Consent. We often think of this as a word from the grown-up world. We debate over and over in court whether an assault victim has given it or not. Actually, we debate whether the perpetrator believed it had been given, as if the fact that we are here in court is no reason to suspect it hadn’t been. We think that upon sexual awakening, there is a sudden suppression of all sense and good judgment, as if the understanding of what consent entails was once completely developed but has been hijacked by hormones.
Consent applies across many domains. Notably of late, we associate it with sexual activity, but in a kid’s world it figures prominently in terms of giving and taking toys, playing games, and affectionate gestures. Knowing the role of consent in these activities carries over to not-yet-experienced ones – a transferable skill, if you will. Taught rigorously from an early age, the reflex to assert and respect consent or lack of it may become well-honed enough to be able to interpret subtler messages, understand one’s own right to object, and resist one’s own problematic urges. Long before kids are sexually active, they need to know what consent looks like, how to ask for it and how to give it.
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