How To Talk To Your Teenager About Consent

It may not be the most comfortable of conversations but it's a very necessary one


There is a huge amount of talk in the media about “sexual consent” and indeed it is a subject that all parents should be aware of at a time when it is being massively questioned. Parents being aware is one thing, but teenagers too need to be spoken to about consent however unsettling the conversation is, it is vitally important whether your teen is a male or female.

Though secondary schools do talk about the subject in SPHE it is still massively under-discussed and parents should broach the subject with their teen sooner rather than later. 

What is sexual consent?

Sexual consent is when someone agrees, gives permission or says “yes” to sexual activities from another person. All people in a sexual situation should feel they can say yes or no or stop the sexual activity at any point.

There are many ways to give consent and it doesn’t have to be verbal however agreeing verbally can help you and your partner respect each other’s boundaries. Affirmative consent refers to the idea that sexual consent can never be assumed and whoever initiates the sexual activity must ask permission and receive a verbal “yes” before continuing any level of sexual pursuit. 

The law on sexual consent. 

Sexual consent is a huge grey area in Irish law and it is something that now is been acknowledged by the government and steps are been taken to legislate the definition of sexual consent. It is now advising that anyone who is asleep or unconscious as a result of intoxication cannot possibly consent to sexual activities.

The new law will also protect people with special needs who may not be able to communicate their wishes and will also clarify that consent cannot be given if the person is detained against their will or given via a third party. 

Tips on talking to your teenager.

Be frank and honest about your worries in regards to sexual consent though your teenager will probably squirm and tell you they don’t need this chat you need to be clear that this must be spoken about. 

Never assume your kid knows this stuff because as a parent the responsibility falls on you to ensure your child knows all about the age of consent and sexual consent. 

“Yes” is an important word and whether you are raising boys or girls your teen should understand that the word “yes” is vital where sexual activity is concerned. Of course, sexual activity can be spontaneous and on impulse but our teenagers should be encouraged to verbally agree on such things before the deeds are done. 

It is ok to say “no” at any time before a sexual activity takes place even if both parties agreed to it beforehand. Reminding your teen that their body is their own and not feeling pressured to do something is so important to personal safety and well-being.

Everyone has a right to say “no” at any time before or during sexual activities and this must be accepted.  If in doubt talk to someone you trust and seek help in figuring out what is right or wrong in terms of consent.       

Emma Hayes

Emma Hayes is a busy mum to two girls aged 17 and 11 and is married to her childhood sweetheart.

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