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What Is Consent? Teen Boys Navigating the New Rules of Dating

In a time where consent and sexual misconduct are scrutinized in every way possible, how can high schoolers, specifically boys, know what is and isn’t off limits?

After all, how can we know all the answers? We are just out of puberty, unsure of not only ourselves, but also what is expected of us in modern romance.

Obviously, I cannot speak for every teenage boy—all I can say with certainty is what I have felt myself and observed in the boys I associate with. We like to think of ourselves as kind, good-hearted 17-year-old boys, but we are confused.

What can I say or ask of my girlfriend? I don’t want to make her uncomfortable. What is flattery, and what is objectification?

Even for well-meaning boys, these lines are incredibly gray.

Then, factor in current events. Left and right, men that we are supposed to consider role models—athletes, actors, scientists—are being outed for sexual misconduct.

You could say that the #MeToo movement has contributed to “male uncertainty.” We, the self-proclaimed good guys, don’t know what we can do. But this might not be the end of the world.

I am dedicated to trying to walk the tricky tightropes between being considerate without being passive, and being confident without being forward. Meanwhile, my female peers are being empowered to take a more active role. If most of the girls that I know were in a situation in which they felt uncomfortable, objectified, etc., they would immediately handle it however they saw fit. Whether it’s voicing their concerns, calling someone, or leaving altogether, I can clearly see that most of the girls of this era take it upon themselves to set their own boundaries.

When I think about many of the girls I know, I feel as if their mindset is, “I am comfortable with XYZ, and they can either stay or leave.” #MeToo has empowered the girls of this generation, and it has made girls realize that they can and should say no whenever they feel fit.

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So yes, #MeToo has challenged the confidence of young men in the 21st century. Boys are completely confused. But the confidence that once belonged to generations of men before us seems to have been transferred to the women of today. We might no longer know what is expected of us, but maybe that’s okay. We, the boys, don’t need to be in control.

Jacob Borison is a track and football player at Beachwood High School in Ohio. He is a senior and loves to spend his free time watching TV.

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