Written by: Lyn Staack, Youth Education Coordinator
This Wednesday, April 29, is Denim Day. Denim Day is a global annual event which asks people to wear denim as a way to spark discussion about sexual consent.
This year the Advocacy Center and our ACTion volunteers are asking people to find creative ways to spark conversations about consent. With those closest to us (literally living with us). And with other people we interact with during the day at work or online. We aren’t asking you to lecture anyone. Invite, spark interest and allow space for conversation.
What does consent mean to you? What have you learned about sex, sexuality, and relationships? What makes a good relationship? What is good sex? How do we create intimacy with others when we are sheltering in place and staying physically distant?
To spark conversations:
- Wear jeans to your video meetings and tell people why you are wearing jeans instead of sweat pants.
- Share a picture of yourself wearing jeans or visit our Facebook or Instagram @AdvocacyTC for graphics to share
- Share your own thoughts about what consent means in our daily lives and why it is important.
Want to explore your own ideas about sexual consent? Or know more about how to talk about consent with your friends, your children or other people in your life? Check out all the resources below! If you’re looking for adult conversation starters scroll on toward the end.
As a concept consent is important even with young kids: how many times have you seen parents teaching toddlers to ask before taking a toy from someone else? Conversations about respect, asking and giving consent in a whole variety of non-sexual situations start early and happen often.
One thing you could do is to share a personal or legal definition of sexual consent. Tweens and teens who are not old enough to legally be having “sex” with other people are likely be curious about sexual interactions, romance, attraction and relationships. It is important for young teens and adults alike to know they have the right to choose what they are and are not okay comfortable with around their own sexuality and bodies. And, to understand that what is okay and not okay in terms of sexual interactions is both individually decided and also socially agreed upon– ethically by some religions and family values, and legally by school codes of conduct, workplace policies, and state and federal laws.
Want other ideas for talking about consent with children and teens? This article from Healthline has suggestions about how to teach consent at every age. It starts with debunking one of the most damaging misconceptions about the “sex talk” — the idea that it is one “talk.” Because as author Sarah Aswell says, “by the time you hit them with the talk, children of all ages have already gotten a bunch of messages about sex, relationships, and consent from somewhere else. From cartoons to fairy tales, nursery rhymes to pop songs, grandma to the kid next door… by the time your child can comprehend these stories, they’ve already internalized some concepts. So as a parent, it’s your job to translate, explain, debunk, and convey these messages.” Our Youth Education Coordinator recommends reading the whole article (it’s short) and watch the videos (they are fun as well as educational.)
If you want to jump to information for a specific age, here you go:
Quick links to videos mentioned in Sarah Aswell’s article:
Talking about Body Autonomy (less than 4 minutes)
Consent for Kids *(less than 3 minutes)
Parents Explain Consent ( less than 3 minutes) parents get specific with their tweens and young teens
Planned Parenthood website and videos for more mature teens
*Note: Be prepared to answer questions about the difference between everyday interactions that children can choose yes or no, and those situations like urgent medical or safety interactions –where an adult might grab someone who is too close to traffic or getting stitches that are needed but they may be nervous about. There are also things that we agree to –like wearing clothes at school or work– even if we may not be enthusiastic about because we want to go to school or work. A current example of this is choosing to stay at home because the health department recommends that as a way to keep everyone safer.
Looking for more complicated and mature considerations about consent?
Below you’ll find a couple of great podcasts, books, and articles with more nuanced discussions of sexual consent. Please be aware that these resources may contain discussions or examples of sexual interactions, masturbation, and adult themed messaging/language. These are not intended for younger audiences and we do not necessarily endorse all content on a website.
In 2017, radio-maker Kaitlin Prest released a mini-series called “No” about her personal struggle to understand and communicate about sexual consent. That show, which dives into the experience, moment by moment, of navigating sexual intimacy, struck a chord with many of us. It’s gorgeous, deeply personal, and incredibly thoughtful. And, it seemed to presage a much larger conversation. RadioLab decided to embark, with Kaitlin, on our own exploration of this topic. Over their three episodes, they wander into rooms full of college students, hear from academics and activists, and sit in on classes about BDSM.
Over the course of this three-part podcast series on consent, the Sugars answer letters from some of these women and explore the complexity and nuance of sexual consent. In this first episode of the series, they read letters from two women who have opposing reactions to the #MeToo moment. “How do I make the men in my life understand where women everywhere are coming from?” asks one woman, adding, “My blood boils when listening to their insensitive and wholly incorrect comments.” Another woman asks: “In some cases, like the accusations against Louis C.K., I find myself feeling strangely defensive of the men’s behavior. Am I just as big of a sleazebag as these guys are for letting these things happen?” To answer these questions, the Sugars call on the writer and activist Jaclyn Friedman, who popularized the “yes means yes” standard of sexual consent.
Sexual assault and consent themes are present in many books. Our quick text survey found that:
- Our Campus Educator has been reading Sexual Citizens by Jennifer S. Hirsch and Shamus Khan.
- Our Youth Education Coordinator has been reading What You Really Want: the smart girl’s shame free guide to sex and safety by Jaclyn Friedman.
- Several of our ACTion teens have read Know my Name: a Memoir: by Chanel Miller and one of them recently read The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini.
Spending your evenings watching movies? This blog post on Everyday Feminism has five picks from the silver screen that show that while consent is non-negotiable it doesn’t ‘ruin the mood’.
So this Denim Day, we invite you to put some pants on, jeans if you have them. Of course you can leave your sweat pants on. Your choice. Either way, clothes aren’t part of sexual consent!