Consent Culture Starts with Talking to Kids about Sex | Lisa Osherow | TEDxTarrytownWomen

Consent Culture Starts with Talking to Kids about Sex | Lisa Osherow | TEDxTarrytownWomen

Translator: Denise RQ
Reviewer: Ellen Maloney When my children go outside
to ride their bicycles I give them sound parenting advice: wear a helmet. Imagine not telling your children to wear a bicycle helmet
or put on a seatbelt. Imagine not teaching them to share
their toys, or say please and thank you. When our children are young, we teach them how to take care
of their bodies and how to get along well with others. After all, isn’t that our job
as parents and caregivers, to keep them healthy and safe? These parenting basics seem common sense yet, over time, these discussions
and pieces of advice tend to stop. The result? Many people enter young adulthood not knowing how to protect their bodies
when engaging in sexual activity, nor how to help reduce sexual violence, nor how to enter into consensual,
respectful relationships. Why is that? Perhaps their parents
had never taught them how to have these conversations. We can all remember
when we were 8, 10, or 12 years old. Our bodies were changing,
our friends were changing, and for many of us, sex education
in the home was non-existent. And at school, it often consisted of the gym teacher
reviewing dry anatomy slides. But overall, it was a puzzle
we were left to figure out on our own. This is partially because our parents
were never taught how to have these conversations with us. Let’s be honest, we didn’t wear our bicycle helmets
or put on seat belts either. Recently, I was speaking to three women
who got their periods at age 10. Each one told of stories
of shame and embarrassment tears of fear, or just
plain lack of information. Although their parents
had started the conversation, it wasn’t enough for them by age 10. I was talking to parents of 4th graders,
and one mom said to me, “I feel pretty good, I thought
the conversation went well.” When I spoke to the daughter, I was informed she’d really been talking
about sex with her friends since 2nd grade. (Laughter) Another mom said, when asked about reproduction
and where babies are made, she pointed her daughter to the Internet. Today ignorance, myths,
and pornography are just a click away. Where should our children learn
about sex and healthy relationships? From the Internet?
From their friends on the playground? Or from discussions today? I’m here today
to help make your life easier, and tell you that talking
to your children about sex, consent, and healthy relationships can be as easy and commonplace as,
well, wearing a helmet. I’m going to ask you all to breathe (Sigh) as I know the concept of talking
to your children about sex may seem daunting and huge. But it’s my goal that each one of you
will be a first responder in your children’s lives
when it comes to sex and sexuality. And it’s easier than you think,
so let’s get started. The first thing they need to know
is that their body is important. We are pretty good at this conversation
when they’re younger, we just need to continue the message:
wear a helmet, your body’s important. Brush your teeth, your body’s important. And later in life: use condoms,
your body is important. We need to start talking
to our children day one. It’s never too early to begin, and we need to start
before they ask questions. When our children are born, we teach
them they have two eyes, a nose, ten toes, but we shy away from the correct names of their genitals
or where babies come from. Wee-wee and vee-vee just don’t gain
the same respect as penis and vulva. Don’t worry, if you haven’t started yet,
today can be your day one. In many circles, I’m lovingly known
as Penis-Vagina-Egg-Sperm Lady. (Laughter) This is a title I wear with pride,
as I strongly believe that parents need to have
this conversation with their kids, no matter how much they may dread it. And believe it or not,
it takes less than a minute. So, you take a deep breath,
and we say, “Usually …” We say “usually” because it could be
mommy-mommy, daddy-daddy, adoption, or in vitro scenarios, but usually, when mommies and daddies
want to make a baby, they get naked. This is not for you,
this is for grown-ups only. The man’s penis goes inside
the woman’s vagina. The woman has an egg,
not the size of a chicken egg, but the size of a sharpened pencil point. And the man has a sperm. Sperm and egg get together,
they make a baby. It grows in a special place in the mom
called the womb or the uterus. And after approximately nine months,
the baby’s ready to come out. Voila! See? It can be that easy. But this is not where it ends. Too many parents get stuck on
the penis-vagina-egg-sperm conversation, and do not move forward. Which brings me
to the second point to remember: talking to your children about sex
is not a single conversation. It is hundreds of small conversations. And it is not all about biology, either. It is important to know the facts, but it’s our own personal beliefs
and inner values that help us make decisions. Our children need to develop
their own inner voice to learn how to assert
and protect themselves. I see many parents
of elementary school kids saying, “Put on your jacket, it’s cold outside.” What would be the harm in letting them decide for themselves
to wear or not wear their jackets? Don’t they know their bodies
better than us anyways? Our children need to practice
developing their own inner voice and making decisions for themselves,
by themselves, about their bodies. Overall, it is about teaching them
that they have control over their bodies and nobody can touch them without consent. It’s about developing the skills,
and the confidence, and knowing when to say no,
how to say yes, and when to speak up
when something doesn’t feel right. Imagine a world where we engaged in activities we wanted to
with people we wanted to be with. Imagine a culture where we asked
people to join us in activities, and they can accept or decline. Does it really matter
