A mum’s letter to her sons: Don’t settle for consent


I have a friend – well, I know and admire a woman who might yet be a friend –  and this morning I woke to find an email from her in my inbox, with a recording attached. She’s a journalist and normally an email from her means she’s writing a piece and is interested in my professional opinion on the topic. We’ve been back and forth-ing for a couple of years and, as you do, we’ve been rearranging the boundaries a little more each time.

So this morning when I played this recording that she sent me I was utterly amazed. Firstly, I’d never heard her voice before! She has a lovely soft clear Belfast voice, the kind that should be on a radio or on a relaxation podcast – it’s gorgeous…

Secondly, in it, I could hear her love for her sons loud and clear. Her wish for them to be happy, for them to be the kind of men that she can be proud of, whose company she can enjoy. And I could hear her wish for them to have great sex, to set the bar at enthusiastic consent. 

She had written them a poem during the night (big sarcastic yay and nod to pregnancy insomnia!!) And it felt like a true privilege to hear her read it, as if I were witnessing her speaking to them in this beautiful intimate way that only a parent can do. It was very moving.

And then she generously said yes when I asked if I could share it here.

We’re all aware of Weinstein, #metoo#rapeculture—the list is growing and it is gruelling—but also energising. Change is happening, that’s for sure. And change is welcome. But let’s be mindful of words like Consent.

What does that word imply?

It is SO important to have consent. But I would hope that boys (and girls) seek more than simple permission, acquiescence. What we need to teach is to seek enthusiastic consent. Enthusiastic. Sex is supposed to be fun, not something we “give” with consent. Let’s teach equal participation, equal! This has always been at the forefront of my mind when educating teenagers around sex and sexuality.

Consent isn’t enough. It’s a low bar. A good one, but come on! Could we raise that bar by … a lot?? We deserve more!

So here it is, the recording is below the text – enjoy. In the midst of the horror of the last few weeks, this is a lovely thing:

Set the Bar at Enthusiastic Consent!


And for more in the vein you might like to read this post that I did for the GoodMenProject recently.

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