There are, without a doubt, some absolutely bad things about being a woman in today’s America. Yes, we’ve made some progress toward equal rights – often, just enough to make it appear like we have equality when 62 million girls worldwide are still denied education – but there are many in ways in which we walk through the dark ages of gender. In my relatively young life, I’ve heard everything from, “It’s not rape if she likes it,” to, “She can’t say "no" if she’s unconscious,” and about a million other variations in between. We have a culture that continues to condone rape, blame victims, and offer excuses beneath a laugh rather than placing shame on the perpetrators. So, when it comes to teaching my daughter about consent, I have some thoughts on the matter.
Though this particular topic could span a novel’s length rant, there are some basic things that feminist moms teach our daughters. Well, beyond that of your basic bra burning and man-hating rallies that we have every Tuesday (Carol, don’t forget to bring the cupcakes and beer this time). I'm kidding, of course (cupcakes always go better with mimosas; everyone knows that). Whatever your views on feminism and how it relates to parenting, talking to your daughter about consent is important and will one day impact how she views herself and her rights in certain situations. Here are a few of the things we feminist moms teach our daughters about consent:
Consent Is Not Gender Specific
No matter who your partner is, consent must be given by both parties. Even though women are more likely to be the victims of rape and sexual assault, this is not a female-specific problem. Every daughter needs to know that consent is not only her right but her responsibility. And no, being aroused is not consent, nor is anything else other than saying, "Yes."
Consent Needs To Be Spoken, Not Merely Implied
When I sit down in a restaurant and look at the menu, I do not want or expect the waiter to infer my order from the item my eyes linger on the longest. I want to actually be allowed to voice my preferences. Much in the same way, I don’t want someone to assume consent without having it spoken. Teaching my daughter the importance of both hearing consent and giving verbal consent is essential; in establishing this habit early, it helps to set up a natural out when things feel uncomfortable.
Intoxication Prevents Consent
If your partner is beyond the point of driving home, they are beyond choosing whether or not they want to engage in sexual relations. Period. Whether it’s alcohol, drugs, or the view of the Northern Lights, don’t let outside factors impact the decision-making. Feminist moms teach their daughters that if they are intoxicated, their partner is not "excused" from obtaining their consent, and vice versa.
Consenting Once Does Not Mean Consent Always
Much like I don’t want a waiter to infer my order from my eye contact with the menu, I also don’t want a restaurant to assume my order is always the same because I ordered it once. I know that’s a silly analogy but think how you would feel if someone served you cod every day simply because you ordered it once? Think how stupid it would sound if when you objected they replied, “But you said you liked cod. Why would you not want cod right now since you clearly asked for it the other night?” Consenting to sex with a person in one situation does not give them blanket consent. Feminist moms teach their daughters that saying "yes" to someone at one point (or 50) does not mean they are at all obligated to give consent later.
Anyone Can Say "No" At Any Point In Time
Perhaps the most important point I seek to imbed in my daughter's mind is that being physically intimate with someone is always a choice. Whether it’s while starting on the first date or years into a relationship, no means no, and will never not mean no. It doesn’t mean maybe. It doesn’t mean finish up this round. It means stop exactly what you are doing and be done — now. And arguably more important than that, yes means yes, and nothing else means yes. A large part of accessing equal rights is understanding we have rights. As a woman, I have often struggled with claiming my own rights in these situations. This is a trait that no feminist mom wants to pass along to her daughter.