17 Things Feminist Moms Teach Their Sons About Consent (Even At A Young Age)

Ad failed to load

Being a feminist parent means a lot of things. It means, among other things, instilling in our children a sense of equality and social justice, teaching them to be body positive, showing them how to love themselves, and allowing them to speak their mind while also showing them how to be good allies. These days, one of the biggest hurdles for feminist moms is knowing how to teach our children about consent. And beyond that, realizing that feminism isn't just something that we pass along to our daughters, or something that informs how we raise our daughters and what we teach them — feminism, in fact, is arguably even more important when it comes to how it affects the things we're teaching our sons.

At a time when high school football players that rape unconscious girls are protected by their community, prep school students rape in the name of “tradition” and are subsequently given a mere slap on the back, and rape culture is seen nearly everywhere, it’s up to us not only as parents, but as human beings, to make sure we are clear in teaching our children how to protect themselves and others against unwanted advances of all kinds. The fact that 15% of victims of sexual assault are children under 12 makes it clear this conversation needs to begin earlier than many of us may have expected.

Ad failed to load

As the mother of a young toddler, I know that there are already steps I can take toward setting a foundation of consent for my son. For other parents, here are some things you can do to help your sons learn about consent.

Ad failed to load

Let Them Know They Are Always In Control Of What Happens To Their Body

Whether it’s what clothes they put on or what foods they eat, it’s important to let them know they control what goes on with their bodies. I mean, yes, that broccoli needs to get in there one way or another, but I'm going to try like hell to make it "his choice."

Enthusiastically Listen When They Say “No” or “Stop” And Act Accordingly

Basically, no means no, no matter how old you are. If you want to teach your son that the word "no" has power — both when he's saying it and when someone says it to him — you have to respect his "no" from a very young age. If he wants to stop me half way through a tickle fight with a resounding, “No, mommy! No more!” then I’ll make sure to back off. And if I don’t want him to throw a toy at me (because toddlers), and I say no, I’ll make sure he understand that it’s important for him to stop as well.

Teach Them To Respect Other People, Including Their Bodies and Property

Ways of showing respect to other people (and their things) include: not touching, grabbing, or picking up anything that isn’t yours without permission, and also not throwing, hurting, or breaking what isn’t yours. Teaching young kids this simple lesson using toys and food first as it may resonate more with them.

Ad failed to load

Never Use Terms Like “Boys Will Be Boys” And Immediately Shut It Down If It’s Said Around Them

We already know how problematic it is to allow boys to get away with negative behaviours by uttering falsities like “boys will be boys,” so why would we ever say it in front of our own kids? Conversely, were other parents to say that (about my son or any other child, really), I would at the very least brief them with why all that does is enable and even encourage negative behaviour.

Explain The Concept Of Affirmative Consent

Several college campuses have begun enacting legislation for something called “affirmative consent” which basically means that before having sex, you should make sure to ask your partner if this is what they want to do. This concept can easily be taught to younger children without involving sex. Advise kids to ask for permission to play with one another’s toys or if they can take the next turn on the swings at the playground and boom, they’ll get it.

...And That They Shouldn’t Pressure People Into Changing Their Minds (Or Feel Pressured Themselves)

As feminist parents, we teach our kids to accept people’s first response, and also let them know that if someone asks them to a sleepover and they don’t want to, they don’t have to change their mind about it, even if their friend continuously asks. These seem like the insignificant, throwaway moments of childhood, but they are actually the learning grounds where interpersonal politics are first being established.

Ad failed to load

Give Him A List Of All The Different Ways People Can Say No

This might include shaking their head side to side, not saying “yes,” pushing them away, blocking them from doing something, walking or running away, screaming, staying completely silent, saying “nu uh” or “nope” or “nah”, etc. This will make them more receptive to people’s refusals in the long run.

...And That If They’re Ever Unclear, They Should Immediately Stop Whatever They’re Doing

Some people report being unclear as to whether consent was given, or whether they themselves gave consent. In these cases, teach your child that the best thing to do is stop whatever they’re doing until they’re sure there is positive consent (and if there isn’t, that’s OK, too).

Clarify That Things Like Intoxication And Intimidation Can Result In An Inability To Consent

Ah, yes, the moment our young gents get old enough to learn that "drunk" is a thing that people sometimes are, and that they might be one day. Welcome to this awesome can of worms, kids. So yeah, you have to talk about that in the context of consent as well, because duh. Once they’re old enough (middle to high school age), you might also want to explain other factors that might prevent someone from consenting, including intoxication, disability, fear (being intimidated), blackmail, and age (being too young to understand).

