An Open Letter to My Beloved College Freshman Brother Regarding Consent, Illustrated with Personal Examples

by Kyla Jamieson.

Kyla is a writer in her fourth year at UBC. She is working on a memoir about modeling and can be followed on Twitter @kyjamieson. Kyla originally presented this piece at the March to Reclaim Consent at UBC Campus, unceded Musqueam territory, on November 22, 2013. 


I know how you’re going to react to this—you don’t want to hear about your sister’s sex life. You don’t even want to know I have sex, as you made clear that time you threatened to kick me out of your car for mentioning a sexual partner. But don’t worry, this isn’t just about my sex life, this is about yours too.

You practice safe sex—of this I’m fairly certain, given the condoms I found in the console when I searched your car for parking change. So, at the very least, I know you know about safe sex, which is great. Keep wrapping it up. But do you know about consent?

I’m not here to point fingers or assume. For all I know, you give, ask for, and receive, enthusiastic consent throughout every sexual encounter. But while mom’s “birds and the bees” talk taught me she’s boss at drawing ovaries, it skipped over consent. So a little review seems prudent, especially as recent events in my own bed have shown that there are still some people in the dark about this essential aspect of safe, happy sex.

For example: the basketball player you almost kicked me out of your car for mentioning. He’d unwrapped a condom and was putting it on when I asked, “Aren’t you going to ask me?” He looked up at me, dumbfounded. He thought it was obvious I wanted to have sex, and I thought it was obvious that it is never obvious. It seems problematic that the basics of consent have flown over a few heads, given how essential consent is to not committing sexual assault.

At the very least, failing to ask will reveal you to have poor manners. At the very worst, it will make you a rapist.

“If a girl doesn’t say ‘No,’ I don’t understand how it can be rape.” A kind, gentle, well-intentioned man spoke that sentence in my bed. I found myself at a loss for words. But eventually I was able to explain: not saying “No” is not the same thing as consent. Because as you might imagine, the shock of being sexually assaulted can render one quite speechless.

One more example: my new boyfriend, a geography student. The first time we had sex, we were both a bit tipsy. We both wanted to get into bed, and we both wanted to have sex—the first time. Then he put another condom on, and before I could tell him that I didn’t want to do it again, he was inside me.

If we weren’t already friends, I would have written him off. Instead, I later told him that I’d wanted to have sex—but not the second time, not like that. His face fell; he hadn’t realized. 

The first few times he asked me, “Do you want to have sex?” were a little awkward. You might experience the same feeling, but don’t let it get to you. Keep checking in for consent the same way you keep wrapping it up. If they’re like me, your partners will say, “Yes, oh, please fuck me,” or, “No. Want some ice cream?” and in every case you’ll have established your fine manners and respectful nature.

You might think this is too much information, but until kids learn to ask “Do you want to have sex?” before they practice putting condoms on bananas, it looks like I’ll be teaching Consent 101, one person at a time. And who better than your big sister to offer examples from her own life? Just some things I thought you should know. See you at Christmas.

Love always,
Your sis.


(image courtesy of

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