Is consent enough?

Current sex education emphasises the importance of consent. “Do you really want to?” is often promoted as the key question that a young person needs to answer affirmatively before proceeding with a sexual liaison.

Of course consent is an essential ethical consideration. It is important that our young people learn that sexual interaction without consent is assault or rape and, we must uphold the age of consent, recognising the need for a minimum age when consent can be confidently given.

But teaching our young people about consent is not enough. Just because two people like an idea doesn’t make it right. We are all capable of foolish thinking and self-deceit, especially when peers affirm our desires. We are capable of agreeing to actions that are wrong and cause harm to ourselves and others, as Proverbs 14:12 says, ‘There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death’. Young people need to be taught to ask not just, “Do you really want to?” but, “Is this a good choice?”.

Let us not deceive our young people into thinking that consent is enough. It is a necessary first consideration but just the beginning of their route to deciding the right way to go.