Rightfully, there is a lot of discussion happening in Australian schools right now about the concept of so-called “consent”. It’s great that there is an elevated focus on respectful engagement in relationships – at all levels. And we absolutely need to teach our youth about healthy sexual behaviour.
But in a conversation with our students where language matters, “consent” can feel like a legalistic term that is potentially (unwittingly?) reinforcing an unhealthy power dynamic. One person giving permission for the other to do something to them. Parents give “consent” for teachers to take students on a field trip. Patients give “consent” for a surgeon to operate on them.
Maybe, in these educative conversations with children about physical intimacy – conversations that are about helping them understand power and control – we might use more equalising terms like “mutual agreement” and “shared decisions” instead.
With rather than to.