Let's Chat about Consent...

This blog was originally published Feb, 20, 2019

It is February and that means it's Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month! When speaking with teens, I often hear questions surrounding consent, like:

  • How do I say "no"?

  • When do I give consent?

  • What if he/she takes my "no" as a joke"?

  • What if I feel pressured?

  • What if I said "yes", then changed my mind? Can I change my mind? Will he/she take me seriously?

  • Consent to do... What, exactly?

  • Can guys give consent, too?

First, let me start by saying that your "no" is enough. To answer the first question - How do I say "no"? - here's an example:

You don't need added emphasis to make your "no" more effective. No means no. Now, let's get into these questions... 'cause I've got answers!

When do I give consent?

It's really good to have the conversation before you go out. Set the boundaries in advance, so there won't be any confusion. Clearly let your date know what you are not willing to do and that it's not up for discussion, negotiation, or debate. Of course, to know what you are willing to do (or not) in an intimate relationship, you need to actually take time to think about your values. Journaling, talking to an older sister or cousin. or a trusted adult can be very helpful. One thing I can assure you is that we've all been there. There's nothing to be ashamed about... establish your boundaries based on your values.

What if he/she takes my "no" as a joke"?

Your voice matters and you deserve respect. Period! Matters of your personal boundaries should not be mocked or challenged. They are yours to make, based on your values. If your date doesn't value your values, then he/she essentially doesn't value you. I recommend dating those who appreciate you, over those who merely tolerate you.

What if I feel pressured?

Almost all youth, at some point in their teenage years, feel pressured. Some peer pressure moves us to greatness - like an athletic or academic competition. Whereas others puts us on a an unhealthy path like substance abuse or cutting. In the dating arena, pressure more than likely would not provide positive results. Dating should be an experience that does not restrict or pressure you, but allows you to get to know someone better and have fun. Dating is not jumping into a pressure cooker. There's no fun in being pressured on a date! This is why it's good to date those who have similar values as you. Know the person you're dating before going out and have a safety plan.

What if I said "yes", then changed my mind? Can I change my mind? Will he/she take me seriously?

Yes, you can change your mind! And what you say, goes! If you previously gave consent, you are entitled to change your mind. Don't worry about what others think. You know what's best for you, and you have a right to choose.

Consent to do... What, exactly?

This is a good question! The obvious answer may be sex. But, consent has to do with your personal boundaries. What do you find acceptable in your dating relationship? Kissing, sexting, even holding hands in public are things to consider. Consent should be given at every instance. You should never be forced to do anything you do not want to do, even if you did it in the past. Teen Dating Violence can cause symptoms of anxiety and depression, even suicide. Know your boundaries and give consent without peer pressure.

Can guys give consent, too?

Absolutely! Consent is for all involved parties. Guys - "Know Your No" (boundaries) before going on a date. All of the above applies to you, as well. No is an empowering word.

Through PADV (Partnership Against Domestic Violence), I am a volunteer on the Domestic Violence Hotline in Georgia. It's an amazing resource for victims of relationship violence. I recommend the following Teen Dating Violence hotline if you need help, visit LoveIsRespect.org or call (866) 331-9474. Share this information with your friends!

Visit the IRIS Campaign for more information on books, workshops and more regarding teen dating violence awareness and prevention.

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