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Uncomfortable feelings about the teaching of "consent"

(411 Posts)
Tootickyandsnufkin Fri 13-Jan-17 22:08:34

I hope I explain this ok. I'm not entirely sure this makes sense, or if I'm expressing something obvious.

Consent comes up a lot on here/MN. Usually the discussion is around whether consent is confusing etc. Everyone is familiar. I hope isn't is prompting the usual debate. But I guess maybe that where it goes.

The idea of teaching "consent" to boys/young men bothers me. I wonder what it says about men that they have to be taught. Then i think about what else we teach our children. Thinking on the go....I guess we work to develop empathy in many areas but how do they develop naturally otherwise? isn't there some sort of innate compassion that stops people, eg, committing acts of violence? Or is it consequences that shapes behaviour. Which of course there is generally a lack of in terms of non consensual sex/sexual acts.

And if we try to teach our sons about consent, are those who have ignored a lack of consent simply those who weren't adequately educated?
Is it depressing to think there are a huge group of boys/men for whom its an educational issue? Or is that a very negative way to think?

VikingVolva Fri 13-Jan-17 22:16:39

Presumably everyone needs to be taught. It's not an innate thing.

I agree with you that it's wrong to teach it explicitly only to boys. It should be explicitly taught to everyone. what is covered in school may or may not stick of course. But at least getting teens to think about it, and having a source about conduct other than Internet and mags, has to be a good thing.

girlwiththeflaxenhair Fri 13-Jan-17 22:20:23

It's an interesting question - i think many men who commit rape know damn fine they don't have consent, they don't care - they think they can get away with it. I don't really see how you can teach these kind of people to behave differently. I suspect that consent workshops and the idea that men need to be taught not to rape are playing into the hands of MRAs etc.

ymmv Fri 13-Jan-17 22:25:05

I agree with Viking basically. posting because...

You've reminded me of this article which I found interesting. www.cracked.com/blog/how-men-are-trained-to-think-sexual-assault-no-big-deal/

BarbarianMum Fri 13-Jan-17 22:32:43

I always feel that if I don't teach my children about consent then they'll be educated by society at large and that seems like a bad idea.

Only now I'm older do I realise that I was brought up with a very warped view of romance and consent. Nice girls should put up a bit of resistance to sexual advances and need to be persuaded (basically saying no but meaning yes). Possessive behaviour means he loves you. If you went out with him x times you owed him sex. A rapist is a stranger in a dark alley. What you wear makes you more vulnerable to rape (and conversely if you cover up you're safe). Really damaging stuff sad but at least the person at risk of damage was myself.

A lot of those messages are around today. I certainly don't want my sons to imbibe and act on them.

SpeakNoWords Fri 13-Jan-17 22:40:31

I think the capacity for compassion/empathy is a capacity that nearly all humans are born with, exceptions being perhaps psychopaths and sociopaths. But, if your upbringing neglects the development of your compassion/empathy then it something that can fail to properly develop. Young toddlers cannot properly empathize with others, and I think adults can be stuck at that level if they have had that aspect of their development neglected.

So I think that consent workshops are useful discussion points, but may not be able to change the behavior of people who have not got a proper understating of compassion/empathy due to their upbringing.

0phelia Fri 13-Jan-17 22:49:53

Society conditions us to believe that women and girls should be subservient and listen to the needs of others above their own needs while male needs are accepted unquestionably. Particularly wrt male sexuality as some unstoppable force that needs satisfying. Women's sexuality generally considered more "mysterious" or needs to be "brought out" from her.

Damn right the notion of consent needs to be taught to males but not just at school either, it needs to be a prevalent perception. If we are to ever counter the male-led society we live in when it comes to everything we need to start learning at an early age that men do not need to rape and that women have bodily autonomy.

I do not believe for a second a man's sex drive is innately higher than a woman's. Women can go throughout life without raping or sexually assaulting men to get their kicks. I'm sure men are capable of the same, but so far they get away with being reckless and being rapists.

Not convinced this huge societal change will take place under a workshop setting.

girlwiththeflaxenhair Fri 13-Jan-17 22:54:46

Society conditions us to believe that women and girls should be subservient and listen to the needs of others above their own needs while male needs are accepted unquestionably.

In your opinion.

SpeakNoWords Fri 13-Jan-17 22:57:46

I think that's what I was feeling Ophelia, that the ideas around consent have to happen earlier and more comprehensively than a consent workshop in secondary school or university.

0phelia Fri 13-Jan-17 23:07:30

in your opinion
Thanks for that useful contribution hmm

So are men just naturally predisposed to rape and there's nothing anyone can do about it then?

ki0kA Fri 13-Jan-17 23:10:50

I share girlwiththeflaxenhair's point of view to a great extent. I think the message "teach men not to rape" will never going to solve the problem by itself because it seems to suggest that rapists rape because they think it is ok to rape. It's a bit like telling serial killers not to murder, thieves (not those who are desperate to get food but those who live well but want a new mobile, etc) not to steal, etc. All those kinds of criminals know full well it is wrong what they do, but they will do it anyway, because it's their nature.
But teaching of concent is also important, because it can at least reduce the number of rapists. I remember back in school when boys used to grope me and other girls and I found it normal (not in the sense that I thought it was ok, but more that it was no big deal because it was so common.) Of course only a small fraction of boys who do that as teens will become rapists, but if groping were considered unacceptable back then, there would be a smaller chance of some becoming rapists.

