For centuries in almost all cultures around the world, women had no real choice about when, where and with whom they would have sex. Girls were the property of their fathers, who would eventually decide whom they would marry. Virginity was safeguarded as keenly as if it were a financial investment (because sometimes it was).
Although it never seemed a very big thing for young men, young women of yesteryear were never allowed to have sex before marriage. To do so brought scandal and shame on them and their families. Humans evolved into a species that required a female to prove she had not had sexual intercourse with anyone else so the man would know that her offspring was indeed his and no one else’s.
Even within the past month, a 15-year-old Maldives girl who was allegedly raped by her stepfather was sentenced to 100 lashes for engaging in premarital sex. Even though she had no choice in the sex act, somehow she is still blamed for losing her virginity. It is clear that this archaic and sexist ideology is still prevalent in some parts of our world.
However, in other parts of the world things have changed for many cultures and within the last 100 years women have found themselves in the position to decide for themselves when, where and with whom they will have sex. This relatively new phenomenon has allowed women control over their own bodies for the first time in thousands of years.
At the same time, this freedom has brought with it new and very serious problems concerning the control of a woman’s body. For example, there seems to be a very disturbing way of thinking that allows a man to think he does not need a woman’s consent to have sex. When a man forces a woman to have sex without her explicit consent, it is rape.
Every two minutes someone is sexually assaulted in the US [www.rainn.org/statistics]. The chances that a woman in the US is raped versus the chances that she gets breast cancer are 2 to 1. Moreover, 97 per cent of rapists are never incarcerated [50 Actual Facts About Rape by Soraya Chemaly, HuffingtonPost.com]. It is my opinion that these statistics are closely mirrored in Guyana.
Major General Patrick Cammaert, former UN Peacekeeping Commander, said, “It is now more dangerous to be a woman than a soldier in modern conflict.” What a sad indictment on the human race.
Worse, when a woman is raped, she is then blamed for that assault, as with the aforementioned Maldives girl and as with the recent case of the 16-year old Steubenville, Ohio girl was gang raped while intoxicated and with a Swiss woman who was recently gang raped while camping in Madhya Pradesh, India and local officials said she was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
As long as excuses like these continue to be made for rapists and as long as 97 per cent of rapists are never incarcerated regardless of the laws that exist, it is clear that the archaic ideology that men should control a woman’s body still exists.
In other words, in this brave, new and beautiful world, where women are the ones who make the decision regarding control over their own bodies, it seems some men still refuse to grasp that they no longer have a say about when, where and with whom a woman will have sex.
But I can tell you this, there is no way in hell women are going to give up their hard won freedoms and go back to living as the property of men.
Since that is not going to happen (no way, no how), it is upon responsible parents to teach the children – both boys and girls – about the importance of consent. It is scary to think teenage boys today can laugh and joke about rape – like those boys from Steubenville. It shows a disturbing lack of respect for women and their right over their own bodies.
Have you talked to your teen about consent? It is vital to teach them to stand up for themselves and to respect others. It does not have to be an uncomfortable conversation. Discuss the all the nuances of consent and make up hypothetical situations to ponder. Help them understand that “No” means “No.” It does not mean keep going and maybe I’ll change my mind. It does not mean convince me. It means no.
Stop means no. Pushing you away means no. Turning away means no. I don’t want to means no. Shoving you away means no. Leave me alone means no. Passed out means no. I’m not ready means no. I don’t feel like it means no. Drunk or drugged means no. Get away from me means no. Screaming means no. Don’t means no. Crying means no.
Yes means freely given consent where both persons’ needs, wants and desires are an integral part of the interaction.
Here are some good talking points regarding consent to discuss with your young teens [from Feminism is for Everybody’s Facebook Page]:
· To consent means to give approval and to agree by free will.
· Consent is based on choice.
· Consent is active, not passive.
· Consent is possible only when there is equal power.
· Giving in because of fear is not consent.
· In consent, both parties must be equally free to act.
· Going along with something because of wanting to fit in, feeling bad, or
being deceived is not consent.
· In consent, both parties must be fully conscious and have clearly
communicated their consent.
· If you cannot say “No” comfortably, then “Yes” has no meaning.
· If you are unwilling to accept a “No,” then “Yes” has no meaning.
· The absence of “No” is not the same as giving consent.
· Silence does not equal consent.
These talking points are a good starting point in guiding children to respect the rights of others and our ability to make decisions for ourselves. This respect is the new foundation upon which we can build a healthy and equal society.
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