A boy doll and a girl doll holding hands.
3 Ways to Talk about Consent with Your Teen

Any good sex talk between parent and teen must include a discussion about sexual consent. Here are three tips for a talk on consent.

Caricature of Genevieve Martinez-Garcia

By Genevieve Martínez García, PhD

February 28, 2019

Any good sex talk between parent and teen must include a discussion about sexual consent. If it makes you feel uncomfortable, know that you may be protecting them from sexual violence, as either a victim or perpetrator.

Talk about "bodily autonomy" first

Tell them that they have control over who they allow to touch their body, for what, and for how long. Your teen should feel comfortable saying “No” to unwanted touch, even if they are in a relationship, or have previously consented. Although body language can hint that someone is into an activity, affirmative and enthusiastic consent should be obtained before initiating any intimate activity, and that means every time.

giving consent is not a girl thing

Debunk gender expectations with your teen. They cannot assume that a male partner will always consent to sex because it is seen as gender expectation. On the other hand, women should not passively wait for their partner to ask them to consent. It is totally ok for guys to say No, and it’s totally ok for young women to ask first.

start early

Don’t wait until your teen is having sex to start talking about consent. Talk to your child about consenting to touch other children’s bodies when they are playing tag, tickling each other or before giving them a hug. Most importantly, reinforce that they can say no to being touched in any way by friends or adults. The next time Aunt Mathilda comes to visit, do not force them to hug and kiss her goodbye if it makes them uncomfortable.

Genevieve Martínez-García, PhD, is the Healthy Teen Network Director of Innovation and Research and is committed to shaking things up and bringing innovation to our field. If her kids grant her any downtime, you can find her on her yoga mat, planning a trip, or working on a house project. Read more about Genevieve