girls that I didn’t want to and it was unhealthy for both of us.

    I’ve already demonstrated that I am aware of the URL this is posted at. But you seem to have missed my point about that so I will quote it for you in hope that you will acknowledge it fully.

    “I’m aware that this is posted at URL: but this isn’t justification for this articles choice in pronouns. Either the perspective of the article needs to be changed wholly to masculine or wholly gender neutral. If the latter is chosen then perhaps this isn’t the correct board to post this message on for various reasons.”

    If you are unclear as to why I said that, it’s because it causes confusion among your readers. It has previously caused confusion and now it has with me as well. It’s ignorant to assume this confusion as the fault of the reader because you are the writer, conveying a message. Yet the section has gone unchanged and an excuse has been provided as to why. I’ve gone out of my way to share constructive criticism with you but I get the impression you aren’t interested in it. I ask that you share my criticism with Jamie as I’d prefer for the actual author to be aware of this confusion they are causing, if they aren’t already.

    I’m also wondering why my gender neutral message has once again been spun into feminism. I made it clear that my message isn’t solely about female sexuality. Maybe as the writer I somehow communicated this but I feel as though you and McGillicuty are projecting your own gender bias onto my gender neutral message. Body image, is what’s lacking from the teenage section, not “the issues of young women” or men… and 10 more pages? That’s not a well written article then. Are you insinuating that males don’t have issues with their self perceived body image?

    Furthermore, you asked Danny if he has ever witnessed girls hitting genitals, butts, nipple pinching etc. and though I can’t speak for Danny, I can say with 100% certainty that I have in fact witnessed girls/women doing this to other girls/women all the way up from middle school. Again, I realise you acknowledged that girls can be bad too but it leaves a bad taste in my mouth, and clearly others as well, when I see specifically males as targets. Thus, “boys will be boys” is less appropriate than you might think.

    That is a good point.

    • Joanna Schroeder says:

      I am not doing anything to you.

      If you read my response, it was merely a response. There is no feminism or gender in it despite answering your question.

      Feel free to send Jamie Utt an email from his website.

      • Anonmyous Male says:

        I’m not sure what happened to my response to this. Though I’ve made more comments than have been showing up. Maybe you aren’t approving them or they aren’t going through.

        In short of my missing comment, I’m not emailing Jamie Utt about this as it’s his own job to stay in connection with his own work. Whether that’s through you or coming to this article once in a while or however else, it’s his choice.

  29. Anonymous Male says:

    Hello, I came across a link to this blog/article via facebook and read it out of curiosity. The article is broken down into ages and holds a gender neutral perspective. It also shares a lot of perspectives and strategies that are sound and responsible. These are great points to this article. However, once I was further into it I got the sense that the message was suddenly negatively directed at males. There have already been comments from Jacobtk and Tamen that have pinned down exactly why I sensed this.

    Immediately I was offended, as a male, so I sifted through the comments and was happy to note nobody including the author(s) hold this particular perspective. That said, the author never responded to this issue directly and hasn’t changed anything. As a result, another person (me) has criticism about what is written in the article, that is otherwise well written. The “Guidelines for Teens and Young Adults” section needs to be reworked as it’s currently insufficient, the article itself needs revision for the following reason. There are too many occurrences where a gender neutral value is replaced by masculine pronouns with parenthesis toward females. Which disagrees with the entire voice of this article that was initially gender neutral.

    I’m aware that this is posted at URL: but this isn’t justification for this articles choice in pronouns. Either the perspective of the article needs to be changed wholly to masculine or wholly gender neutral. If the latter is chosen then perhaps this isn’t the correct board to post this message on for various reasons.

    Other than criticism of the grammar in the article, I don’t understand why body image was briefly mentioned and not fully identified. Body image goes hand in hand with rape, self esteem, sexuality… the themes presented in this article. Also, the current fashion industry is a fundamental of rape culture and engulfs healthy body image. From the consumer levels to the production and presentation levels. It’s a widely supported emphasis on objectification of both genders. Sex sells, and people are buying into this concept literally. Many reasons why are negative and unhealthy, and promote rape culture. Fewer reasons are healthy and positive, and are embracing sexuality and sexual desire. Selling sex visually is a problem in a society where most people are uneducated about body image. Let me paraphrase this:

    A person is alone and strolling around a local evening festival and stops to rest on a bench tucked away from the crowd, they are dressed in a way that makes them very sexually attractive.

    This is a problem in rape culture for many reasons, here are some I can think of: A) the person is alone, B) the person is in a relationship, C) they suffer from low self esteem, D) they are anti social, E) they’re not aware of their surroundings. I’ll stop here. Any of the reasons above are an issue in rape culture by themselves yet many individuals will attest they’ve experienced more than one of them. I think some people won’t understand my reasoning for B so I will briefly elaborate. In this situation, the person is displaying that they are approachable to the other people that are sexually interested in them. Though not necessarily a problem for the person on the bench/dressed sexy, it conveys an inaccurate message that causes confusion and frustration to those looking to strike up conversation in regard to sex or courtship.

    My point isn’t people should dress like a muddy potato to avoid rape culture, it’s that too many people willingly objectify themselves within rape culture. They sell off too much of their sex visually and are left almost valueless in the eyes of society and their subconscious mind. Supporting the trends, the wallets, the industry of rape culture is setting up uneducated children for failure and failing generations. They are relentlessly exposed to people acting as walking billboards for the most successful brand names that entirely exploit rape culture. This article does a great job at offering strategies to combat rape culture but overlooks one of the largest factors in it, body image.

    I’ve only scratched the surface of body image in my comment, but it’s the number 1 reason why I think the teen section needs to be redone. This is arguably the biggest denominator in unhealthy sexual behavior. Humans after all are very primal when it comes to sex and this is the archaic governor used by individuals and rape culture equally. I hope my comment/criticism is understood.

    • McGillicuty says:

      “A person is alone and strolling around a local evening festival and stops to rest on a bench tucked away from the crowd, they are dressed in a way that makes them very sexually attractive.”

      So, you didn’t use a gendered pronoun, since it could be anyone in this scenario. Somehow it seems clear that you are talking about a girl or woman. When we talk about combating rape culture, let’s start with educating all people, of all ages. In this hypothetical situation, it’s not usually a girl/woman who will take advantage of a boy/man in the shadows on a bench. And when it comes to dress? I don’t ever hear of a male being sexually assaulted because he was so hot and a female couldn’t control herself when she saw his saggy drawers or skinny jeans. Sure, I agree that we need to talk about the bigger issue of female media sexploitation and how that effects girls’/womens’ self-image, but I don’t think you hit it right.
      Let’s bring it back to an education that promotes self-empowerment for girls and respect from boys and men. Period.

      • “I don’t ever hear of a male being sexually assaulted because he was so hot and a female couldn’t control herself”

        When was the last time you heard of a 13 year old girl “scoring” with her 37 year old male teacher?'s_My_Boy_(2012_film)

        The phrases which are used to excuse rape of men are different to the the phrases used to excuse rape of women.