Tootickyandsnufkin Fri 13-Jan-17 23:13:51

So are men just naturally predisposed to rape and there's nothing anyone can do about it then?

I suppose part of my discomfort is are my sons naturally predisposed to rape unless expressly and explicitly taught consent in the right way?

BarbarianMum Fri 13-Jan-17 23:15:54

...and even if it didn't affect the rape rate, it would lower the number of sexual assaults which is also a good thing. smile

I can't think of any other behaviour that can't be changed (in absolute terms) by societal norms and pressure, so why would rape be any different?

Monkeyface26 Fri 13-Jan-17 23:18:16

In 'Girl Up by the fab Laura Bates she writes "Consent is too LOW a bar, hold out for ENTHUSIASM".
I think that's a pretty good message for teenage boys.

SpeakNoWords Fri 13-Jan-17 23:19:35

I think that if you teach your sons compassion, empathy and respect for others as you would naturally do, then it's highly unlikely they'll be rapists. I have two young sons and I don't think they have natural disposition to be rapists just like I don't think they have natural disposition to be murderers or whatever.

qwerty232 Fri 13-Jan-17 23:20:02

Isn't there some sort of innate compassion that stops people, eg, committing acts of violence?

Not really. Though the manner and context in which people commit violence is socially shaped. If you think about it, we have to teach children the difference between all aspects of right and wrong. Fail to this, and chances are they'll end up a sociopath.

I did read a great book called 'Savage Girls and Wild Boys' about feral children: kids who'd been raised by dogs and wolves etc. The ones rescued after the critical period of social development and language acquisition not only lacked any empathy, but any sense of themselves as existing in an interpersonal context. That's an extreme situation, but it illustrates the point.

You have to teach children everything - even how to speak and go to the toilet. So the ethics of sexual interaction do have to be taught to them just like everything else. Moreover, these days most boys are subjected to the influence of pornography, much of which devalues the concept of consent. Countering that negative education with a positive one is important I think.

BarbarianMum Fri 13-Jan-17 23:20:48

Well if you brought up your sons the good old way, in a society where married women were property and basically there for sexual pleasure and the getting of children, wouldn't you think their attitude to sex would be different? Wouldn't you think their wives would be? I bet it would be quite likely that the idea that a woman might legitamately withold sex might never occur to either party - if bodily autonmony in marriage doesn't exist then where is rape?

Tootickyandsnufkin Fri 13-Jan-17 23:20:50

I don't think I'm disagreeing with whether it serves a purpose (not sure of the evidence in terms of make behaviour?). I can see that in the absence of consequences maybe it needs to be tried.

0phelia Fri 13-Jan-17 23:21:35

tooticky
No I'm certainly sure your sons are not predisposed to rape, but under our current cultural climate where rape is minimised and to an extent normalised, more males are able to get away with rape and do it just because they can.

Education does not exist in schools alone. There are huge external influences to consider. BUT surely introducing a "consent module/workshop" can't do any harm at all.

qwerty232 Fri 13-Jan-17 23:23:41

It's an interesting question - i think many men who commit rape know damn fine they don't have consent, they don't care - they think they can get away with it.

This is very true. Really not sure about this idea that men rape women out of a kind of ignorance.

0phelia Fri 13-Jan-17 23:23:52

I wonder if it might be far more useful to introduce a workshop for females on how to report a sexual assault.
(And then for any actual reporting to be taken seriously.)

SpeakNoWords Fri 13-Jan-17 23:29:40

Look at the Brock Turner case where the attempted defense was all about how he really didn't think what he did was a sexual assault. And then the comments from his father, family and friends that backed up this idea that it was acceptable behaviour. I think that shows that plenty of people need to think about consent and their attitudes.

TeethDrama Fri 13-Jan-17 23:32:12

Exactly, SpeakNoWords - as you say: "I think that if you teach your sons compassion, empathy and respect for others as you would naturally do, then it's highly unlikely they'll be rapists".

I dated a lot of guys, some far nicer than others, but NONE of them had had to have consent explicitly explained to them. It was innate in them that physical connections should be mutual.

I don't think it's an "education" thing, that's too one-dimensional. It's a social thing, it starts from babyhood with the Pleases and Thankyous and Mind your feet and Take your shoes off and Put your litter in the bin and Don't tease the cat and Say Sorry's... etc. etc.etc.......... basically teaching respect for the world around them. Picking out Consent by itself is like trying to teach the entire French language by means of parroting Bonjour and Merci. Yes technically you can speak French, even if it's just two words, but at the same time it's a drop in the ocean.

qwerty232 Fri 13-Jan-17 23:33:48

Absolutely Teeth.

Room101isWhereIUsedToLive Fri 13-Jan-17 23:34:04

My ds at his current level of development is very touchy feely and will be invasive of my dd's body space. My ex-husband and I take my dd's side in this. 'No, ds, it doesn't matter that you wanted a hug from DD, she didn't want to hug you, so trying to make her hug you when she didn't want one isn't nice. It's the opposite of nice.' "Hugs are nice but only when both people want the hug.' At the moment this can make him very pouty but with the message being reinforced again and again, hopefully by the time he reaches beyond hugs, he will get that affection should be a two way process.

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