A word we all know and use, but do we understand it? What actually is sexual consent? In the UK the age of consent is 16, meaning that individuals aged 16 and over are legally allowed to have sex. And therefore, over 16s can be punished for having sexual activities with minors. That seems really easy to understand.
But what about people having underage sex? I went on a safeguarding course last year in which we covered consent. We were all taught that consent was about communication between two (or more) individuals. If these people had similar ideas and understanding about sex, then it could be consensual. For example, we would assume that two 15-year-olds would have similar understandings of sex. So they would be able to make some kind of thought out and understood the decision about sex. And then it would be okay?
I don't know. Honestly. I think its naive to suggest that people just shouldn't be having sex under whatever the consensual age is where they live. It might be ideal, but it doesn't happen. I went to a public school in Kent, and we were taught sex ed in year 5, so when I was 9/10 years old. I remember from this point being taught 'how babies are made'. Just that we were taught where babies come from, and how they come into the world. I started my period in year 7, when I was 11. My parents hadn't yet had 'the chat' with me, so I didn't have a clue what was happening to my body. Then at the age of 14/15 in secondary school, we were taught about safe sex and contraception. As an adult, I can't help but think that there is such a gap in education. Children are not taught about their own bodies. Why are girls and young women not taught what amazing things their bodies can do? And why are we not taught that we can voice our sexual wants and needs?
Underage sex is difficult. Because you are never going to stop it. What we can do is teach sex education throughout schooling, and not just sex. Teaching teenagers about foreplay, consent, contraception, abortion. We need to teach this because it is essential to life. And although we would love to believe that innocent 14 years olds are not having sex, and do not need contraception, some do. I would rather safe, educated sex than denial. We have to remember that some children will not be taught it elsewhere. It is not fair to not teach children about consent on a national scale and then expect all 14-year-olds to have the same understandings. Because they won't. Some may be more mature, some may know more. If that is the case, then how do we expect the ones who don't know to give informed consent? I don't think we can.
I have been on multiple types of contraception in my life. And in January of 2018, I gave up. My body does not accept hormonal contraception. When I decided to come off of contraception, my partner and I had been together a year. I remember feeling so scared to even suggest coming off contraception. But why should I be scared? Isn't sex something that happens between two consensual individuals? If so, then shouldn't I have a say in how we have sex. The methods of preventing pregnancy we use? When I suggested it, my boyfriend was great. And so am I.
So.. every time? Do you need to ask every time? I think so. But I also think that if you are having sex with someone repeatedly then maybe they should know when you're uncomfortable. My boyfriend always knows. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't say. Male or female. If you don't want to for whatever reason that may be, you should voice it. And it should be accepted. Whether this is your first time having sex with them or you've been married for 30 years. We should always ask.
Consent is easy when you're educated and you understand.