        A common tactic for erasing male victims is to pick a way that rape of women is excused, and then point out that this never happens to men. This then implies that rape of men does not happen. When in reality the phrases used to excuse rape of men are different.

    • Joanna Schroeder says:

      As far as the teen and college-aged section, that was mostly authored by Jamie Utt whose focus is on educating young men. Also, this is a site for men and about men, so we are mostly talking about young men.

      It would take 10 more pages to address the issues of young women, and we feel strongly that many of the great feminist sites out there have done this sufficiently. Unaddressed, mostly, are issues surrounding middle school, high school, and college boys. That is why we focused on that here.

      • The point is Jamie could have made the section gender neutral by noting that girls need to ask for and respect boys’ consent and that boys also have their consent ignored or assumed. I realize that Jamie does not believe that boys can be victims of abuse, and therefore would not address that. However, since the point of the article is to educate children, not just boys, I would think the other authors would have added that information. No one is asking any of them to believe that boys should have their consent asked for and respected. Obviously none of you believe that. However, you could have humored the thought for the parents who have sons and are concerned about protecting their sons from abuse.

    • The only they there are the crowd. The singular is who.

  30. I thought this was an interesting stat: By age 17, 78% of girls report hating their bodies.

    Just curious where it came from? Thanks!

    • It can come from a lot of different sources. With some girls it can be parents being over critical as with my ex-wife. But also it can be that the girl has unreasonable expectations. On an episode of NatGeo Taboo on beauty a woman from Brazil had married a rich American. Because of her wanting a curvy models body and having a short stocky frame like mine she had had larger and larger implants in her breasts and hips. It was almost more than I could stand to watch! She had went to Brazil and had two of the largest implants put in each breast. Got an infection and almost died!

      But it can also be from natural changes in the body such as periods or breasts not coming in soon enough. Many people don’t realize that you can be still “growing up” into the twenties. I grew two inches in college. So a girl can have a slow growing body or genetic background that tends to be stocky. But, just because you have genes from a racial group does not mean that you will have all of that body type. I’m a good example of this because one look in my eyes betrays my Norse ancestry. But, I’m a northern European hybrid, so I’m only 5’9″ not 6’8″, the runt of my generation. But I didn’t let it bother me. Other people have been driven mad from being a little short compared to relatives.

      Hope this helps.


      • You didn’t really answer the question. I’d like to see actual source citations, please.

        • Your question is somewhat like the young prince who demanded that the philosopher give him all the world’s knowledge while standing on one foot.

          I would look under body image psychology, anorectics, and body dysmorphic disorder.

          You have to understand that some psychologists spend their entire career specializing in this disorder.

          • If you’re quoting numbers, you should still have sources. If you don’t have a source for “by age 17, 78% of girls report hating their bodies,” say something like “by the end of high school, most girls will tell you that they hate their bodies.” It’s bad form to give numbers and then not only refuse to cite sources but get huffy when someone asks for them. No one’s saying your point isn’t right, they’re asking for evidence that where you made a specific, numerical claim you can back it up.

            I think these guidelines are a good idea, although I think the best are the young child ones – that is often the hardest time to figure out how to begin.

            • I think you have me confused with the editors. The statistic was theirs. But what I was talking about was a generality. I have never met anyone that was feeling good about themself as a teen. I really think that this ts one of the marjor hurtles in becoming an adult. Most of the teens that I did sucide watch for had body issues. Also the anorectic woman in a local mental hospital. In fact, I would say that the women had more extreme issues because slowly starving your self is a hard way to die.

              If you go to my facebook page you will see that I have a masters in blind rehab. I was an Orientation & Mobility Specialist. Getting into it is harder than geting into MIT and I did original research for the paper!

              • Seems like the problem here is a mix-up in communication. The original question – “Just curious where it came from?” – might have seemed ambiguous to Mr. Love, but I think the poster was interested in where the *stat* came from, not where the body hate came from.

    • The stat itself is a hyperlink, if you click it it will take you to the source.

  31. I think most of these are great ideas, just one comment about “making it clear your child can always call you to get him or her” from a party. sometimes it’s impractical or actually impossible for parents to do this, and my parents made sure I knew that sometimes they couldn’t get me right then and there, and I always thought this was a good idea. it taught me responsibility, and to know that I couldn’t just drink until I passed out because I didn’t have someone who would help me no matter what. I learnt to know when I needed to take control, when I needed to call a cab or get a friend to walk me home. it taught me how to make my own safe decisions.

  32. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this. I’ve been wanting to start this kind of conversation with my 3 y.o. but wasn’t sure where to start. I hope everyone starts this conversation with their children, no matter the age!

  33. This guide, broken down by age groups, is wonderful! I spend a lot of time thinking about how to also talk to my children about bias (racism, sexism, etc.) and it can be difficult to find help on how to make a concept understandable for pre-school children. If you have any other guides, please do post!

    I do, however, have one question about ‘no.’ We definitely try to teach our pre-school aged daughter that her ‘no’ is to be honored. What happens, however, when her ‘no’ cannot be honored–when she is throwing a tantrum and needs to be removed from a room, or her hands must be washed but she refuses, or she is protesting a much-needed bath despite our attempts to make it fun and give her some choice in the matter? In these moments, I am torn between wanting to respect her bodily integrity and fulfilling my obligation as a parent who must take care of her when it is necessary. Any thoughts or suggestions would be much appreciated.

    • JayBirds says:

      I have this same struggle- my almost-2-year-old’s favorite word is no! When we’re playing, I respect it. When it’s something that has to get done, I tell her that I hear her, and then let her know why it has to get done and do it in as respectfully a manner as possible. I

      try to still give her choices- if she’s saying “no” to brushing her teeth, I let her know that we all have to brush our teeth before bed to stay healthy and then ask if she wants to do it by herself or if she’d like me to do it. If she continues saying no, I try to do it gently, with as much respect for her bodily autonomy as possible. Does this normally end up looking like me shoving a toothbrush at her mouth? Probably. She is a toddler 🙂 But I hope that my words and the underlying intent of my actions are getting across.

      • Thank you for your response! Yes, that’s what it sometimes looks like in our home, too. Ultimately, some things have to get done, whether she likes it or not, and I try to do it quickly, efficiently, and as gently as possible if she’s fighting me. I also continually check-in with myself; that is, I ask myself whether I’m insisting on something because it must get done and there are no other options, or whether I’m insisting on something because I want to control her. If it’s the latter, I back off. And I’ve found especially in this last year (she’s about to turn 4) that sometimes backing off is the best remedy. Absent coercion, i.e. “okay; we won’t brush now, but we have to brush when we get home–it’s something we do everyday,” she’ll come around, running after me to help her finish up whatever it was she was just resisting.

        • Joanna Schroeder says:

          Yes, we are parents and we have to get them to brush their teeth and other vital tasks, when they are little especially.

