We have a 12 yo, and we were just talking about consent with him and came across this great video that talks about consenting for sex using the metaphor of making a cup of tea. It is truly a great quick video- well worth the watch (see below).
Warning: there are a couple of swears at the beginning, still well worth it!
It also got me thinking though, how the same concept also applies to relationships. In addition to thinking of it as a metaphor for sex, it is also about advice, about not forcing our own views, needs, survival maps on others.
It is inevitable that we will at one point or another impose our own views, morals, beliefs and ways of doing things on the people around us, especially the people closest to us.
We usually do this with good intentions, because we are trying to be caring or helpful, and because we want to protect them. Sometimes it also gets tied into needing to feel important or having control (mastery or own need for safety) or like we are contributing (meaning and purpose). For some of us it can also be as a way to stop feeling helpless. Regardless of OUR motivation, we really should be asking for consent before we force our own stuff, whether it is about sex or even just our advice on others.
I’ll give you an example, one of our other sons was being bullied a while back. I have a pretty serious history of being bullied myself for most of my childhood, to the point that my head was repeatedly smashed against a brick wall while adult bystanders watched and did nothing. Understandably, I would absolutely never want my children to experience anything like that, so my instinct was to puff myself up and intervene, to take over and make sure it never happened again to our son.
Thankfully, I have done the emotional work to also recognize that was totally MY STUFF, and that would be completely disempowering to him, who already felt helpless in the situation. So I took some deep breaths and instead asked how he felt, validated that how he was feeling (sad, mad, disappointed, scared) was completely normal and that these were healthy responses to feeling bullied, and they came from a belief that he mattered and that shouldn’t have happened. Then we brain-stormed possible ways to deal with the situation, some involved me, some didn’t. In the end he chose to handle the situation himself, with his teachers and myself in his back pocket if it was necessary to call for back up. It ended well and he walked away from the interaction feeling stronger and more empowered than even before the situation happened.
Because I ASKED WHAT HE NEEDED AND WANTED (aka got his consent before telling him what to do), instead of taking charge and inadvertently making him feel even more powerless and like a victim, he learned how to deal with bullies, which built up his own resilience and belief that he can take care of himself and his own safety. We also got to reinforce that we are there for him if he needs us. It was actually a really powerful learning situation- all because of consent!
This example highlights that sometimes even crappy things, when handled well, make us stronger and are actually strangely good for us. It also bring up a question from me to you.
So my question is this…are you asking for consent in the situations you should be in your life? For sex you have to- absolutely and every time, but also when you give advice or tell people what to do or how to think?
How do you feel towards the people who force their views, beliefs or judgments on you? Do you want to be that person to them? How does that fit with your values?
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Have a great week!