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By Angelina Campanile
Saying “yes” is easy. Saying “no” can be difficult.
While some high school freshmen first learn about sexual consent in health class, many others hear about it in college. What does consent mean? And what is the best way to approach this awkward topic with your teenager?
Research shows that parents who talk openly to their children about sexuality—sharing their personal values about healthy sexual relationships—have influence over their children’s sexual behavior as they grow.
It’s important to make sure your teen understands the full meaning of consent because it can allow them to protect themselves from unwanted sexual activity, harassment and assault.
Breaking the Ice
Here are some tips to get the conversation started from Mary Faith Terkildsen, MD, an expert in sexual health and adolescent gynecology:
The Biggest Misconception About Consent
All too often, teens wrongly believe that saying nothing is the same as giving consent. Help your teen understand that only “yes” means yes. There is no substitute. Saying “yes” when under the influence of alcohol or drugs does not qualify as consent.
The concept of consent seems simple but teenagers may find it difficult to voice their objection during a sexual encounter. Maybe they are embarrassed or worried about hurting the other person’s feelings. Let your teen know that it’s okay for them to say, “This is making me uncomfortable.” Talk with them about silent behaviors that do not mean consent, such as passivity, submission, silence, gifts exchanged, going on a date, or agreeing to go to a private location.
For more information about teens and sexual health, talk with your teen’s pediatrician or contact our Adolescent Care program.