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

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  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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!!

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. “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…

  15. Wyatt whystinger says:

    What an excellent article!

  16. 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.

  17. 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

  18. 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.


  1. 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.

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

  3. […] 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 […]

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

  5. […] 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. […]

  6. […] 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. […]

  7. […] 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 […]

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

  9. […] 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. […]

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

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

  13. […] 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. […]

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

  15. […] 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 […]

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

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