          I am a parent who would just pick up my tantruming toddler and bring him to the car for a time-out, because part of being a parent is being sure your child is safe, and not harming or bothering other people. That means sometimes removing them from a situation.

          I think ORJ is making good points above. I always say things like, “Either you can brush your own teeth, or Mama can do it for you. Which would you prefer?”

          That’s why I think it’s important to give them choices in arenas that don’t matter the same way.

          Sure, it’s a slippery slope, but if we make clear that they can talk about how they felt about everything and anything, even the teeth brushing, then we can come to solutions that are better in the future. I think that the openness and willingness to work together to find a solution is probably the bigger message out of all of it. And that will, hopefully, last.

      • As far as the teeth brushing dilemma ; my daughter did the same thing. She was/is very independent. Now that she is 18 I love that about her! So instead of mom brushing her teeth her favorite puppet would do it. Worked like a charm!

    • Katherine says:

      Count me in as another mother of a toddler who is unwilling to just stop what I’m doing whenever my son says “no,” because there are certain things he NEEDS to do. The same goes for the bathing example. If he doesn’t want me to wash part of his body, it’s not like handing him the washcloth will get that part clean.

      That being said, I really appreciate this advice overall, and even in those “no” situations I try my best to give him time, explain why this is important, acknowledge his feelings/resistance, etc. I’m so happy to see a guide on consent that includes the little ones. There are certain conversations you want to start having right away.

  34. As a mother of two little boys, I’m really glad to have tools to talk to them about giving their consent as well as getting consent from others. Since they are so little I’m pretty vigilant these days about preventing them from becoming victims of sexual violence, but I also want to prevent them from someday becoming perpetrators. Maybe if I was raising girls I would feel more one-sided about it, but with boys I’m keenly aware that danger comes from both sides. Add to that the responsibility to help others and not be a bystander and it’s really a three-part conversation.
    So, Thank You for this!!

    • Joanna Schroeder says:

      Thank you for your kind words!

    • I agree with Kari’s statement about teaching all our children to avoid becoming victims of sexual violence, but also teaching them to avoid perpetrating it.

    • this is just a reminder that anybody can be a perpetrator of sexual assault, it is just less common for it to be female.

  35. Good read, love the detail and simplicity of practices for any parent to follow! However, as an advocate I do not teach good/bad touch as this can be confusing for victims; if “sexual abuse feels good at the time”, i prefer safe touch unsafe touch as it addresses the protection and awareness of bathing suit area, but will not confuse kid as good/bad notion may do so.

    • Joanna Schroeder says:

      My fear about that “bathing suit area” thing is the shame that can come with self-touch and also eventually with partner touch.

      I’m not sure there is one 100% good term to use, but for parents to be having these conversations regularly with their children is probably what will do the best to empower a child to speak up if they’ve been victimized.

  36. I would like to thank you guys for putting together an excellent piece of educational material that I’m going to share with my son and grandkids.
    It takes me back over twenty-five years to when my son was five and I was teaching the kindergarten class at my church (Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Asheville). I’m never forget the reaction I got to my asking for some teaching aids from Planned Parenthood. You would have thought that I was talking about getting all the 5 and 6 year olds drunk. Rather, it was the most basic of sex education; this is where babies come from. We started with apple seeds and worked up; that was in 1987.

    I wanted to add a special note for parents involved with a disruptive situation or a divorce situation. When my son was about nine he suddenly developed stomach problems. After some quiet questioning I learned that after his mom and her lovers had passed out he would drink the guy’s booze. I started teaching him about mixers and responsible drinking. The next time we got together he told me that he no longer had tommy aches. Another thing is that teens need to know what can happen if they go too far. In the mid-nineties I was living in Cullowhee, NC going back to WCU for another degree and some kids in a near-by town had died of alcohol poisoning. Also when during the seventies we had several kids drown because they fell asleep on their backs and drown. So when we came in and our roommates were passed out we would roll them on their backs to make sure we didn’t wake up with another body! Last don’t be clueless! I had a friend that was a lifelong alcoholic when I worked at Harrah’s Casino in Cherokee, NC. He started drinking when he was five! You should know who your kids are around even at five and six because they could be getting alcohol or drugs from walking into adult parties with friends. That’s how my friend became an alcoholic!
    Also I have known kids who raided their parent’s drugs to sell to their friends; don’t have your drugs to easy to access. A number of kids I watched in the suicide wards got the drugs to attempt suicide from their parents medicine chest.

  37. Elizabeth says:

    I’d add a caution about talking to teens about sexuality. I certainly think you should! But as a growing girl, I had a lot of emotional damage from a father who took out a lot of his own sexual insecurities and urges in the way he “explained” things to me.

    For example, he expressed shocked surprise that I said I didn’t want to have sex with the boy I was “in love” with (he was far from returning my feelings, so it was a theoretical question anyway) — I was 13 or 14 and not ready yet for fantasies that went beyond French kissing. He acted like I ought to be having overt sexual fantasies. Then, or in some similar conversation, he went on to assure me that “Oh, you WILL! You’ll start having feelings HERE and HERE….” (pointing to his own chest and groin). He seemed eager for me to hurry up and have them.

    Later he helpfully informed me that Freud had shown that all men want to have sex with their mothers and all women want to have sex with their fathers. He said everyone finds the idea shocking — shocking! — but that’s just how it is.

    As far as I know he never physically molested me (though he did so to one of my sisters). She was very young when it happened and didn’t realize it until adulthood. But he mentally and emotionally molested me with his greedy, creepy idea of how to be helpful. Basically, he wanted all my experiences, especially my sexual ones, to be filtered through him.

    I’m in my 50s now and getting good psychotherapy, but I’m still kinda messed up in that area. My husband and I are very much in love and I know I disappoint him in the frequency of our sexual encounters.

    As far as advice to men in general, I suppose I’d say you need to be very respectful of your children’s need for mental and emotional privacy as well as physical.

    Especially if you find yourself attracted to them, which may happen naturally at times, don’t take that out on them. Don’t make insinuating remarks or tell smarmy jokes. Don’t make comments about their bodies or how sexy they look (including synonyms and euphemisms). Don’t try to direct their thoughts and feelings by telling them “what to expect” in a prescriptive sort of way. If you think you can aim double-entendres at them while harboring secret thoughts, you’re wrong — they’ll pick up that there’s something wrong even if they can’t tell what.

    I know a lot of what I’ve said will apply only to a small percentage of men (and maybe not the ones reading this). But I also know it’s easy to talk yourself into thinking you’re Doing The Right Thing by Talking About Sex, and mesmerize yourself into using such conversations for a form of self-gratification. In my own different ways I’ve done that too, before I recognized where it was coming from.

    Thanks to all the great dads out there who don’t mess their kids up as badly as mine did! I’m grateful to be married to one (though I wish his kids were my own as well).

    • Elizabeth: I think you make some really valid and excellent points.

    • Joanna Schroeder says:

      Oh certainly, Elizabeth!

