Jamie Lynn Spears’ official announcement she is pregnant is bringing up conversations about the legal age of consent for sexual activity. From the Genarlow Wilson case in Georgia earlier this year to now the pregnancy of 16 year old Jamie Lynn Spears (the star of Nickelodeon’s "Zoey 101" and sister of Britney Spears), our country needs to take a sincere look at consent and society’s current approach to sexual education in our schools and in our homes. From educators to parents, direct conversations are needed with all students.
The entire concept of "consent" is constantly misunderstood. In reporting of pregnancies involving minors, the media often says "consensual sex among minors." When a state has laws stating a minor cannot give consent with a partner of a specific age, the media needs to use the following wording instead, "mutually agreed upon sex." The failure to use the correct wording leads to students and overall society responding with, "How can consensual sex be rape?" Consent is a LEGAL term.
Here is where the problem begins. How many teenagers and young adults actually have MUTUALLY AGREED UPON sexual activity? For the sexual activity to be "Mutually Agreed Upon," it would demand two people agreeing together – A CONVERSATION (No, not a contract. Two people talking with each other). However, we know most students do not openly discuss their sexual activity with their partner until they are already at the point of being uncomfortable OR until after the act has already been done OR or not at all.
While speaking in middle schools, high schools, and colleges, students continually tell me that if they TALKED FIRST, it would slow down the speed at which the sexual activity is taking place AND often stop it from happening at all. By talking first, they would frequently find the conversation uncomfortable which would be a telling sign one of the two people (if not both) is not mature enough and/or comfortable enough in the sexual situation that is about to occur! Teaching consent the correct way better protects today’s students.
Start this discussion in your classroom and then report the results in the "Comments" section of this post.