Teach your sons all about consent
A student in my class needed psychiatric help when the rest of the class shunned him, after he assaulted his girlfriend, in the canteen, in a fit of rage. While the class was collectively right about their stand I sought him out, wanting to help. I realised there were some basic lessons on consent that need to be taught to our sons. Then began a series of discussions on rape and how not to be in a situation where you may be accused of rape. In fact, that education can begin at any age. The earlier the better. Here are five ways to start teaching your son about consent right now.
1. The Good and Bad Touch
I believe that this is a lesson every mother and father should religiously teach their young ones. As soon as they can communicate, they must learn about who can touch where and under what circumstances. No one but no one may touch a child’s private parts, except their parent or caretaker and only while performing acts of cleaning.
2. His consent is important
In India, almost everyone thinks they can squeeze your baby’s cheeks and plant kisses while making cute noises about how cute he is. Tell your child he can say No and to put out his hand in a gesture of objection. It gets particularly awkward at family gatherings, but if your son doesn’t want to kiss Aunty, or hug Uncle, or sit on Grandpa’s lap, he doesn’t have to, because it’s his body and his choice. He can always shake hands or do a high five or wave a “Hi”. When you push him into physical contact he doesn’t want, you are telling him that his comfort doesn’t matter – what matters instead is pleasing someone else.
Read more: BDSM 101: The importance of consent
3. Permission to touch
You can start this behavior when they’re little by modelling the behavior: “Can I give you a hug?” If they say yes, go for it! But if they say no, respect their wishes, and refrain from it. If you make a habit of it in your family, then asking before touching will become second nature to your kids. This, more than anything, could help them understand what consent means. In our home, there is a total lack of PDA, while in our neighbour’s everyone is hugging everybody, and I could see this was making my boy uncomfortable – to have to snuggle into aunty’s big bosom. I told him to stick out his hand and proffer a handshake or say “Hi” and say, “I don’t like hugs”.
4. No means NO
Watching parents fight and raise their voices or hands against each other, terrifies children, but it also tells them that it is OK, it is a done thing. So if you want them to understand the meaning of NO and stop, then you need to be good role models. Your children need to know that when you say No and Stop, you mean it and they need to obey right away, without question, and to respect each other’s no’s and requests for space, and for a time-out.
5. Nip bullying in the bud
Teach your son the power of compassion and empathy. Help him understand how to put himself into someone else’s shoes. Having pets at home can bring this out in your child at an early age. Teach your child to see every person as a real human being with feelings, just like him. Teach him to ask if he can help if you are having a hectic time at home, in the kitchen. He will extend this behavior with his classmates and friends – “Can I help you?” “Is anything wrong?” Nip bullying, teasing, heckling, and harassing in the bud immediately, even if it is with his siblings.
6. Treat boys just as you treat girls
I knew of a cute chubby boy who used to be chased in school corridors by girls from older classes because he was so cute with rosy cheeks. One day he turned around and bit one of their noses. That put an end to the horsing around. The same goes for boys chasing girls in the playground and touching them against their will. It is not just “boys being boys,” it sends out dangerous messages. Comments about sexual assault are not “boys will be boys” or “just how men talk.” The idea that boys are naturally naughty or aggressive must end. Girls also should not be given ideas that they are delicate and need “protection”. They must be taught how to be fearless and exhibit a strong body language.
7. Be transparent with teenagers
As they get older, you can be upfront about it: you never have sex with girls who are drunk, because they can’t consent. You don’t have sex with girls who say no, because they are not consenting, and yes – no always, always means no, it does not mean ‘maybe’. Always wear a condom. Don’t perform any act that makes you uncomfortable. Just as you respect her No, she must also reciprocate by accepting your No.