Kate Parker, Director of the Schools Consent Project
Every school library and child's bookshelf should have a copy of this book. It is clear, accessible and extremely relevant. It addresses the myriad of issues that ought to be part of contemporary sex education: consent, sexting, sexual exploitation and toxic masculinity. It is both a useful starting point to these discussions, and a helpful referral tool.
Overall, I think this is a fantastic educational comic. It doesn't judge or talk down to its target adolescent audience. It understands that conversations about consent and sex are uncomfortable, and it aims to make learning about boundaries as casual and easy as possible. Most importantly, WHAT DOES CONSENT REALLY MEAN? doesn't vilify wanting to have sex, which I think repels a lot of teens from sex education. The comic is honest and straightforward, and it even includes statistics and resources in the back. I recommend it to anyone who is curious or uncomfortable having real discussions with others.
First published in the U.K., this graphic novel follows the conversations that unfold among teenage classmates after a student leaves school following a sexual assault. Rumors circulate ('All I'm saying is she must be a bit of a slut,' says one girl, who is quickly put in her place), yet as the diverse group of teenage girls makes its way around town, one reveals that her boyfriend sometimes pressures her into 'doing stuff.' A group of boys joins the unfolding conversation, which evolves into a discussion about cultural pressures and leads to meaningful revelations. Though the dialogue can be forced, this comic, cleanly illustrated by Wilkins, could easily serve as an icebreaker for readers to share their thoughts and concerns about consent. Ages 13-up.
School Library Journal, Starred Review
Gr 8 Up-As a group of girls leave school one day, Amina's phone blows up-a girl at their school has been raped, and everyone has something to say. Was she drunk? Was she conscious? Had she agreed to sex before passing out? A deep discussion ensues, and the girls all draw from their experiences as they explore notions of consent and respect, eventually settling on some fundamental declarations. "Relationships are meant to feel good for both of you." "You need to be able to say no without feeling bad about it." Then the boys show up, contributing their side of the story: the pressure they feel to appear experienced combined with a culture that values machismo. Gratifyingly, these boy tears get fairly short shrift. Instead, as the teens wander home, the book comes full circle as the boys measure their own relationships and attitudes against what they've learned. "I've never even asked her what she likes." "I guess you just don't do anything unless it's a definite yes." The kids are realistically diverse across multiple spectrums: black, white, sexually active, virgins, straight, gay, and bisexual. Some readers may interpret Amina, who wears a headscarf, as abstinent, as she contributes no firsthand experiences to the discussion, despite being very well informed. Content that could be heavy with pedagogy is instead lightened by informal, occasionally profane language and friendly teasing. VERDICT While undeniably talky, this sex-positive and inclusive book offers a down-to-earth approach to an awkward subject. Belongs in every middle and high school library.