Although, over the years, teen films have been criticized for their poor handling of sexual consent, more recent teen movies clearly have sought to take consent into account. To avoid being part of rape culture, they’ve adopted consent culture. However, recent popular American teen films, such as The To Do List (2013), Blockers (2018), Alex Strangelove (2018), To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before (2018), and Yes God Yes (2020), demonstrate a problematic trend. While obtaining girls’ consent is essential in many of these films, obtaining boys’ consent often appears irrelevant.
Contemporary teen films often put girls in the driver’s seat—girls’ sexual desire has become more commonplace, and girls are often the initiator of intimate acts. However, their sexual empowerment sometimes comes at the expense of their partners, particularly when they are male. At times, boys are even used as props—and their consent is either a moot point or they are presumed to be “always already” consenting.
Why is this imbalance a problem? After all, haven’t we been waiting centuries for girls’ sexuality to be seen as "normal"? Absolutely. But the goal of affirmative consent as defined, for example, by Planned Parenthood is for sexual consent to be "freely given, reversible, informed, enthusiastic and specific"—for all parties involved. So we might ask: if teen films now emphasize how affirmative consent is necessary to obtain from girls, why not from boys, too?