      My model of discussing sexuality with kids is to let them guide where the conversation is going and not make it personal about the adult. Reactions such as, “When I was your age” or “If I were a boy you were dating” or “If I were the girl you said that to…” etc.

      It sounds like your father violated your boundaries and your comfort, and the objective of this post is to empower people NOT to violate others’ comfort levels and privacy.

      Grateful for your thoughts, and that would make an important follow-up piece.

    • Alyssa Royse says:

      Jamie, Joanna, Julie and I were talking about this on a call this morning, and I think it’s important to learn good boundaries as a parent. As I told them, when my daughter asks me about my sexuality as I was growing up – and even now – I generally tell her that I keep my sex life private, between me and my lovers. That the details don’t need to be shared. However, I also give her what I think she is looking for, which is confirmation that although the specifics may vary, we all go through stages of experimentation that may be both intriguing and nerve-wracking to us. And that that’s “normal.” I tell her that I have tried many things, some of which I loved and still do, some of which I didn’t like at all and never did again, and some of which I wasn’t sure about, so I thought, talked and tried again. But that they key is always being true to yourself, communicating and being safe – both emotionally and physically.

      I think that a lot of parents try to either relive the glory days of their sexual discovery, or make up for a wild youth they wish they had. It’s almost like being a “stage mom” and creating a persona about sexuality that is about them, rather than their child. Our job as parents is NOT to use our children to validate our own sexuality (or anything else) but rather to create a safe and open place for them to learn about themselves on their own terms, without being jaded by our baggage or burdened by our expectations.

      And I certainly don’t feel the right or need to hear the details of her sexuality, beyond “are you happy, healthy and safe.”

  38. Thank you for writing this! I have often wondered about raising a son (although so far I just have a daughter) to be respectful of women (and everyone really). Of course I want my daughter to be respectful as well but girls are less likely to sexually assault someone. I also think it’s important to make sure girls in particular know that they have control over their sexuality and that they should never let anyone pressure them into doing something they don’t want to do. There is so much pressure on women to “please their man” etc. that I really want my daughter to know there’s nothing wrong with waiting until she is ready regardless of what anyone else says.

  39. Excellent advice! I love it so much that I shared it on FB, Twitter and in my weekly Best of Blogs wrap-up:

  40. A really excellent article. Thank you so much for such a comprehensive guide to how to deal with this on an every-day level with kids. The only thing I would add that is very important in this day and age of media saturation, is a constant and open discourse of what kids are seeing in the media. For example, with little ones, even saying, “look at that little girl. Isn’t she brave?” to asking teens to think about what the messages and portrayals of women/men/relatonships etc is in this film and talking about what is or isn’t realistic or what they would do differently.
    Thanks again for a really wonderful and helpful article.

  41. I couldn’t love this more – clear ways we help change the rape culture through raising our boys. Thank you!

  42. Thanks for posting this! I serve on the board of a child abuse prevention and treatment organization in Wake County, North Carolina called SAFEchild (Stop Abuse For Every child). We have a remarkable program geared to first graders called Funny Tummy Feelings. It is provided for FREE to schools (assuming we raise money to operate all our programs!). My son went through the program last year, and we both learned tools to talk about these issues that can be scary, intimidating, and uncomfortable. Funny Tummy Feelings gave us both some comfort, confidence, and peace of mind. Here’s more info on the program:

  43. I noticed that this article recommends teaching children the correct names for their body parts. I have heard that this is helpful and empowering for children. But in the first section it also uses this phrase “Your booty needs a wash. Go for it.” Booty is the not the correct term. I think “butt” would be more accurate as it is the short form of the word buttocks.

    • Joanna Schroeder says:

      Butt isn’t any more accurate than booty. Not even buttocks when you’re talking about the anal region.

      My personal stance on this, and I’ve written about it elsewhere (will link below) is that children need to know the correct terms, but that nicknames can be used as long as the children are clear about the technical names and feels empowered and not shamed by any particular name.

      For instance, my kids know they have a penis and testicles. They know women have vulva and vagina. But when they say, “weenus” (which is the word they sort of made up and like to use) I don’t say, “Don’t say weenus!” In fact sometimes I say, “Did you wash the weenus?”

      But when talking about medical issues or whatever, I say “penis”.

      I’m not sure it’s the term that’s so important, but rather the fact that everyone feels okay talking about it and that there isn’t any shame on the actual word.

      This all comes from the last generation’s use of terms like “down there” and “dirty parts” and terms that implied there was something wrong or secretive about the vagina, in particular.

      Most of all, we just want kids to know that whatever they call it, it’s okay to talk to us about it, and that it isn’t shameful or secretive or dirty.

      • Joanna Schroeder says:
      • I sort of feel the same. I’ve heard so many people say to use the correct medical terms but it feels so awkward to me when talking to my toddler. Then I realized I don’t call her stomach an abdomen, I say tummy. I’m not trying to hide the word from her or make it taboo. So I usually say pee pee for vagina, I’m not trying to hide the technical term from her or imply it’s bad. I think if I feel awkward calling it her vagina she might pick up on my discomfort, which might imply more than using a babyish term for it.

        • As a sexual abuse prevention education educator, we do teach kids the correct terms for their body parts: the main reason being if a child comes up to an adult and says xxxxx touched my penis or xxxx touched my vagina, we all sit up and listen. There is a case where a little girl told her teacher, an adult touched her ‘cookie’ and her disclosure was sadly dismissed.

          • That is a good point, thank you. I hadn’t thought of that. I think pee pee is a common enough term that most people would know what she’s talking about, however, I should make an effort to make sure she knows the correct term, even if we sometimes say pee pee as well.

            • I think it is a good idea to teach a young female child that she has a vulva, as that is the part that is visible. Using the term pee pee would be confusing, as it can mean penis.

              • Joanna Schroeder says:

                I knew one mom who would chastise other moms for calling their daughters’ vulva “wee wee” or “privates” – but she would say, “Call it a vagina! It’s a vagina!”

                I’m like, “Actually that part isn’t the vagina, so stop being so sanctimonious.”

                If the kid wants to call it a wee wee, I’m really not against it as long as she knows it’s a vulva so she can be accurate if there’s a problem and knows there’s no embarrassment to it. I think telling her not to say “wee wee” is like telling her to say “stomach” instead of “tummy” every time, you know?

          • Joanna Schroeder says:

            I have no evidence of this, but as a parent I do think there can be some damage if you are constantly correcting your child from saying the word they use.

            Again, be sure they know the word, that you use the word frequently, and that you don’t shame them for the words they choose to use.

            I mean, no kid is going to call her vulva her “cookie” unless she wasn’t taught another word. If my kid said that (I guess for boys it’d be “hot dog”) I’d say, “You know what a hot dog is, that’s not a hot dog, silly goose, that’s your penis!”

  44. This information is invaluable. Primary prevention starts with these tips, when your family and children are safe. While it is the belief at Stop It Now! that adults need to be responsible for safety, talking about safe and healthy behaviors with children is crucial in safety planning. Letting children know that adults are willing to talk about the difficult topics, including sex, builds a net of security. Thank you for this article and the Helpline at Stop It Now! will surely direct our audience to this as an educational and supportive resource.

