In the weeks following the allegations against Judge Brett Kavanaugh, discussions about consent and the #MeToo movement have gained more traction. Given the recent conversations about violence against women and discussions that dabble in “blurred lines” and question that the state of mind and memory of victims, our FIERCE team talked about the meaning of consent and where we learned how to find our voice and say “no” when we want to.
Understanding respect for boundaries.
“My parents never really had a conversation with me about consent, at least none that I remember. I recall on a couple of occasions my mom just telling me that if i was dating someone, I had to make sure that I felt respected at all times (and vice versa), and that whoever I dated had to understand that “no” meant “no” and would never force me to do anything I didn’t want to do. It was always made clear that it was up to me where I wanted to draw the line, but the sooner I set my boundaries the easier it was, and to make sure I never led anyone on.” – Jess
Having the uncomfortable but necessary conversation.
“To be honest my mom didn’t really like to touch the subject from what I remember. Maybe I was too little to remember or understand? I know it is probably an awkward and hard talk to have with your kids. I do feel like it’s extremely important. One thing is for sure, my mom did let me know which parts were mine and that it was wrong if anyone touched me there. That is all. I guess she probably just wanted to throw it out there so I understood and so that she could move on from that “awkward” topic. To this day she does not like to talk about anything sexual to me. This could possibly be a common thing with Latino parents. Skipping over this talk, taking it lightly. I truly wish she could have been more open with me, even so right now.” – Jenny
Understanding it as a man.
“My mother always made sure to let my brother and I know that we have full autonomy over our own bodies. She’d say ‘Nobody has the right to pressure you into doing something you don’t want to do. If you feel uncomfortable during any situation, call me and I will pick you up immediately, no questions asked.’ This was when I was in high school and wanted to go to parties. She was also very clear with us that the same way we had freedom and autonomy over our bodies, so did everyone else. We had no right to pressure others to do something they were uncomfortable with. It was something that she made clear was abhorrent and inexcusable. Just like we want to feel free to be ourselves without fear of being abused or mistreated, we need to see everyone else with the same fear and privilege to dictate what happens to their bodies.” – Jorge
The mom who used lessons on consent to empower.
“My mom raised my siblings and I very Catholic, so she always told us sex was for marriage. That aside, she also told us that our bodies were to be respected and treated like the most sacred thing. Growing up, I always thought she was overly strict when she would tell me things boys shouldn’t do, but now that I’m older I know that she was teaching me about consent and boundaries. She constantly reminded me that my body was mine and no one else’s property. She also role played with me and put me in pretend scenarios where she’d get close to me so that I would practice saying “stop” to the other person. I was very shy, so she did her best to strengthen me and teach me ways to be comfortable enough to say “no” and not clam up.” – Wendy
Learning it from home.
“My mom started having discussions with my siblings and me about our bodies and consent for as long as I can remember. Looking back it’s very clear that she was instilling in us the knowledge that we had autonomy over our bodies, a right to say “no” and understand that there are people out there in the world who take advantage. I remember her bringing up conversations around this rather frequently, whether it was on a drive to school or on our way to spend time with a family member. She always wanted us to know that if anyone ever made us feel uncomfortable or weird or embarrassed about the way they interacted with us physically or verbally that we had to speak up for ourselves. We didn’t use words like “vagina” in our house, we used “totico” but my mom made sure we knew that this was ours and that no one was allowed to touch it. She also made sure we knew that it was wrong to touch other people. It went both ways. She harped on this a lot when it came to my twin brother especially. She’d also always tell us to say the word “no” and that if something made us feel uncomfortable we had to tell her. My mom was very big on letting us know that if an adult that wasn’t her or my father told us to keep a secret between the two of us or threatened us that they were wrong and that we had to tell her. Looking back I really appreciate that now. I think it’s definitely helped me on the few occasions that I felt as if someone was attempting to take advantage of me.” – Alex
On how not talking about it made things a little more complex.
“I never had the ‘talk’ with my parent about sexuality. My mom got pregnant with twins when she was only 19 years old, and it was very hard economically for my parents to raise them. When I got my first boyfriend, my mom’s only concern was that I should use always protection, she didn’t care if I had sex or no, as long as I use protection to avoid getting pregnant at a young age as her. I guess we never had the talk about consent because my mom never experienced it before, she just tells me that she will be there for me if I want to talk about it. I experience it for the first time in college and it was hard for me to say “no” because I never had the talk and at my catholic school they never taught us about sexuality, so I was really naive on the topic of sexuality and consent.” – Danna
The parents who used consent talks to share defense methods.
“As an only child having conversations about consent with my parents seemed to be a frequent discussion. Whether or not I wanted to listen to them back then, looking back now I know my parents were simply engraining confidence in me from a young age to defend myself in any given situation. When I was younger my parents enrolled me in self defense classes not as an extracurricular activity but more as an everyday practice. Although, I always found them to be strict I know they were doing their best job to project me.” – Victoria