Teenagers and Consent
In my head, I know it’s 2020, but sometimes, when I speak to my sixteen-year-old daughter, I feel like it’s still 1980 and Jimmy Saville is on the telly with a kid on his knee, cigar erect in his slavering mouth.
I mean this to be as repulsive as it sounds, because that’s how I feel when I am told of the behaviour teenage girls regularly experience. It’s worse than when I was a kid, and that’s thirty years ago.
(Please note that this blog is about the way some girls are treated by some boys. I am aware that ‘not all boys’ and that boys can be victims too – but that’s for another post).
So, what is Ucking?
I first became aware of what was going on with local teens when a friend asked if I’d heard of ‘ucking’.
The Urban Dictionary (the distasteful but necessary companion to any parent of older kids) defines ucking as ‘giving head/sucking dick’.
It’s not the fellatio element I have an issue with. What people decide to do sexually is no concern of mine. It’s the fact that girls are commonly EXPECTED to perform it on boys they are not in a relationship with, to demonstrate they like them and/or are not uptight or no fun.
Why are girls ‘Ucking’ boys they aren’t in a relationship with?
Giving a blow job has superseded, ‘My friend fancies your friend.’ How did that happen?
When we discussed this and all the related issues with my daughter, her nonchalance was chilling.
‘It’s just what people do.’ she said. Quickly followed by, ‘Not me, obviously. It’s gross.’
To his credit, one of the questions my husband asked was, ‘And do the boys return the favour?’
‘No.’ she said, ‘that’s not how it works.’
‘It damned well is.’ We both said, ‘At least, it should be.’
I asked why they uck (there doesn’t seem to be anything discernible in it for them) and she didn’t have an adequate answer. We all know what it’s like trying to fit in at that age, the lengths we were willing to go to, to be popular, or at least, not be mocked or targeted by those who were.
But how many of us would put a penis in our mouth to show that we were part of the gang? That’s another level.
I repeat – it’s not the teenage sex I’m remonstrating about. I remember what it was like to be a horny youth and have no (ok, little) problem with sixteen-year-olds discovering the magic of each other’s bodies in a consensual, shared experience.
But ucking is not that. It is an expectation – a presumed right of a privileged male to be sexually serviced by a girl, then to tell everyone about it.
I believe those ucking at parties and gatherings consider it entirely consensual, and I’m sure much of it is. But it would be naïve to presume there’s no coercion involved. Surely peer pressure is exactly that, even if the individuals aren’t being forced in tangible ways? It is also happening before the participants are sixteen, which makes it non-consensual by law.
When I was a teen, there was a common belief that boys would suffer agonising testicular pain if they were aroused and didn’t ejaculate, and so it was a girl’s responsibility to provide relief. Otherwise she was purposefully hurting him.
What a load of bollocks – if you’ll pardon the pun.
So, none of this is new, but the stakes have increased. I truly thought we had evolved as a society and that my daughter wouldn’t suffer the same kind of sexual harassment I did. I was wrong.
Sexual Harassment is the Norm at Teenage Gatherings
I am a staunch feminist. So is my husband. We have brought our daughter up with the belief that she is anyone’s equal and she is in complete and sole charge of her body. We have talked about this since she was very small and I thought she understood.
She didn’t. Peers are more influential than parents and my fundamental error was to forget that.
She recently left one school to go to sixth form elsewhere and, now she’s not hanging out with the same crowd, she’s disclosed what went on at parties.
‘The boys used to grope my bum all the time.’ she said, ‘And they thought it was ok to touch my boobs. It’s not is it?’
How could she have to ask?
After years of listening to me bang on about my responses to beeping car horns, wolf-whistles and being molested on dance floors, she knows I’ve always tried to use my voice to stop the abuse.
But she didn’t speak up when she was touched sexually without her consent.
What Can we Do About it?
I stupidly believed the next generation wouldn’t have to tolerate all this Neanderthal crap because we’re a wiser, more woke society. But I’ve recently, horrifying, learned that we’re not. So, we need to talk about it even more until the message actually sinks in.
More than anything else we need to teach our youngsters that sexual contact with another person is a shared privilege which should only ever follow informed consent.
Nobody has the right to expect a blow job.
Nobody should feel they have to give a blow job.
Nobody has the right to touch another person without their consent. Full stop.
From what I’ve heard, some boys need to have this drilled into them. I had thought the boys who touched my daughter were nice kids. They are from lovely families. Yet they still acted with such entitlement and what they did is not only morally reprehensible, it’s criminal.
I have encouraged my daughter to watch the BBC adaptation of Normal People, paying particular attention to the way Connell repeatedly checks that Marianne is still onboard during their first sexual encounter. What she consents to later, and why, is also worth discussing.
I have reiterated all the advice I’ve given her over the years and I hope she’s now mature enough to understand that, even if everyone else is doing something, it doesn’t make it right.
My daughter doesn’t seem to have been damaged by her experiences. She puts it down to idiot boys having a few beers and trying it on. Thankfully, she is open to talking about consent and re-evaluating what is ok and what isn’t – which is fortunate because I don’t think I’m ever going to stop banging this particular drum.
But we shouldn’t still be worrying about if our girls are at risk from sexual assault or exploitation. It’s not 1980. Operation Yew Tree happened and slimy old men are no longer allowed to prey on young girls whilst people turn a blind eye.
My concern is that it is still happening, much closer to home.