  45. It’s pretty obvious from this article that I missed about half of these talks at the very least.
    Then again, I wasn’t getting any to begin with, so I guess I was just saving my folks time.
    OK, insecure rant over with.
    Just saying that it all depends if the kid is even getting into relationships. If he or she isn’t having any boyfriends or girlfriend or sex, then less of these talks are needed. They’re only required for kids with healthy sex lives. As weird as that may sound, it’s true.

  46. Good article, but as a pediatrician I have one amendment to make to the preschool portion. I don’t like the thought of “teaching kids to help if someone is in trouble” as a blanket concept because some criminals/molesters/abductors use that very trait to get a child to help. “My puppy is lost, can you help me find them?” “Your mommy told me to come get you because she is hurt!” I tell parents to teach their children that you should help people your own size. If you see a child that is hurt, you can help them. If it’s a “big person”, get another “big person” to help them.

  47. 4. Nip “locker room talk” in the bud.
    I have a slight disagreement with this one. The mere existence of locker room talk in and of itself isn’t bad. Sure I’m all for changing what goes on in locker room talk but trying to nip it in the bud sounds like asking to end talking spaces segregated by gender.

    • Joanna Schroeder says:

      Danny, that’s a stretch. He’s merely saying to nip the demeaning conversation in the bud. He also notes that having crushes and feeling lusty toward someone is perfectly normal.

      It’s the disembodiment or the negative talk (which we didn’t cover) that is a problem. And the adult in question wouldn’t say “Don’t talk about girls/boys!” He/she would merely mentor the ways in which we can talk about the people we are lusting after that allows them to become full people in our minds, not objects.

      I’m certain Jane Doe was considered a “piece of ass” and that’s how they felt comfortable humiliating her.

      As far as “boys being boys” that refers to the boys who hit each other’s genitals or pinch each other’s nipples. I’ve never seen girls in middle school run up and punch each other or pinch each other’s nipples. Have you?

      They do totally different horrible things to one another.

      • Not a stretch, a misread. And if you see what I called myself responding with I actually said just what you’re saying there.

        And who said anything about the “boys being boys” part?

        I am fully aware that there are gendered differences in how boys and girls tease each other. Maybe you meant to address someone else with that?

      • The boys will be boys part probably was addressed at a comment I made earlier. I recall that Archy have been groped by girls when it school and I have to have been groped / been felt up by girls/young women when I was in my late teens and early twenties. Once a couple of random girls put of the blue pulled up my shirt and felt up my chest and belly while I was dancing with my friends at a club.

        • Joanna Schroeder says:

          Well, you don’t hear “girls will be girls” – excusing bad behavior by girls looks very different.

          • Yes it does I imagine, how about including some examples of that?

            I am asking because of some curiosity, because while “boys will be boys” address the boy who does the bad behaviour I personally only saw the “why are you upset about that” excuse directed at me when I was the target of bad behaviour from girls – I never heard what (if anything) were told to her.

            • Joanna Schroeder says:

              I’m sorry that happened to you, Tamen.

              Bullying by girls is a HUGE problem in schools. I think they are catching on to the idea that girls can bully boys (and other girls) and starting to take it more seriously than a generation back. However, what this article addresses about the “touch games” is a very specific set of behaviors observed in this age of kids that are almost always perpetrated by boys, and NOT related to bullying. These are behaviors they use with their friends, that they believe their friends like, but that they do tend to admit that do NOT like and find humiliating.

              • Although I was well outside the popular crowd and somewhat of a nerd at school I fortunately wasn’t bullied (as in singled out and terrrorized) by either boys nor girls. I did however experience inappropriate touching from girls at times. Having learnt and understood that groping someone (read: girls) without their consent was wrong I really couldn’t understand why some of the boys did engage in that behaviour with the girls who were the most developed and why it was tolerated. I also didn’t understand why a couple of those same girls found it acceptable to inappropriately touch me and some of the other boys at the lower end of the popularity ranking at school. Shouldn’t they know it’s not ok I thought. When I tried to complain I was told “why are you upset about that”.

                • Joanna Schroeder says:

                  Terrible. I know.

                  When I was in 5th and 6th grade I was terrorized by boys snapping my bra and pointing out my body development. I never saw the girls do it back to boys, but I can imagine there is something of a cycle of dehumanization happening here, if the girls are also doing it to the boys.

                  • I mentioned Archy talked about this – in one of his comments in reply to commenters on this article he published on this blog.

                    I just wanted to point out that the this artivle would’ve been even better if also point 1 under teens had not seemed to exclude bad touch from girls/women by only mentioning bad touch from men.

  48. Hank Vandenburgh says:

    Some of this is great. Some of this is the panopticon going a bit far. I’m glad that there’s still a locker room where I can comment on a hot piece of ass if I get a mind to.

    • Have you ever thought women do not like being referred to as a ‘hot piece of ass’ as if we belong in the butcher shop window. And I am not sure, Hank (as that is YOUR name ) what gives you the authority to refer to women in this manner.

      • Hank Vandenburgh says:

        My reaction is based on the notion that we should try to overspecify informal behavior. I don’t think of women as hot pieces of ass, but I’m not sure I want a culture that’s preoccupied with scrutinizing informal behavior.

      • Jayneen, I would like to ask you an honest question. Do you consider there to be a difference between commenting on a body part and conceptualizing a person merely as that body part? I’m not saying Hank was referring to one or the other, I’m just curious as to if you see a logical or moral difference between “X has a nice ass” and “X is a hot piece of ass”.

      • “Have you ever thought women do not like being referred to as a ‘hot piece of ass’ as if we belong in the butcher shop window. And I am not sure, Hank (as that is YOUR name ) what gives you the authority to refer to women in this manner.”

        Freedom of speech gives him the “authority” to refer to women like that. You may not like it, but welcome to democracy, where people are allowed to say things you don’t like. Hell, do you think us guys like it when we are constantly implied to be stupid, incompetent, pigs, or oversexed? The fact that it goes on in a male locker room, completely out of your earshot makes me wonder why you are so irritated about it.

        • Joanna Schroeder says:

          Pete, just because a person says that they don’t want to be talked about that way, and wants people to consider others’ feelings before speaking doesn’t mean they want them to not be allowed to talk that way, legally.

          When we’re talking about democracy, we’re talking about laws. Not once did she ask for a law to be changed, or even a rule.

          She asked him to think about others’ feelings.

          And isn’t that the place where we ALL should be starting? Men and women? With considering others’ feelings?

          • Well, she asked “what gives you the authority”, indicating she thinks freedom of speech should include only the freedom to agree with her. Secondly, if you’re really so worried about what someone else is saying behind closed doors, you’ve got problems. If a tree falls in the woods and no one is around to hear it, does it still make a sound?

