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Sex Ed on Campus: What You Need to Tell Your College Kids about Sex, Dating & Consent

As fall approaches, parents everywhere are buying dorm must-haves for their college kids and giving them lectures about studying hard and getting good grades. But as you make runs to Ikea, don’t forget to prepare your college kids when it comes to sex and dating.

We tend to think that when our kids reach 18 or 19 years old, our job is done when it comes to talking about the so-called birds and the bees. Nothing can be further from the truth. Yes, older teens know where babies come from and what condoms are for, but that doesn’t mean the conversation is over.

Here are the top 5 sex-ed topics parents need to address with their college kids:

  • Sexual harassment. As evidenced by the #MeToo movement, there are many men who abuse their position of power to take advantage of younger and vulnerable women. Parents need to talk to their kids, especially their daughters, about how resident advisors, teaching assistants, professors, and counselors should behave professionally and that if anyone makes them uncomfortable, to listen to their gut and speak out. Whether it’s a coach on the track team or a student advisor, your child needs to know that they don’t have to endure any unwanted advances or pressure, no matter who the person is.

  • Consent. This is the most basic and crucial topic that parents need to discuss on an ongoing basis with their kids, especially their boys. Tell them they need to look for enthusiastic consent, not just the absence of a ‘no.’ Tell them a person under the influence cannot consent, and that cajoling or pressuring a partner into sexual activity is not the right way to get consent. And talk to your daughters about what to do if they are ever in a situation where they feel unsafe.

  • Sexting. Older teens need to be reminded that it is never safe to sext and that any images or videos they share might be around forever. Talk to your kids about things like ‘revenge porn,’ and what to do if someone ever uses their images without consent. Let them know this is never their fault and they can always come to you for support.

  • Pornography. As teens leave the nest, they are going to be inundated by porn, whether it’s at the frat house or in their dorm room. It’s an inescapable reality and that one that can forever alter their sexual response and expectations. We need to talk to our teens about how pornography can become addictive and about how it is not always created ethically. We especially need to talk to our teens about how pornography is not realistic and does not display the average body or the average sexual experience. As BDSM and rough sex behaviors become more common (with research showing that the majority of women and girls have been pressured into choking and other dangerous behavior in the bedroom), we really need to make sure we talk to our teens about consent and respect for women and their bodies.

  • Drinking and drugs. Talk to your kids about how partying and sex don’t mix. A person under the influence cannot consent to sexual activity, and drunken hookups are generally not pleasurable or meaningful anyway.  This is especially true for girls who share the lion’s share of the risk when it comes to unwanted pregnancy and STDs. Talk to your daughters about how hookup culture isn’t as empowering as pop culture may lead them to believe, and that there is nothing wrong with taking things slow.

You can also pick up a copy of Talking to Your Kids About Sex: Turning “The Talk” into a Conversation for Life on Amazon or your local bookstore. It is a great resource for parents with kids of all ages. 

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