How not to hurt someone

By Tara Meister

Today I want to share a specific experience I have made during these four years I have been giving workshops for school classes about sex, love and relationships, as part of a voluntary project run by students.

Usually when I hold CSE (comprehensive sexual education) workshops at school, we divide the class by gender for the last 45 minutes to give room for certain topics within smaller groups and -hopefully- safer spaces. We are aware that this is a very binary and therefore problematic setting which is discussed a lot among our team, but that is a topic for another day.

I myself have only been with the boys and amabs (assigned male at birth) group three times, because I usually supervise the other group. Those three times I realised something, that I had not been fully aware of before: there were so many questions coming from the kids concerning how they could avoid hurting someone during sex. I had known this to be an issue before of course but it was then that I fully understood how worried they were about it and hence how much harm we cause them when we do not talk to boys and amabs about consent. They do not want to do anything the other person does not like- the idea is horrifying to them, and the experience might be traumatic. So many of them where scared they might hurt someone when having penetrative sex for the first time. They were literally asking me for some secret hints how to act in bed so the other person would not feel any pain, although the whole point of it is communication and moving away from fixed ideas about having sex, such as: sex has to end with an orgasm.

If we do not give young people- especially boys and people socialised as men- the tools they need to have a healthy and consenting sex life, we are exposing them to potentially traumatising situations where they unwillingly harm someone. It should therefore be the right of every young person to receive education on consent in opposition to the expectations and images that are put upon them by movies, porn, and the patriarchal society they grow up in.

I think – as I did too- we all still lack awareness of how it is not only our responsibility as a society to prevent the boundaries of women and afabs from being overstepped, but also to spare men and amabs causing harm they were not meant to cause.