  49. It was going pretty good until it got to the teen section and suddenly became gender specific. Whether or not you agree that girls can sexually abuse boys, that boys have boundaries that should be respected, that there are cultural narratives that teach girls that it is okay to ignore boys’ boundaries, that boys would ever turn down sex, or that boys suffer body issues, it would at least fit the general tone of the article to humor those ideas on the off chance some boys might not enjoy having a girl touch them or have sex with them without their permission and that girls might need to be taught to respect other people’s boundaries. Otherwise, it was a good article.

  50. Thank you all SO much for such an informative article! This kind of information for parents and educators is crucial as we battle against a tide of inappropriate messages our kids receive all day every day.

  51. Parents can start modeling consent with newborns by not circumcising. All the rhetoric about our children’s bodies being their own is only hypocritical when many boy’s first sexual experience is having the most sensitive part of their body cut up. Circumcised boys are reminded of that hypocrisy, consciously and unconsciously, every time they go to the bathroom, bathe, masturbate, or have sex. It’s no wonder than talk of consent often falls on deaf ears for males whose consent was violated within the earliest hours of being born.

    • Well said Kelev! It is hypocritical to teach children they have “private parts” only for some of them to find out (often with shock and horror as I did) that THEIR private parts were seriously violated in infancy.

      The resulting scars, both physically and emotionally from this unwarranted surgical tampering have negatively impacted my self esteem and sexual function. How can one teach a child about consent if they have been subjected to genital abuse of this sort without their consent?

      I appreciate you speaking up, and pointing out how hypocritical it is to discuss teaching consent while pretending it doesn’t matter.

      • Are you assuming that we as writers are being hypocritical? As a mother of intact sons, I’d beg to differ.

      • Alyssa royse says:

        Although I personally am not a “circumciser” (made easier by the fact that I have girls,) I think this is a good time to remember to use language like “some people” rather than all people. I think it’s safe to assume that not all boys and men are scarred by this. I know very few who are, but I do know some who are. Personally, I don’t believe in the practice and I love my “intact” partner’s intact penis. I wish there was more discussion about not circumcising. But I think it’s important not to catastrophize something that for many people is not a catastrophe, and was usually done out of a strong belief (however wrong) that it was in the best interest of the health and happiness of the child. That is, don’t make something intentionally malicious out of it. Motive does matter.

        That said, I would LOVE to further conversation about leaving them intact. I agree that it is a practice that I would love to see stopped. We just need to be respectful of the language and approach. And not to tell men who have been circumcised that they are victims of something horrible that they should be scarred by, when many of them simply are not.

        • …and was usually done out of a strong belief (however wrong) that it was in the best interest of the health and happiness of the child…
          See this is where I may split off from you. It seems odd that for all the talk of how someone’s bodily autonomy is important this seems to be one of those cases where even people that would call for justice against the idea of cutting the genitals of girls have no problem cutting the genitals of boys.

          But I’m with you on the rest of it.

          • Alyssa Royse says:

            Oh, I believe it was wrong. I just don’t want to add retroactive cruel intent to something that was for a long time believed to be the only responsible thing to do. I do want to call for a stop to this, I just don’t want to go back however many years and accuse people of a “crime” that at the time no one thought twice about. And I don’t want to create retroactive shame in men who simply don’t have it. But if I were “gawd,” no little boy’s penis would be touched in that way. For real.

            • Hey do you have an email address I could contact you further over this about since circumcision is pretty off topic with what’s going on here?

              • Alyssa Royse says:

                Danny, I’m pretty sure that if you click through on my name it’ll take you to my personal blog, which has contact info on it. 😉 (And has been totally ignored lately.)

        • Alyssa, you make good points and I agree. Although we need to be careful about the fact that many women who have been circumcised and who defend the practice make similar arguments in defense of circumcision (both male and female). The idea that not all women have been severely damaged by circumcision (or at least don’t see themselves as having been damaged by it) ends up being twisted into an argument, not about empowerment and resilience, but about how female circumcision is somehow not so bad.

          We need to keep in mind that, in the context of male circumcision, silence / diminishing is still the default position. Many men who have been severely traumatised by circumcision don’t even know it and aren’t even capable of or empowered to acknowledge it consciously due to the societal norm of downplaying that damage — one of the most perverse and pervasive versions of “boys don’t cry.”

          You are right that we shouldn’t catastrophize. But we also shouldn’t diminish. The correct path needs to be a Buddhist kind of “middle way” where we don’t make circumcision sound like something men can’t recover from but where we can acknowledge the injustice of circumcision and it’s role within rape culture,

    • As a pediatrician, I feel compelled to post that while I would never circumcise a boy against his parents beliefs, there are definite health benefits to circumcision:

      Not only are there fewer UTIs and rates of penile cancer in circumcised males, of note as far as this conversation is the fact that there is less transmission of disease from a circumcised penis, as there is a greater numbr of T-cells that remain under the foreskin that have been found to transmit HIV and other STDs . Great way to teach our circumcised sons that they have responsibility in the sexual partner relationship.

      • Ilene, I’m a doctoral candidate specialising in health and education issues who has researched sexual education, STD prevention, and related issues in the EU, US, Middle East, and SE Asia as part of my work. I can say as a professional in the field that the “health benefits” of circumcision are a myth. Indeed, 38 representatives from numerous medical associations throughout the EU just issued a rebuttal of the AAP’s claims of such benefits and two medical journals have covered the issue, featuring the arguments debunking the AAP’s claims.

        Foremost among the evidence debunking claims of such benefits is the fact that the US has both the highest rate of circumcision as well as the highest rates of HIV and other STDs in the western world. Meanwhile the EU, where circumcision is rare, has far lower rates of such disease. If there was anywhere in the world where we would have expected circumcision to yield benefits, it would have been in the US after generations of near-universal circumcision. Instead, we see just the opposite.


          Some things are more important than respecting babies bodies. I have heard that circumcision is quite a horrid procedure to go through as an adult, and circumcising your son makes him 60% less likely to contract HIV. It might not be ideal to make changes to a baby’s body before he is old enough to decide for himself, but life is not perfect, and compromises have to be made. By circumcising your son you are not only protecting him, but everyone else he may have sex with or rape in the future.

          Maybe the US has a higher incidence of HIV because people don’t use condoms? There are too many other variables to consider, that is why scientists do controlled studies. I challenge you to find a study that backs up your claims.

      • Ilene More, your comment made compelled to post a link to a study trying to find other confounding factors as to why circumcised women have a lower risk for HIV infection. The failed to find any other/stronger confounding factor than the circumcision:

        In the final logistic model, circumcision remained highly significant [OR=0.60; 95% CI 0.41,0.88] while adjusted for region, household wealth, age, lifetime partners, union status, and recent ulcer.

        In other words: Female circumcision reduce risk of HIV in women.

        This well known studies and others following in it’s trails were used to sway the UN and a host of NGO and governments in Africa to start large campaigns to circumcise as many female infants one possibly could. No wait, that never happened because that would just be horrible.

