“Especially at a younger age, even if a doctor would've asked me, ‘What is consent to you? What is consent?’ That would've literally changed my world.” - K., Age 21
This quote comes from one of seventeen LGBTQIA+ young people ages 15 to 25 I interviewed in 2020 about how they search for sexual health information online. Ten of the seventeen young people discussed difficulties finding relevant information about consent. They expressed not just a desire for consent education, but specifically wanted information about what consent looks like in LGBTQIA+ relationships. For consent and the many other topics that standard sex education fails to cover adequately for LGBTQIA+ young people, they turn to Google, social media, and other internet resources. Consent might be effectively taught in every sex ed classroom or presented by healthcare professionals in the future, but where can we guide young people at this moment to learn more about consent in LGBTQIA+ relationships?
To answer this question, I started with Scarleteen.com, an online resource vital to my own teenage sexual health information seeking. Scarleteen’s goal is to provide comprehensive and inclusive sexuality and relationship information to young people. As part of the Scarleteen “Quickies” series, I found Quickies: Sexual Consent Basics. Perhaps most importantly for LGBTQIA+ young people, Scarleteen refrains from using gendered language. No matter the genders of people in a relationship or sexual encounter, it is clear that consent is a vital and ongoing process. The “quickie” format accomplishes three main things: 1. Present consent basics; 2. Adapt an existing tool for navigating consent; 3. Provide more resources including other Scarleteen articles.
Maybe one day, sex ed curricula will include relevant consent education for all and conversations about consent with healthcare providers will be the standard, but for now, we must also meet young people outside of these institutions to teach them about consent. Not everyone will find or access Scarleteen, but online resources like this might be one way to meet the information needs of some LGBTQIA+ young people who are developing understandings of their own bodies and how those bodies can healthily interact intimately with others.
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