For Teachers & Professionals
Teaching consent to older adolescents (13-18 years)
Planned Parenthood Federation of America is a non-profit organization that delivers vital reproductive health care, sex education, and information to millions of people worldwide. On YouTube, one can find plenty of their videos talking about and explaining briefly sexual education topics. , consent about sexual activity is taken into account, providing a visual practical example. Moreover, their videos promote inclusiveness showing people of different ethnicities and sexual orientations.
Why is it important to teach consent?
Consenting means agreeing to do something. Giving sexual consent means agreeing to have sex. All people have the right to give or withhold sexual consent and all people have the responsibility to respect their partners’ right to give or withhold such consent.
Older adolescence is the time when young people are becoming sexually active. Therefore lessons about consent and boundaries should acknowledge its importance when it comes to sexual activities. Of course, education on this subject needs to be supported by learning about gender roles, communication in relationships, sex and the law and so on. Teaching young people to acknowledge and respect other people’s personal boundaries can help create a society where no one feels ashamed to willingly engage in or reject sexual activity. Good quality education on consent should strive to support young people to have safe, pleasurable and satisfying experiences.
If young people are only taught how to say ‘no’ to sexual experiences they are unlikely to understand the nuances of consent and communication when they do become sexually active. In the videos of planned parenthood are reported examples of situations in which a “no” is not given, but where the other person must have the ability and empathy to comprehend the other person’s limits, for example from body language.
General rules for meaningful, free and informed consent in a situation involving sex:
• Adolescents must know that they have the right to decide for themselves whether or not they want to participate in a particular sexual activity.;
• Adolescents must have a sufficient sense of power and control over their own life to be able to communicate and implement their decision;
• Adolescents must have the maturity to understand what an activity entails and what consequences it might bring, and the maturity to communicate with their partner about these issues;
• They must be in a situation or relationship where their decision will be recognized and respected by their partner;
• They must know what the activity involves and what their feelings are about it; what the risks are; and how to protect themselves and their partner from unwanted pregnancy and infection;
• They must have a clear mind, not impaired by alcohol or drugs at the time of decision-making;
• They must have accurate information about their partner’s current sexual health status (including any previous sexual exposure or drug use that could present a risk to you);
• If they can, avoid situations where they are likely to experience pressure to have unwanted sex for material or financial reasons.
More information and practical tools can be freely downloaded from the website Population Council and are collected in the “It’s All One Curriculum: Guidelines and Activities for a Unified Approach to Sexuality, Gender, HIV, and Human Rights Education”. It’s All One was created by the Population Council in collaboration with six other nongovernmental organizations, one of which is Planned Parenthood. It is a comprehensive guide encompassing also the topic of consent. Educators in diverse settings can easily understand the content and extract the level of detail they need to meet local goals.
Population Council. (2009). It's All One Curriculum: Guidelines and Activities for a Unified Approach to Sexuality, Gender, HIV, and Human Rights Education. Population Council. Retrieved September, 2022, from https://www.popcouncil.org/research/its-all-one-curriculum-guidelines-and-activities-for-a-unified-approach-to-
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