        Meanwhile; someone made a study on HIV risk among circumcised men and we all know what happened then.

  52. 6. Mentor teenage and college-aged boys and young men
    This is a huge one even though it comes relatively later on in life. Before going on about “respect women” and so forth something needs to come before it. Boys/men need to be able to respect and appreciate their own bodies and their own feelings when it comes to sexuality.

    Abandon the idea that a guy’s manhood is measured by how active his sex life is.

    Abandon the idea that a guy has to be straight to be considered a man.

    Abandon the idea that a guy has to have a specific genital configuration in to be considered a man.


    Then and ONLY then can we move on to intergender relations.

    • Joanna Schroeder says:

      They can happen concurrently and you are SO RIGHT, Danny that we need to teach boys pride in being male, and that their value lies in their characters, not their conquests.


      • I actually think it’s just important, particularly by teenage years, to teach young women about positive masculinity. (And to teach young men and women about positive femininity…but we’ll stick to masculinity here since it’s a men’s site. 🙂 )

        Anyway, in the younger years it makes sense to teach kids about positive ways to be their own gender as a building block to bringing positive change to the way men and women interact with each other. But by the teenage years, well young women can perpetuate rape culture by believing and perpetuating all the myths from toxic masculinity too (and shaming the young men who don’t adhere to them).

        • I can dig it. Both teachings need to happen or everyone loses.

        • Princesssookeh says:

          I agree. Sometimes women are just as bad and need to be called out when they cross that line. I mean it for all of those “i’m not like all those other girls” people especially.

    • And never tell your kids that male body is ugly and female body is beautiful ( believe me, I heard parents and teachers told this ) . We need boys to respect their own body so they can respect female bodies better.

  53. Joanna Schroeder says:

    Thank you, Robert. I believe we are all stronger when we come together. This post is a collaboration between myself and 3 educators who all have different perspectives.

    HUGE HUGE props to Jamie Utt, who is amazing, for giving us the majority of the info on teens and young adults. This is what Jamie does as his life work and I hope more people will reach out to him to speak with young adults across the country.

  54. It’s time we addressed what to do about rape culture instead of just identify it, time to be proactive instead of reactive, and this nails it. This is the best thing I’ve seen, in terms of its depth and simplicity, for parents and educators to be able to realize. I’d be promoting this regardless where it came from. As an editor/writer, thank you for affecting change via collaboration; as a parent, thank you.


  1. […] the same time, I can’t ever escape the feeling that no matter how many articles are published about the importance of teaching boys consent, no matter how many clever cartoons or […]

  2. […] The Healthy Sex Talk: Teaching Kids Consent, Ages 1-21 by the editors of The Good Men Project […]

  3. […] The Healthy Sex Talk: Teaching Kids Consent, Ages 1-21 (the Good Men Project) Why Talking with Teens About the Age of Consent Matters On Teachable Moments and Consent On Teachable Moments and Consent, Part 2 Bleed Like Me and Emotional Coercion When Yes Isn’t Really Yes: Coercion is NOT Consent (Bleed Like Me by Christa Desir) Sexual Violence, Drinking and Date Rape Drugs Consent and Teenage Vulnerability, discussing age of consent and POINTE by Brandy Colbert (by Christa Desir) […]

  4. […] If you want to read more about the topic visit: […]

  5. […] children as early ages 1- 21 The Healthy Sex Talk: Teaching Kids Consent, Ages 1-21 The Healthy Sex Talk: Teaching Kids Consent, Ages 1-21 – The Good Men Project I learned from this article about the kids' ages 1-21. I thought; share it for parents to learn […]

  6. […] The Healthy Sex Talk: teaching kids consent, ages 1-21 […]

  7. […] 3. Teaching consent can start at a very young age by modeling consent. Say to your toddler, “Can I pick you up?” Wait for their acknowledgement whether it is with body language or words. Before helping your child get dressed, ask, “Can I take off your pajamas?” And wait for consent. If they say no, but you have to get them dressed, explain to them what you are going to do and why – For example, “We have to go to the store and you have to wear clothes, so if you cannot do it by yourself, I have to help you.” Put the focus on helping them or keeping them safe. When playing games like tickling or wrestling, stop frequently and ask for consent. If your child says no, listen. When children are playing together, teach them that if the other person says no or stop, that you must listen. Enforce consequences for not listening. […]

  8. […] I will leave you with one of my favorite age appropriate sex education resources for working with young children: […]

  9. […] The Healthy Sex Talk: Teaching Kids Consent, Ages 1-21 […]

  10. […] “The Healthy Sex Talk: Teaching Kids Consent, Ages 1-21“, a piece I co-wrote with Alyssa Royse, Julie Gillis, and Joanna Schroeder, was by far my most-read contribution of 2013 with more than 1 million hits on numerous platforms. […]

  11. […] harassment” is a very useful term for 6-year-olds, but it is for their parents. The most comprehensive list of ways in which to teach children ages 5-18 about consent that I’ve read is one written by Julie Gillis, Jamie Utt, Alyssa Royse and Joanna Schroeder. […]

  12. […] I want to give my wonderful nieces or nephew a kiss or tickle them, I need to […]

  13. […] idea of building verbal consent as a normal part of life and relationships is explored here:…ent-ages-1-21/ It's about teaching children from a very, very young age about boundaries and building in asking […]

  14. […] harassment” is a very useful term for 6-year-olds, but it is for their parents. The most comprehensive list of ways in which to teach children ages 5-18 about consent that I’ve read is one written by Julie Gillis, Jamie Utt, Alyssa Royse and Joanna Schroeder. […]

  15. […] Below are some guidelines to help understand and navigate the grey areas so they become black and white. We’re big on consent here at GMP, whether those are lessons for teens or kids age 1-21. […]

  16. […] The Healthy Sex Talk: Teaching Kids Consent, Ages 1-21 […]

  17. […] Consent. Your son needs to be able to tell his partner that he gives consent and he needs to be able to hear consent from his partner. Make sure he understands that consent is reasonably specific and that he should use terms like […]

  18. […] You may also like: The Healthy Sex Talk, Ages 1-21 […]

  19. says:

    Importance of teaching kids about sexual consent

    steps to teach children sexual consent at an early age to raise a generation of sensitive men.

