Imagine you are offering someone a cup of tea.
You say “hey, would you like a cup of tea?” and they go “omg yes, I would LOVE a cup of tea! Thank you!” then you know they want a cup of tea.
They might say “Yes please, that’s kind of you” and then when the tea arrives they actually don’t want the tea at all. Sure, that’s kind of annoying as you’ve gone to the effort of making the tea, but they remain under no obligation to drink the tea. They did want tea, now they don’t. Sometimes people change their mind in the time it takes to boil that kettle, brew the tea and add the milk. And it’s ok for people to change their mind, and you are still not entitled to watch them drink it even though you went to the trouble of making it.
If they are unconscious, don’t make them tea. Unconscious people don’t want tea and can’t answer the question “do you want tea” because they are unconscious.
You may have already read this. It’s a brilliant analogy that attempts to explain how to engage in consensual sex. Emmeline May, the writer behind this smart comparison, explains that whether it’s tea or sex, consent is everything.
It makes consent sound simple, and yet, it also highlights that many times it’s not. It highlights that, in general, creating a reciprocal, caring, non-coercive, and mutually satisfying relationship with a partner is not always easy—especially as a teenager.
Think back to when you were a young teenager. What did you know about having healthy relationships?
I’ll tell you what I knew: nothing. I knew that if I waited in the hallway for several minutes after my first class ended, I would run into the boy I had a crush on. I knew that he would probably give me a hug and that I’d be able to brag about it to my friends for the rest of the day. I knew that if I decided to have sex with someone I had a crush on, that I would run the risk of getting pregnant or contracting a sexually transmitted disease. I knew that I could lower this risk by using condoms or birth control pills (though the latter seemed less likely to obtain, ahem).
What I didn’t know was what I would say if my crush ever tried to convince me to do things I wasn’t comfortable with. I certainly didn’t know how to create an equal partnership or how to protect myself from people who didn’t view this type of partnership as a priority. I didn’t know which questions to ask when choosing from different birth control options, and I didn’t know how to discuss these options with a partner. If there had been a pregnancy scare, I’m not sure I would have known how to bring it up with my partner or how I would have conveyed which next steps I felt most comfortable taking.
I’m positive I’m not the only one who didn’t (or doesn’t) know these things. And they’re only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to knowing how to create and maintain positive relationships.
Too often, I watched myself or my peers engage in unhealthy and unsatisfying relationships. And engaging in these types of relationships can lead to way more than the typical onslaught of teenage emotions. It can lead to sexual abuse, sexually transmitted diseases, and unwanted pregnancies.
Young people need to receive a high quality, evidence-based sex education that covers a wide array of topics. Research has shown that these types of programs are more effective than others, including abstinence-only programs (don’t get me started on those). According to Planned Parenthood, a comprehensive sex education includes information and concerns about abstinence, body image, contraception, gender, human growth and development, human reproduction, pregnancy, relationships, safer sex (prevention of sexually transmitted infections), sexual attitudes and values, sexual anatomy and physiology, sexual behavior, sexual health, sexual orientation, and sexual pleasure.
This type of sex education has the ability to create a generation of women and men comfortable in their own skin—women and men who are able to make well-informed decisions, form healthy relationships, and take care of their bodies.
This type of sex education has the ability to empower girls and women around the world and ensure that they can live successful lives.
Comprehensive sex education should be recognized as a human right, and governments around the world should be ensuring that every individual is enrolled in an evidence-based program.
Support sex education by calling the Prime Minister of Norway in TAKE ACTION NOW and asking her to support global education.
The views expressed here are not necessarily those of each of the partners of Global Citizen.