WELCOME TO CONSENT
How to Say No, When to Say Yes, and How to Be the Boss of Your Body
Understanding consent is important for people with all kinds of bodies, in all kinds of circumstances—from getting a haircut or letting the doctor check your blood pressure to hugging a friend, picking up a child, or kissing someone. After all, consent isn’t always communicated with a clear “Yes, you can!” or “No, you can’t!” This guide breaks down myriad situations involving consent and bodily autonomy, including navigating new or changing feelings, recognizing power imbalances, staying safe in online spaces, and keeping relationships mutually comfortable. Through relatable illustrations, clear explanations, and real-life examples, readers will learn how to actively listen and observe,
Understanding consent is important for people with all kinds of bodies, in all kinds of circumstances—from getting a haircut or letting the doctor check your blood pressure to hugging a friend, picking up a child, or kissing someone. After all, consent isn’t always communicated with a clear “Yes, you can!” or “No, you can’t!” This guide breaks down myriad situations involving consent and bodily autonomy, including navigating new or changing feelings, recognizing power imbalances, staying safe in online spaces, and keeping relationships mutually comfortable. Through relatable illustrations, clear explanations, and real-life examples, readers will learn how to actively listen and observe, set boundaries, and speak up for themselves and others. Experts Yumi Stynes and Dr. Melissa Kang approach this crucial topic with passion, awareness, and empathy.
Every person is the boss of their own body! This lively guide—another engaging and essential resource from the creators of Welcome to Your Period!—digs deep into all aspects of consent.
- Candlewick Press
- March 2023
- 224 Pages
“Upbeat text, cheerful illustrations, and entertaining graphics convey body-affirmative messages, reminding young adults that they are the bosses of their own bodies, and they get to determine physical, social, and emotional boundaries of touching, hearing, seeing, and being seen. . . . an approachable and accessible guide for teens.” —Booklist
“This handbook provides opportunities to build confidence and bolster personal autonomy. . . thorough and empowering. . . An informative and comprehensive guide to giving and getting consent.” —Kirkus Reviews
“A fierce, funny, celebratory and extremely supportive young people’s guide to saying no, saying yes and being ‘the boss of your body.’ . . . the authors make clear from the get-go that there’s a lot more nuance and complexity to consent than meets the eye. . . Lucky is the young person who consents to read this book. . . . This absolutely necessary guide to consent explores with candor and humor the nuances of verbal and body language in navigating all kinds of relationships and situations.” — Shelf Awareness
“Written with humor and loaded with examples drawn from real-life situations, readers will learn how to make observations and interpret signals from other people and develop the confidence to speak up when it’s necessary. . . . Easy to read, this book is packed with good information and examples from real people. Health classes would benefit from this book, as well as counselor-led small group sessions.” —School Library Connection
Why is it hard to talk about consent? Gulp! Good question. Here are some of the reasons it’s hard to talk about consent:
Society and Culture
A lot of people—across cultures and nationalities—equate the topic of consent solely with the topic of sex, without realizing consent applies to many other situations as well. They may feel shame around sex and intimacy, and therefore feel awkward when it comes to talking about consent. When enough people feel this way, the society we grow up in can give off the vibe that we are supposed to feel awkward about it, too.
This is not everybody, but it could be your parents, your grandparents, or your peers. They may feel embarrassed. They may assume everyone has the same beliefs as they do. Or, importantly, they may find it hard to talk about consent because they don’t know the answers to your questions. Perhaps they weren’t really taught about consent, making it hard for them to teach you!
When it comes to conversations about boundaries, consent, and sex, there can be a lot of fear. Some adults worry that talking about sex will make teenagers go out and do it! (This is a myth, BTW—research shows the opposite to be true.) Being open about intimacy might not sit comfortably with your family’s beliefs or religion.
But just because clear consent communication makes them feel weird, doesn’t mean you need to feel weird about it, too. After all, consent isn’t just about sex—it’s part of daily life! If you’ve never discussed consent before, it might feel strange because it’s a new (and sometimes tricky) topic. That’s OK—we’re here to help!
It can be confusing
You might feel that “you should just know” what people want, or that “you’ll figure it out that “you’ll figure it out” when you’re trying to understand the boundaries of someone you care about. The problem with this is that when you guess, you sometimes guess wrong.
You might be used to putting your needs first, and not have much practice at putting someone else’s needs first. (Can’t you just assume that it’s the same as what you want? Um . . . No! Because they might want something different.)
And here’s where it gets really confusing: sometimes we’re not actually sure what we want, either! So how are we supposed to figure it out, let alone talk about it, if we’re unsure?
Some of us need help figuring out what we want and don’t want. For instance, do you want to watch that scary movie with all your friends, even though you know it will keep you awake all night? Should you go on a date with someone who likes you, even if you’re unsure of your feelings for them? We need to be able to say “I’m not sure.” A lot of us need to learn new ways to say no. A lot of us need to learn how to hear the word no—and respect it. We also need to learn how to understand what yes means in different situations. And— this is really important—we also need to learn that it’s OK to change our minds. We’ll cover all of that in this book.
The feels are distracting me!
Consent can be hard to talk about because it involves ideas that make us feel awkward, embarrassed, threatened, or exposed. For instance, someone might say, “I’m having pretty strong feelings for you. Can we talk about it?” They have asked for your consent to have a personal conversation, but you may still feel like you want to run away screaming!
We suggest that you put up a little antenna for feelings such as shame and fear—try to notice when you’re feeling them, and think about why. Feelings like embarrassment can be contagious—and passed from friend to friend or from parent to child! The good news is, the more you have these conversations, the easier and less awkward they get, and the better you get at acknowledging your feelings and moving on.
Because I’m a teenager!
Consent can be tricky when you’re young because there are rules and expectations around what we do with our bodies, but we aren’t full adults yet. People expect us to fit in and do the right thing without granting us right thing without granting us the same power that a grown-up has.
Worrying about what your friends are thinking or doing can nudge you toward making choices that you might not like. And being inexperienced may make you a little scared and overwhelmed when it comes to sticking up for yourself. It can also push you toward pressuring someone else into doing something they don’t really want to do, just because you want to try it. Consent works both ways.