  20. […] Teaching Kids Consent, Ages 1-21 “teach your child that his or her ‘no’s’ are to be honored. Explain that just like we always stop doing something when someone says ‘no’, that our friends need to always stop when we say ‘no’, too.  If a friend doesn’t stop when we say ‘no,’ then we need to think about whether or not we feel good, and safe, playing with them. If not, it’s okay to choose other friends.” […]

  21. […] has got some really great articles. Seriously, go check out the collaborative piece titled “The Healthy Sex Talk: Teaching Kids Consent, Ages 1-21” and this great piece by Jamie Utt titled “An Open Letter to the Rapey Frat Brother and the […]

  22. […] The Healthy Sex Talk: Teaching Kids Consent, Ages 1-21 […]

  23. […] both questions, here’s one answer: teach them about consent from age 1 onwards. I even have a link to a guide that helps parents do just that. For more advice, check out my sexting tips […]

  24. […] can end rape culture. [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, […]

  25. […] Here are tips for teaching kids about sex and consent in an age-appropriate way, brought to you by T…. […]

  26. […] and teaching children about consent and respect for their own and others’ personal boundaries (see this great article for more on this!). Nearly all parents realize that this kind of preparation is important, but it seems to me that […]

  27. […] The Healthy Sex Talk: Teaching Kids Consent, Ages 1-21 […]

  28. […] The Healthy Sex Talk: Teaching Kids Consent, Ages 1-21 […]

  29. […] “The Healthy Sex Talk: Teaching Kids Consent, Ages 1-21” was published by Goodmenproject in March this year. It’s designed for parents but has a wide usefulness for teaching staff and family workers – there’s even a translation in Spanish. […]

  30. […] read:the Healthy Sex Talk: Teaching Consent Ages 1-21You Can Get Laid Without Being a Jerk25 Failsafe* Rules for Dads Raising […]

  31. […] this fantastic article this morning with clear and concise tips (and examples!) for parents about how to […]

  32. […] The Healthy Sex Talk: Teaching Consent Ages 1-21 […]

  33. […] The Healthy Sex Talk: Teaching Kids Consent Ages 1-21 […]

  34. […] 1. I am proud to have co-authored this piece with some great people. The Healthy Sex Talk: Teaching Kids Consent, Ages 1-21 […]

  35. […] Good Men Project has a program called The Healthy Sex Talk, which looks at ways to raise children to be more aware of consent, other’s boundaries, and […]

  36. […] first, but it’s crucial that we teach our children the fundamentals of consent early on (see The Healthy Sex Talk, Teaching Consent Ages 1-21, which I co-wrote). Teaching kids and teens to see how their actions affect others is crucial in […]

  37. […] mean to alarm you, but women in film are apparently decreasing quicker than the polar ice caps.- Raising children to really understand consent.- One of the many (but by far worst) consequences of abstinence only […]

  38. […] being able to talk to kids about their changing bodies and about sex means being able to talk about consent. this post discusses ways of introducing the concept with wee kiddos — an empowering […]

  39. […] great article about teaching our kids about […]

  40. […] Resources for how to teach boys and men about consent, in order to prevent them from raping, are few and far between.  One provocative post I found this week was, “The Problem With Boys Will Be Boys”.  Read the post itself, then follow the links in the article.  Even if you’re not religious, I would also suggest reading, “After Steubenville: 25 Things Our Sons need to know about Manhood”.  For parents, there is a very good primer called “The Healthy Sex Talk: Teaching Kids Consent, Ages 1-21″. […]

  41. […] often, but starting the conversation doesn’t have to be scary! The Good Men Project has a great starter list  of ways to guide kids of all ages in setting and respecting boundaries and developing an […]

  42. […] In the meantime, look over this past post that I helped write on consent and parenting for Good Men …. […]

  43. […] Read more:  The Healthy Sex Talk: Teaching Kids Consent, Ages 1-21 […]

  44. […] is, how it is a society-wide problem, and what we can all do to prevent it.  Have frank, yet age-appropriate conversations with your children, students, or other young people about […]

  45. […] The Healthy Sex Talk: Teaching Kids Consent, Ages 1-21 […]

  46. […] Teaching prevention over consent […]

  47. […] Teach your kids consent! A handy guide to consent-based sex education. (Via Good Men Project.) […]

  48. […] The Healthy Sex Talk: Teaching Consent, Ages 1-21 […]

  49. […] The Healthy sex talk: Teaching kids consent, age 1-21. […]

  50. […] As Elliott notes in the interview, this is something people have a problem admitting. We do not want to believe that women can commit such violence. Feminists in particular are hesitant to talk about this issue, even when discussing something as basic as teaching girls to ask for and respect boys’ consent. […]

  51. […] more simple terms, The Good Men Project published a set of guidelines for teaching children ages 1-21 about healthy sex and consent that steers children and youth away […]

  52. […] Know or work with youth? An excellent resource on creating inclusive spaces for LGTBQ youth here, and another on teaching kids consent at any age here. […]

  53. […] 3. First The Bird Asked The Bee… Without a lifelong discussion of consent, even the most comprehensive sexual education is like being given a roadmap without first knowing the rules of the road. […]

  54. […] The Healthy Sex Talk: Teaching Kids Consent, Ages 1-21 More concrete actions for parents to develop children who understand and practice consent, arranged by age group: 1 to 5 years, 5 to 12 years, and teens and young adults. It’s not too early to start. […]

  55. […] this conversation is happening, and we’ve done posts here at GMP on teaching consent that have gone viral, we need more, on more levels, and in more areas from […]

  56. […] need to engage the young males in our life to understand consent in age appropriate ways.  We need to help young boys understand that they can perform their gender and masculinity in […]

  57. […] can start very young, as young as one year old, and to be successful we can’t ever stop the […]

  58. […] Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Jamie Utt, Julie Gillis, Alyssa Royse and Joanna Schroeder, editors of The Good Men Project. An extended version of this post was originally published here. […]

  59. […] published on The Good Men Project and cross-posted here with their […]

  60. […] The Healthy Sex Talk: Teaching Kids Consent, Ages 1-21 […]

  61. […] Check out this amazing site (for dads!) about how to educate children of any age about respecting their partners, respecting personal space, and (in turn) minimizing casual attitudes about rape: The Healthy Sex Talk […]

  62. […] about consent. This is an excellent primer on talking to kids of all ages about respecting personal space and their own […]

  63. […] Also read The Healthy Sex Talk: Teaching Kids Consent, Ages 1-21 […]

  64. […] This is a comment by Ilene Moore on the post “The Healthy Sex Talk: Teaching Kids Consent, Ages 1-21“. […]

  65. […] The Healthy Sex Talk: Teaching Kids Consent, Ages 1-21 […]

  66. […] gotta give. The next generation is a fantastic place to start. Give this a read . . . and a try: I know I […]

  67. […] These are comments by Paris, Jenny, and Robert Duffer on the post “The Healthy Sex Talk: Teaching Kids Consent, Ages 1-21“. […]

  68. […] You’re Tired of Hearing About “Rape Culture”? The Healthy Sex Talk: Teaching Kids Consent, Ages 1-21 What Happens When We Don’t Teach Our Boys About […]

  69. […] Teaching consent to kids ages 1-21. Hat tip to Melissa! […]

  70. […] The Healthy Sex Talk: Teaching Kids Consent, Ages 1-21 — The Good Men Project. […]

  71. […] The Healthy Sex Talk: Teaching Kids Consent, Ages 1-21 […]

  72. […] Read this awesome breakdown The Healthy Sex Talk–Teaching Kids Consent Ages 1-21 […]

  73. […] This is a comment by Danny on the post “The Healthy Sex Talk: Teaching Kids Consent, Ages 1-21“. […]

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