Humans of New York's Brandon Stanton has a way of opening people's hearts and minds to the difficult realities our neighbors — those close to home and those less so — face with his photography. He also has a way of making sometimes-uncomfortable topics better understood through his interviews with his subjects.
A Sunday Facebook post from the blogger featuring a young, female New Yorker sheds light on the nature of consent, and the conversation about it that we should be having with our teens.
In the post, the anonymous woman recalls one of her first sexual experiences that occurred in the summer between 8th and 9th grade. She was drinking in the basement with her "make-out buddy" when he suggested that they have sex.
"My heart was racing and I was terrified," she told Stanton. "I kept saying: 'maybe,' 'maybe,' 'maybe.'"
"No more maybes," the boy responded. "Let's flip a coin."
Let's be perfectly clear — flipping a coin does not constitute consent. Consent is an enthusiastic "yes," not a "maybe." But she felt pressured. The experience haunted her for years.
"I went home and filled up a whole page in my journal," she said. "I wrote in purple sharpie, over and over: 'It didn't happen.' For the longest time, I felt like it was my fault for feeling hurt. Like I was being overly sensitive. It took five years for me to realize that consent is not a coin flip."
As of Tuesday, the Facebook post received over 205,000 likes.
Stanton's post highlights the need for schools to make educating young teens about the importance of consent when engaging in sexual activities a part of their sex ed curriculum. A 2015 Planned Parenthood study found that only 25 percent of people learned how to say no to sex in middle school and only 14 percent learned how to correctly ask for consent.
Thanks to programs like Power Up, Speak Out!, more educators are now teaching their students everything they need to know about sexual consent. And Fairfax County, Virginia — home to one of the largest public school districts in the U.S. — has led the charge by expanding its sex education curriculum to include consent.
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