what these activities are? Would you like to go fishing?
Would you like to play Frisbee? Are you in the mood to cuddle?
Would you like to have sex? Shouldn’t all decisions be consensual? Women who are sexually assaulted
on college campuses were asked what they wished their parents
had taught them. And this is what they said,
“What is a healthy relationship?” That sexual assault was never their fault.
And what consent really means. Which brings me to my third point:
talking to your children about sex includes teaching them
your personal values, and giving the guidance they need
to navigate these complex relationships. From age 17, the average age
of first vaginal intercourse, to 28, the average age of marriage, should they choose, or be
legally allowed to do so? They have approximately a decade of well,
perhaps, engaging in sexual activities. We can be the generation
to help them navigate that decade. Keeping our children healthy and safe
includes reducing unwanted pregnancies, preventing sexually-transmitted infections and teaching them how to have relationships
that are consensual and respectful. We spoke about the facts,
but that was just the tip of the iceberg. What about your values? You know, the things
you teach them at home that you hope they practice
when you’re not there? Have we been modeling them at home? How often are we discussing them
with our children? For example: how do you feel
when your children’s friends come over, and their bedroom doors are closed? At age 6? At age 10? At age 17? What are you going to say
to them about pornography? At age 11? At age 17? What are the responsibilities
as the bystander? When they see other gossiping, or know
that others are being physically harmed? Have we been clearly communicating
our beliefs with our children, and giving them guidance? Or are we leaving it to them
to navigate on their own, and well, we are there
if they have questions? I would encourage you to take
the ‘please and thank you’ set of values we taught them as toddlers and continue the conversation
through puberty and into young adulthood. When our children were little,
we said to them, “Share”, “Play nicely,” a million times. I would encourage you to expand upon that and teach them to be respectful,
compassionate, and trustworthy, so they too, one day, can engage
in positive intimate relationships. So do the work. Think about your personal values,
and then say to them over and over again. They may roll their eyes,
act as if they aren’t listening, or even give you grief. But in the end, they will be
better partners in future relationships for the guidance you have given them. These are the values
that will last a lifetime. I want to get back to consent. Every state defines rape, consent,
and sexual assault differently, so I can appreciate
why this might be confusing. But I want to make sure you understand
the basic concepts of consent. Consent needs to be clear and unambiguous, voluntary, revocable at any point in time, and needs to be discussed
with each activity. Consent is not the absence of no. We need to practice asking, as well as
listening and answering each other. A senior in high school
said to me recently, “You mean consent is all about
communicating with your partner?” Yes, it is. And it can be that easy. We as parents need to model this
for our children when they are younger. For example, “Would you like a hug?” “Would you like to be tickled?” So why is all this so important,
and why am I up here anyway? Personally, I have children and desperately want
college campuses to be safer for them. But if it isn’t your child,
it could be a best friend’s child, or a niece, or a nephew,
or even a future daughter-in-law. Overall, it is about protecting
all the ones we love. One sexual assault happens
every 107 seconds. Think about it. That means since I’ve been standing up
here, six sexual assaults have happened. One in five women on college campuses
experience sexual assault, or an attempt. We have to change this for our children. Imagine the type of relationship
you dream of for your children. We have the power to create a world where decisions are consensual,
voluntary, clear. We can change the current status from that of a rape culture
to that of a consent culture. While this is a huge responsibility,
it’s a huge opportunity, and each one of you have a role to play. So go home, talk to your kids. Listen to them. Breathe. Help create the world that we all
want to live in and can be proud of. And remember, today can be your day one. Thank you. (Applause)

4 thoughts on “Consent Culture Starts with Talking to Kids about Sex | Lisa Osherow | TEDxTarrytownWomen

  1. Talks about consent make me puke. Old people don't understand it at all. The girls in my school get harassed everyday for nudes and we are called bad names by both the guys and slutty girls in the school. Some girls give in just to get left alone but that not really consent. Nobody cares about girls that don't want to give pictures. Isnt getting asked for nudes over and over again even after saying no sexual harassment? But no one talks about that.

  2. Thank you for helping us as parents take this monumental step in communicating with our children. Keep up the great work..!!

  3. Solid advice!!! Couldn’t agree more. The only hiccup I see is that woman who are interested, like spontaneity. For the man to take control and kiss the girl. So when a guy goes in for the kiss, is he a creep, or is he doing what the girl wants. A lot of people have a hard time reading the situation because they are socially awkward. I don’t think that classifies it as an assault. There are weirdos out there, and there are girls who like attention. Don’t meet someone in a place you could see as being problematic in any way. Every relationship should start with a long dialog, and I’m this day in age, online is ok. But have your guard up. Face time people. We have another catfish episodes. 😅

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