Consent is portrayed on social media as a high standard: sexy and hard to achieve. Tiktok, Instagram and Twitter are platforms where users can share any opinions and information of their choosing. And the way consent is presented via these platforms has raised a cause for concern.
The way consent is taught in schools is far from exemplary, if it’s taught at all. The Guttmacher Institute details how Federal and State law only require 38 states and the District of Columbia to mandate sex education. Out of those 38, only 11 require that education to cover consent.
Abstinence-based sex education often doesn’t teach people how to actively give or withdraw consent. Without that knowledge, seeing it presented on social media as a high standard enforces the idea that consent isn’t a norm. This can set low expectations of what sex and relationships should be like.
Presenting consent on socials as sexy isn’t a bad thing. Consent should be demonstrated as the bare minimum, rather than something that’s hard to achieve. But the issue isn’t rooted in social media. Misinformation would be less populous if sex educators accurately covered consent, which includes covering consent in LGBTQ+ relationships.
Sex ed covers heterosexual relationships more thoroughly than queer relationships — in most cases queer relationships are covered at all. But both need to be taught in equal proportion. Teaching about sex and relationships from a purely heterosexual perspective erases and excludes queerness. This creates an educational gap for the LGBTQ+ community, especially with giving and receiving consent.
When consent is taught in sex ed, it’s typically from a heterosexual point of view, which only discusses what straight people need to consent to. But queer and heterosexual relationships are different. Sex isn’t a one size fits all topic. And queer sex often includes sexual acts beyond what’s covered in standard sex education.
When consent isn’t taught beyond sex in straight relationships, queer people don’t learn how sex in their relationships can different — what they should be giving consent to and requiring consent for. Sex Ed has to be inclusionary to all genders and sexual orientations. And consent needs to be taught as the baseline for all relationships.
Phoebe Lefebvre is a high school student at Oakland School of the Arts focusing on creative nonfiction writing.
Edited by Shaylyn Martos