Prom season is in full swing. It can be easy for teens to get caught up in the excitement of dresses and tuxedos, and all the planning that comes with the big night. While prom is generally known as a fun celebration with close friends and dating partners, this once-in-a-lifetime event could also present some added stressors.
A lot of feelings come along with preparing for prom night and the post-prom weekend. Before we dig into the heavier stuff, we want to let you know of a new term – the promposal. This is when someone asks someone else to prom in a grand-gesture type of way. Now that we’re all on the same page, let’s talk expectations.
We want to remind students (and parents) that controlling behavior should not be tolerated, even if prom is approaching and peer pressure is at an all-time high. Some students choose to go to prom in a large friend group without a date, and that’s completely okay. This blog will focus more on those who are attending prom with a significant other.
Relationship expectations should not be different just because it’s prom season. This means that young adults shouldn’t feel that they have to do anything differently the night of prom or on the weekend following the event. It’s important to openly discuss relationship expectations, including both partner’s views on privacy, physical boundaries, consent and social media presence. This should be done early on in the relationship.
Enter prom weekend. Here’s where the added pressure comes in. It’s possible that a teen’s date or significant other may expect more from them in terms of intimacy. Most of us have probably seen movies where prom night is hyped up as “the big night” in terms of sex. We understand that this pressure can be overwhelming. However, every young person has a voice and personal comfort levels, and those should be respected at all times.
We recognize that unwanted advances do happen sometimes, and that’s when providing or denying consent in a clear, open way is necessary. Have you heard of the term sexual coercion? This is the use of intimidation, alcohol, drugs, threats or force to have sexual contact with someone against his or her will, and includes persistent attempts to have sexual contact with someone who has already refused.
Sexual coercion is used as a way for one person to gain power and control in a situation. It can look like many different things, including name-calling, threatening, blackmailing or guilt-tripping. Here are a few examples of what a pressuring partner might say:
- “Don’t be so cold.”
- “You owe it to me.”
- “If you don’t do this, I’ll say you did and ruin your reputation.”
- “But I thought you loved me?”
So how can teens actively prevent this from happening? We want to stress that open, clear communication prior to the big night is key to making sure prom is an experience that everyone can enjoy. Here are some things to share with teens in your life prior to prom:
1. Set boundaries. Let your partner know you’re going to stick to those boundaries during prom, and during any post-prom activities such as an after-party. This includes the use of alcohol and/or drugs.
2. Discuss consent, and how you plan to verbalize if you’re ready or not ready for any type of sexual activity.
3. Ask your partner to make a list of expectations. Then you make your list separately. Come together and share them, with plans to discuss anything that might be conflicting or uncomfortable.
4. Have a back-up plan. If anything happens that makes either of you uncomfortable, you shouldn’t feel stranded or obligated to stay somewhere. Make sure there’s at least one safe, trusted adult who could come and pick you up and give you a ride home.
5. Create a code word or code emoji that you can share with at least one other friend or family member to let them know you’re asking for help.
Openly discussing expectations is a simple way to set everyone up for a successful and fun evening. After all, prom weekend is supposed to be fun! It could be one of the last moments with their friends before parting ways after graduation. With a little planning, teens can rest assured that prom will bring them happy, fulfilling memories that will last a lifetime.
If you have questions about prom expectations, relationships or consent, we encourage you to connect with a LoveIsRespect advocate. They’re available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week:
Text “loveis” to 22522
Chat at loveisrespect.org