In the recent weeks, the Wynne government’s new sex education curriculum has prompted mass protests and backlash, with parents arguing that certain topics, such as gender identities, oral and anal sex and masturbation, are too graphic or complex for students to learn. While parents have every right to pull their child from portions of the entire curriculum, there’s one lesson that students shouldn’t miss out on; consent.
In a world where issues of sexual assault and rape culture are huge news stories (for example, Steubenville and Jian Ghomeshi) and social media is used as a tool to celebrate such behaviour, lessons about consent are something that students cannot afford to miss.
Starting in Grade 2, students will be introduced to a broad concept of consent by learning how to stand up for themselves by saying no and respecting when others say no.
Lessons on consent get more and more specific as students get older. Grade 4 students are learning to identify abuse in various relationships, while Grade 6 students gain an understanding of the importance of clear communication in healthy relationships. Grade 7 students discuss the importance of communication and clear understanding on both sides when it comes to sexual relationships and in Grade 8, students learn that “consent is communicated, not assumed” and that you don’t have to explain yourself when you say no.
Why is all this so important? Because when I was in elementary school in the early 2000s, I remember learning none of this. Yes, I learned about sex and periods and STIs and all the physical stuff, but no one ever told me I could say no and not feel guilty. No one ever told me that I had full control of my body. No one ever told me how important my voice was when it came to relationships, whether they are sexual or not. And now that I’m older, I wish I knew all this sooner.
So if you want to pull your child from sex-ed classes this fall, feel free. But don’t let them be uneducated about consent. Teaching consent isn’t teaching kids how to have sex, it’s teaching them that they can choose yes or no for themselves when sex does become an issue.
Rape culture is alive and well. And it won’t end with the current generation. It ends with the next, when we sit down and explain the importance of consent, the importance of communication, the importance of respect and the power of having a choice. And when a person is given the right information, those choices become even more powerful.