Ad failed to load

...But That In Some Situations, Like In The Event Of A Medical Procedure, Others Might Have To Do Things To Them They Don’t Like For Their Health And Well-Being

Every time I take my toddler to get his shots, it usually take 2-3 of us to hold him still in order to get it done. I absolutely hate doing it and we try various methods of distraction but at the end, it’s the only way to get him his vaccinations. Once he’s older, I’ll explain that while I will always ask for his consent, when it comes to matters of his health and well-being, I may have to trump his decision a bit in as least-traumatic way as possible.

...Add That A Parent Or Loved One Should Always Be Nearby To Make Sure It’s OK

Also important to explain to kids that medical professionals should only perform procedures once their parents or guardian has given consent for the child, and preferably while we are in the same room and have explained what the procedure will entail. Medical procedures can be pretty scary for some kids so it’s important to clearly communicate what will happen to them in the process.

Always Acknowledge Their Feelings

Make sure kids know their feelings around consent matter. Don’t belittle them for saying no to a pillow fights and don’t get mad because they refused a hug from you but not from dad. It happens. Allow them them feelings.

Ad failed to load

Encourage Them To Always Speak Up If Something Feels... Off

“Go with your gut” might seem like simple advice, but it’s important in terms of consent. When you’re still unsure whether or not you want to consent, or if a situation is making you feel uncomfortable, it’s important to know to stop it in its tracks.

Expound That Everyone Is Allowed To Change Their Minds About What They Consent To (Even At The Last Minute)

Some folks try to argue that you’re not allowed to change your mind about sex once it’s happening. But if your partner changes their mind, if you don’t stop immediately, that sex is now rape. Look, I get that saying words like "rape" to your kid might feel horrifying, and I'm not saying that I would talk to a 3-year-old in those terms, but rape is horrifying, and for the most part, if we want it to happen less, we need to not dance around the specifics of consent, and what dark shit can occur in its absence. The point is, make sure your kids understand that everyone is allowed to change their mind at any point about anything, whether it’s borrowing your sketchbook, your skateboard, or having sex.

Eventually, Go Over Important Topics Like Sexual Assault, Rape, Slut-Shaming, Body-Shaming, And Domestic Violence

Ad failed to load

...And Add That Certain People Are More At Risk Than Others, And How They Can Be A Good Ally To Others

Including those in the LGBTQIA community, people of color, immigrants, homeless people, etc.

And Finally, Motivate Them To Explain Consent To Others

Because it’s all our responsibility, all the time, forever.

Images: Priscilla Blossom(2); Giphy(17)

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

Being A Dog Parent Prepared Me For Having A Baby, Really

I’ve always wanted kids; I was never as sure about raising a puppy. Then I spent six months living with someone who brought home an eight-week-old golden retriever puppy, and I see no way to make it out of that experience claiming not to love dogs. I…
By Heather Caplan

20 Of The Most Popular Unisex Names Of All Time, That You'll Be Hearing More Of For Sure

You might think of unisex names as a fairly recent trend, but the truth is these versatile monikers have been commonly used throughout history (well, some more commonly than others). That's why the team over at Names.org recently compiled a list of t…
By Jacqueline Burt Cote

How To Have A Date Night With No Babysitter, Because It's Easier Than You Think

After having children, many couples feel that their love lives immediately go out the window, but it's so important to make your romantic life a priority so both you and your partner can be the best versions of yourselves you can be. As we all know, …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

9 Ways Baby No. 3 Made My Family Feel Complete

My husband and I decided to have another baby right after we got married and, well, we had no idea what we were getting into. I got pregnant right away, endured a high-risk pregnancy, and, before I knew it, my third baby had arrived. Together, we emb…
By Steph Montgomery

8 Stereotypes About New Dads That Are *Totally* True

Much like new mothers, new fathers have a lot on their plate. Parenting can be scary and complex, especially at first and regardless of your gender. People want to do right by their kids, after all. And since all new parents are a hot mess, dads are …
By Priscilla Blossom

8 Differences Between Being Pregnant In Your 20s Vs 30s, According To Science

Whether you're planning a pregnancy, or just thinking about your future family, it's typical to think about things like child-spacing, how many kids you want, and when to start trying to conceive. When making your pro/con list, you might also conside…
By Steph Montgomery

