#teensexting | #sexting | Tough conversations parents need to have with their sons



We need to engage in a touch of ‘secret men’s business’ that shouldn’t be secret – and that is to talk to our sons about sexual consent.

Yes, daughters need this conversation, but the reality is that 80 per cent of predatory sexual behaviour in teen years is perpetrated by boys – so they need to listen up.

But what to say? ‘No means no’ is a fair start but it needs to be nuanced a touch more. For some, ‘no’ is merely a suggestion to try harder. For others, it means, ‘Yes – but not now’. For a few, ‘no’ even means yes.

Every parent and carer will have their own wisdom as to what to share with their pre-teen and teenagers on this matter, but woven into it all need to be three important points.

Everyone is precious and needs to be handled with care. The impact of non-consensual sexual activity can ruin lives. The victim may suffer emotional scarring that can last a lifetime. Depression and acts of self-harm are not unknown consequences. The perpetrator may also have their life ruined. Shattered reputation, family shame, prison and being placed on a public sex offender’s list does not make for a happy life.

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Everyone needs to know the law. The legal definition of sex varies but generally requires there to have been full or partial penetration – anywhere. Kissing and fondling, if uninvited and non-consensual, may be seen as sexual assault.

In judging the legality of sexual relationships, the law typically takes into account three factors:

• Consent. (Did the person agree to sexual activity?)

• Equality. (Was there a power imbalance between those engaging in sexual activity?)

• Coercion. (Were threats of any kind used to obtain sexual favours?)

An expansion of each of these three factors would be wise when talking to our sons. Consent requires body-language and verbal language to make it obvious that sexual activity is wanted.

A ‘yes’ in the past does not mean a yes now. A person whose judgment is incapacitated by drugs, drink or drowsiness may be judged as not having given consent, even if they didn’t say no.

Equality covers more than age difference and the murky legal business of sexual activity between those that hover around the age of consent.

It embraces any situation where there may be a power imbalance such as that of a coach, teacher or carer. Also worth noting is that the legal age of consent varies around the world and even within Australia. It is not always 16 years.

Coercion is not just about physical threats. It can include emotional and social pressure for sexual pleasure. So, our sons need to be careful using the “You would if you truly loved me” line.

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They also need to be careful not to go near any form of blackmail, bribery or any of the dark arts to obtain sexual favours.

The third point is that everyone needs to be able to read the danger signs. Most boys will know with chilling certainty what constitutes sexual consent when fronting up to a police prosecutor on a Monday morning.

However, will they know with as much certainty late on a Friday night when fuelled with booze, aroused by the sensually dressed and in the company of mates big into sexual conquest?

Our sons and daughters live in a dangerous world. Dr Seuss and his cat are banned, but ‘X’ rated porn is freely available. Many of our homes model a lack of respect with domestic violence killing a woman every week.

There is a moral ambiguity born of a retreat from religious imperatives, and many of our children are being moulded by the cyber world rather than by parents.

A factor in many cases of non-consensual sex is the influence of peers. A victim, in wanting to be thought well of, will sometimes tolerate unwanted sex. A perpetrator, in wanting to be accepted by peers, will sometimes partner in sex acts that are demeaning and predatory.

For this reason, our youth need to recognise that choice of friends becomes important, as is cultivating the capacity to make your own choices when it comes to engaging in sex. As the saying goes: “Show me your friends and I’ll tell you your future.”

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Adding toxicity to the contemporary sexual scene is the mobile phone – which becomes a pimping agency when used for sexting, or for revenge porn.

The sending of ‘nudes’ is illegal, the showing or sharing of nudes is even more illegal and is, in essence, another form of non-consensual sex.

Over 80 per cent of ‘confidential’ nudes do not remain confidential. This means a lot of our young are inviting a visit by the police.

There is much more that could and should be shared on the matter of consensual sex. However, that described above is a good start. Anyone wanting a free 20-minute workshop on the topic can visit the Truwell website.

Dr Tim Hawkes is a former Sydney school headmaster, author of Ten Conversations You Must Have With Your Son, and an Ambassador for The Fathering Project.



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