For me and my sisters, “the talk” was supported by a book about the birds and the bees that outlined everything in perfect clinical fashion. To have such a helpful tool must have been quite a relief for my father. He could have ended the discussion right there and given himself a pat on the back for making sure his daughters knew all there was to know. However, he saw a need for more. More discussion about intimacy, more discussion about the role sex plays in any healthy relationship, and more, much more, about consent.
True to his character, my father also saw the need for a more visual example and before we knew it, my sisters and I were whisked off to the local movie theatre for “more” in the form of the now cult favorite motion picture Super Fly. Yes, I’m dating myself with this reference, I know.
My father’s point was to show us how women are often coerced, forced and bullied into doing things (including prostitution) that they don’t want to do. I see now that this was his way of starting the discussion about sexual assault and rape, and educating us about the necessity of consent.
Everyone has different views about sex and preferences. Sex is intimate, romantic, caring, and loving. Sex has and will always play a role in any healthy relationship. It’s nothing to be ashamed of or shy about. The one intrinsic quality about sex is that it’s consensual.
There is no going around this fundamental definition. Sex, or the term “having sex,” communicates that all individuals involved have agreed to engage.
Obtaining sex by threats, force, intimidation, coercion or while someone is unable to use the word “NO” is rape. It’s not sex.
In addition, we must all understand that being unable to use the words “NO” or being unable to give consent includes individuals who are intoxicated and children who are not mature or old enough to consent or legally say “Yes.” So that’s an automatic “NO!”
Yes, my father’s tactics may have been different, unorthodox even, but the one thing he understood and wanted us to understand was the meaning of consent and the true definition of sex.
I am thankful to him for his efforts, and I encourage all of us to examine our belief surrounding consent, learn the laws concerning consent and find any tool, whether clinical or creative, to inform our children about the requirement of consent in sexual relationships.
By Ernestine McRae, HAVEN Residential Program Director
Courtesy of HAVEN.