16 Moms Share Remedies For Their Most Intense Chocolate Cravings During Pregnancy

For better or worse, pregnancy is usually synonymous with odd cravings. Sure, there are the stereotypical combos like pickles and ice cream that plague gestating women the world over, but there are other mind-boggling combinations, too, including but…
By Candace Ganger

Putting Sunscreen On Your Kid Doesn't Have To Be A Fight — Here's How To Do It

I am almost translucent, so me and sunscreen are basically besties at this point. Even though my children are beautifully deep brown thanks to my husband's genetics, I still slather them like biscuits being buttered because I refuse to take risks wit…
By Cat Bowen

7 Things A Mom Really Means When She Says She Doesn't Want Anything On Mother's Day

Every year my family asks me what I want for Mother's Day, and every single year I tell them the same thing: Nothing. So, by now, they know that when I say "nothing" I absolutely do not mean "nothing." In fact, there are more than a few things a mom …
By Candace Ganger

19 Moms Share The Way They Cured Their Pregnancy Comfort Food Cravings

I was obnoxiously sick during the first trimester with, "lucky" for me, both of my pregnancies. For the first three months I lived on saltines, lemonade, and fresh bread. Once I was able to eat, however, all I wanted was savory and sweet comfort food…
By Dina Leygerman

8 Fascinating Facts About Babies Born In May, The Luckiest Month Of All

The height of all things fresh and springy, May is an excellent month to have a baby. It's a time of growth, graduations, and outdoor celebrations. And these fascinating facts about May babies will give you more reasons than ever to appreciate childr…
By Lindsay E. Mack

I Used To Judge Formula-Feeding Moms — Until I Became One

The other patrons in the hip Brooklyn restaurant probably couldn’t care less what I was feeding my baby, but I’ll always remember the shame I felt as I quickly mixed up his bottle of formula in front of them. I admitted to my childless friend that I …
By Katherine Martinelli

7 White Lies It’s Necessary To Tell To Keep Your Relationship Healthy

Telling lots of lies typically isn't associated with a healthy, strong, lasting relationship, and that's still certainly true, but not all lies are exactly the same. Though you've probably heard from someone at least once or twice that the lie they t…
By Lauren Schumacker

The Skinny Jeans That Saved Me Postpartum

Accepting my post-pregnancy body is hands-down one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. It’s something that I still work on every single day. During my first pregnancy, I was 20 years old, so I managed to bounce back quickly. In fact, I dropp…
By Allison Cooper

7 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say They Feel Safe

In those first weeks of new motherhood, it can feel like you need an interpreter for your newborn. With their limited means of communication, figuring out what message your baby is trying to get across to you can be a challenge. With time, however, y…
By Kimmie Fink

Here's Why Dogs Are Obsessed With Babies' Poop, According To Science

Most family dogs seem to understand babies, and they're more than happy to make friends with the newest member of the pack. It's adorable... for the most part and until you go to change your little one's diaper. Suddenly, you're wondering why dogs ar…
By Lindsay E. Mack

6 Signs You're Meant To Have A Big Age Gap Between Kids

There's a five year age difference between my two children, to the day. Their age gap wasn't planned but, for a variety of reasons, works well for our family. And since I was so focused on having a second baby, I totally overlooked the signs that wou…
By Candace Ganger

13 Unique (& Totally Not Mainstream) Mother's Day Gifts For The Hipster Mom

Hipsters thrive on being outside the norm and not really digging anything considered "mainstream." Whether it's in their fashion, what music they listen to, the books they read, or how they enjoy beverages, there's just something that makes them dist…
By Abi Berwager Schreier

Here's How To Introduce Your Pet To Your Baby & Make Everything As Calm As Possible

Our home, which we lovingly refer to as “the funny farm,” is filled with four-legged family members. We have two crazy beagles and two cat jerks, and boy are they loved and spoiled. (As they should be.) But we are now finally having a baby of our own…
By Abi Berwager Schreier

Here's The Right Birth Method For You, According To Your Zodiac Sign

If you're pregnant, you've probably given childbirth some serious thought. Some moms-to-be prepare a meticulous birth plan, while others are comfortable just going with the flow. And me? Well, I made a plan... but that plan was useless when faced wit…
By Steph Montgomery

My Dog Knew I Was Pregnant Before My Family Did

Growing up, I was 100 percent sure I'd be a mom one day. To a dog, that is. My baby plans came later. And once my husband and I were sure we wanted both a dog and a baby, we'd add to our joint dog-and-baby name list over Sunday brunch or on date nigh…
By Melissa Mills