Miriam Raggs and Phoebe Kaplan, Strong Women Fellows, co-authored this article originally published in VOXATL.
The word “yes” is a crucial word that needs to be clearly stated before any sort of sexual act. “Yes” is what ties consent all together, and author Jaclyn Friedman uses her voice to spread awareness about affirmative consent. Consent has to be clear “yes” and no other version. Consent can’t be an “I don’t know” or “maybe.” Both people must be in agreement.
JumpSpark’s Strong Women Fellowship met with Jaclyn Friedman, a writer, speaker, and activist, in January to talk candidly about sexual consent. We’ve always thought that sexual freedom and consent were important, and when Jaclyn talked about affirmative consent, we realized that it is even more important than one might think. It’s much harder to say “no” than it is to say “yes.” If someone is not saying yes, then it’s a no. People need to make sure the other party is saying yes the whole way through.
Sadly, affirmative consent isn’t spoken about enough for it to be practiced. Consent needs to be taught. At the public schools, we attend, we were only taught to practice abstinence, and our sexual health class or sex ed was only for a few days each year. We learned all about the reproductive organs and mostly why not to have sex. Teaching teenagers only about abstinence is a poor choice. This abstinence-only education only makes us more reckless and unaware of sexual assault.
Jaclyn brought up the fact that schools only ever teach about male sexual pleasure and never about female pleasure. This is because they are so focused on not wanting teens to have sex. Schools should change their focus and teach teens to have safer sex.
As a closing for our meeting, we used a Padlet that contained reflection questions after Jaclyn finished speaking. One of the questions was “What are your overall thoughts about this topic,” and someone responded saying, “It needs to be normalized at a younger age.” Sex education needs to start younger, be offered every year, and be more extensive. Younger elementary school children should be learning about consent through asking before hugging or touching someone.
If affirmative consent was taught in sexual-education classes, sexual assaults could be reduced by a great amount by having both parties of the sexual situation knowing what they truly are doing. Affirmative consent is an extremely important topic that needs to be spoken about more.
Miriam Raggs is a 10th grader at The Weber School, and Phoebe Kaplan is a 10th grader at Riverwood International Charter School. Both are second-year Fellows and Peer Leaders for the JumpSpark Strong Women Fellowship.