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Wynne's Not The Only Who Thinks Consent Should Be Taught Early

01/29/2015 01:50 EST | Updated 01/29/2015 01:59 EST
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Grade one kids should have a new set of “building blocks” to play with next fall.

Premier Kathleen Wynne announced she plans to roll out a new sex ed program for next semester's students. The program would be aimed at giving children from Grade 1 and up the tools to recognize consent.

“I want to make sure that we have a curriculum in place that gives young people the opportunity to learn about healthy relationships,” Wynne said. “And I want students to understand what it means to say no and what it means to give active consent.”

Ontario has been using a 1998 sex ed program, one created when sexting, social media and online bullying were not on anyone's radar.

But Wynne says she understands it’s time for a change after getting feedback from students during her campus tour. Two 13-year-old students who launched their own petition around consent stood up with Wynne during her speech and expressed the importance of these teachings.

Learning about abstinence isn't realistic because sex is a part of society, part of our lives," one of the students, Tessa Hill, says. "Not learning about consent means not knowing what consent is when you do decide to have sex."

Similar thoughts were reflected in a survey The Huffington Post Canada conducted in November. After asking our readers what they thought was needed to prevent sexual assault, many responded in support of teaching consent at a young age. Readers believe that, as uncomfortable as it may seem, teaching kids at an early age about healthy relationships is necessary to put an end to sexual violence.

"Teach boys very, very early that touching without consent is not okay, and teach girls that it is okay to say, 'I don't like that,' and remind adults that it's not okay to dismiss it."

- A reader in Vancouver, Wash., U.S.A

"Sex ed needs to be taught earlier in schools with a unit on consensual consent. There should be an open dialogue as to what people think consent means going into the lesson and find out how their definition has changed at the end after it's been expressly explained. It should be stressed that consent can be taken away at any time."

- A reader in Vancouver, B.C.

“More than anything, I believe in early and on-going education about consent. This doesn't mean we have to talk to four year olds about sex - it does mean making them aware that you should never do anything to someone that they don't want you to do. It can start with hair pulling and shoving in the lunch line.”

- A reader in London, U.K.

“Education needs to start at an early age and it has to be bold, open and wide spread in schools. Messaging in pop culture highly revolves around sex as the focal point and women as sex objects. There needs to also be a constant and bold reminder of respect for women, loving and healthy relationships and mutual consent.”

- A reader in Newmarket, Ont.

"Education of both sexes. Bring rape to the forefront like we did with breast cancer, heart disease and have counselling readily available in every school, every church, every hospital, every shelter, every avenue!"

- A reader in Campbellton, N.B.

“The earlier boys and girls know what legal consent means, and understand what different forms of assault are, the less likely they will engage in this behaviour.”

- A reader in Victoria, B.C.

“Teaching from an early age - boys and girls -- that the word 'no' means 'no' and that if anyone doesn't listen to their 'no' they need to report it and that a person has no right to ignore their consent boundaries. This goes for touching, kissing, hugging. EVEN FAMILY MEMBERS.”

- A reader in Toronto, Ont.

Defining Rape Does Belong In Schools

Another problem readers felt was lacking in education was teaching the definition of rape or sexual assault.

“Talk about rape and sexual assault with kids, so they develop defenses and voices. Make it part of grade school curriculum because parents are not doing the education at home.”

- A reader in Victoria, B.C.

‘Education comes first: sexual assault is never, ever "justified," "understandable" or the victims' "fault." It's not about clothes, or sex, it's about power and violence. Men need to be educated. Women need to be educated. The police and the justice system needs to be educated -- and controlled. Independent oversight will probably be required for years until the "old guard" of police and judges falls to the wayside.”

- A reader in Toronto, Ont.

“Early-on education and awareness of what rape and sexual assault consists of, how society perceives the crimes, judicial punishment for the crimes, impacts on the victims -- anything to help people understand what rape is and how it ruins lives. We need to move society to a point where rape/assault/abuse and violence against women are completely unacceptable and publicly shamed. Change begins with education and awareness... keep the discussion at the forefront!”

- A reader in Winnipeg, Man.

"Talk about it, not as a women's issue but as a societal issue. Talk about it to kids. Talk to kids about what to do and how to get help if they have feelings of wanting to hurt someone or have power over them. Let them know they are okay and we can help them with those feelings."

- A reader in Toronto, Ont.

Empathy Is The End Goal

Readers also felt that men and women need to be taught about how to respect each other. There needs to be more understanding about the stigmas people face on an everyday basis, in a safe environment.

"Society needs to become less masculine in nature. Men need to learn equality from birth. Women need to become more vocal about sexual assault. Society needs to stop victim blaming, stop making excuses for criminals, and provide better education on sexual behaviors in school. Sexual education cannot be "opted out for" because of personal beliefs. Children need to know that sexual assault is not okay, because every sex offender was once a child and had every opportunity to learn about these issues."

- A reader in Calgary, Alta.

"Speak to children about treating each other well. Do not say 'boys will be boys' or 'he's only teasing you because he likes you'. Teach children about boundaries and their responsibility to not hurt others. Extend this teaching to high schools and colleges/universities. Emphasize the responsibility of people not to hurt each other. Do not excuse the actions of someone who harms someone else. Demand responsibility of the perpetrator of an offence."

- A reader in Nanaimo, B.C.

"A good place to start would be education about respect and self respect for boys and girls starting in grade school as well as conversations about consent."

- A reader in Whistler, B.C.

"Education, Education, Education!

This begins in grade school and progresses every year thereafter, not just around sex and what constitutes consent but on communication overall. From junior high school on, have gender-oriented classes around sexuality to encourage freedom of discussion and then to have some classes inclusive of all genders. Because genders perceive and express differently we need to acknowledge this. We need to learn methods of effective communication which we very often don't get at home. Girls and boys need to be taught to express and channel dis-empowerment, frustration and confusion in ways they feel safe, heard, and which are genuinely empowering."

- A reader in Toronto, Ont.


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