So much of the focus in the media lately has been on the impropriety of eminent men sexually harassing women, with no attention to teaching teenagers the tools of prevention. I’m focusing this blog on five things girls need to take care of themselves with full knowledge that boys have just as much or more to learn in this regard. Listen to my upcoming blog on how to educate boys about sexual harassment and consent.
- Self-Worth: I start with this quality because everything else will flow from it. Girls who have high self-confidence, love themselves, and know they deserve the best treatment from everyone tend to get pushed less because of the energy they radiate. That belief results in clearer, firmer boundaries.
- Changing belief systems: Too many girls worry that setting boundaries is being mean. The ‘good girl’ conditioning they have absorbed causes them to be too concerned about the other person: Will they be mad? Will I lose their approval or love? Is it being bitchy to speak up? Am I being selfish for wanting what I want? Girls need to let go of taking care of other people’s needs to their own detriment and believe that their needs matter too.
- Check-ins: It is crucial that women continually check-in with themselves throughout their experiences and ask themselves questions like: Am I enjoying myself? Am I still okay with this? Am I comfortable with being touched like this? If the answer to such questions is not an unqualified ‘yes’, then it’s a sign that it’s time to stop and set a boundary. Other important questions to consider: Are we moving faster than I’m comfortable with? Do I feel pressured, scared, respected, in control, and safe? Your answers will dictate whether to proceed or to pause the action.
- Consent: Permission needs to be explicit, and it needs to be given repeatedly as a sexual encounter becomes more intimate. The following are things that do NOT equal consent: flirting, wearing sexy outfits, a hesitant, unclear response when asked if they want to continue, the other person seems like they’re “into it”, or you’ve already been experiencing some level of sex, including having progressed to 2nd or 3rd base or oral sex. It’s always okay to put the brakes on, regardless of what’s preceded that moment.
- Trust your gut: Our brains are incredible computers that pick up on hundreds of things each moment that are below the level of our consciousness. So, if your internal alarms go off signalling that something is not right, I tell girls to ALWAYS trust that intuition even if there is no apparent evidence to support it. Trust that your brain has noticed something that isn’t safe and you will avoid dangerous situations.
Girls and women who develop these tools will be more in control of romantic situations, their boundaries will be more firm and clear, and they will be less likely to be pressured or harassed. It’s never too late to begin this kind of education.