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Sexpert Says Parents Should Ask for Consent Before Changing Diapers

Babies understand a surprising amount, this might not be the worst idea.

Flickr via Creative Commons

An Australian sex educator has sparked a debate over consent after suggesting that parents should ask their babies for consent before changing their diapers. When Deanne Carson made the remarks on Australia’s ABC news, she was trying to explain that parents should be teaching their kids about consent as early as possible. What followed was, predictably, a rhetorical car crash.

Though Carson’s statements weren’t made in a vacuum— she was actually on television to discuss a rape case that has brought Australia’s laws regarding consent into question — the excerpt in which she discusses diaper consent went viral. Carson, who works with Body Safety Australia, an organization that tries to teach Australian youth about consent and physical boundaries, is seen advocating for a fairly extreme position on requesting consent. Naturally, she was caricaturized as a lefty loon.

But Carson isn’t walking her remarks back.

“We work with parents from birth…Just about how to set up a culture of consent in their homes. ‘I’m going to change your nappy now, is that OK?’ Of course a baby’s not going to respond, ‘Yes mum, that’s awesome I’d love to have my nappy changed’,” Carson told Newsweek before explaining that what she really means is that parents should “leave a space and wait for body language and wait to make eye contact.”

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Her core notion is that this behavior can teach babies “that their response matters.”

This is a fairly unusual sentiment, but far less out there than some of the responses it provoked. One former Australian Senate candidate claiming that asking for permission is akin to mental illness. 

There is a benefit to teaching kids about consent early. According to Stacey Honowitz, supervisor of the Florida State Attorney’s Office Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Unit, teaching kids about consent can be really helpful in establishing their understanding of how boundaries are supposed to work. This can help children understand what is and isn’t appropriate behavior. That said, such lessons might be lost on an infant.