Sex education classes in California’s largest high schools are going to have to include lessons for their students on how to ask for sex after Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed the legislation into law at the end of September.
Students in high schools that already include health classes as a graduation requirement will be taught the meaning of a new phrase in the pursuit and acceptance of coital pleasure — affirmative consent.
“Good for you, too?” may not be in the syllabus. After all, that question mark comes at the end, and is more about ego reinforcement than sexual permission. But boys and girls are going to be taught how to ask for permission at every step of the teenage mating game.
“May I touch now?” “Is this OK?” or “How about now?” are certain to be included in the next textbooks.
California Sen. Kevin de Leon (D) said in a statement on his website the legislation he sponsored is all about teaching kids the importance of affirmative consent, healthy dating relationships and the harsh reality of “aggressive and violent sexual behavior.”
He also described the legislation as a first step in the effort to reduce the problem of sexual assault and date rape on college campuses.
“I firmly believe that by instilling in young minds the importance of affirmative consent, relationships built on love and respect, that we can reduce the sexual violence inflicted on young women,” said Sen. de León. “Lessons taught today will result in safer campuses and communities tomorrow.”
Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D), who co-authored Senate Bill 695 with de Leon, said the new course will help “establish boundaries of acceptable behavior, give students the skills they may need to navigate difficult situations, and prevent sexual assault before it occurs.”
Jackson and de Leon see SB 695 as a natural followup to SB 967, which they also co-authored. That’s the legislation that came to be known as the “Yes Means Yes” bill while it was being debated in 2014.
As usual, the Left Coast is leading the trend for America. California is the first state in the nation to mandate such a high school program. But Michigan may not be far behind.
The Michigan legislation mandates students in high school sex ed classes be taught that “voluntary affirmative consent” must be given by both parties to a sexual encounter and that the affirmative consent can be “revoked at any time.”
“Teaching our kids about affirmative consent is a great first step in the fight against the epidemic of sexual assault,” said Rep. Tom Cochran (D), sponsor of the proposal offered in the Michigan House.
Action on the California and Michigan legislative mandates is the result of the nation’s focus on date rape that has evolved into a discussion of campus rape.
Even though the California legislation was passed without a dissenting vote, there are some who don’t like the very concept of “affirmative consent” because it puts the burden of proof on the defendant.
In Tennessee, Judge Carol McCoy overturned a University of Tennessee-Chattanooga decision that found a male student guilty of sexual assault. McCoy argued the school provided no evidence to prove the assault actually occurred.
More importantly to those who find shifting the overarching theme to American justice to one of “guilty until proven innocent” rather than “innocent until proven guilty,” Judge McCoy found UTC “improperly shifted the burden of proof and imposed an untenable standard” upon the defendant’s lawyer to disprove the accusation.
But that being said, if an “affirmative consent” case does to go court, memory can be a problem. That is especially true if both parties to the sex act were drinking. However, there is an app for this too.
The app We-Consent is designed to be incorporated by lovers into their foreplay as both a reminder of the good time and the consent given at every step of the carnal process.
Michael Lissack, the executive director of the Institute for the Study of Coherence and Emergence, created the We-Consent app. He told MTV News that documentation of the sex act and the agreements that lead to affirmative-consent copulation isn’t really the point of the app.
He said it is more important to teach people, and that includes high school students, that they need to have a healthy discussion of healthy sex before engaging in what could be a life-changing event.
“The idea that you do [sexual] things based off weird silent body language; it is normal to the 20 percent. But I think it’d be better to spend some time figuring out who were you were supposed to do something with before you discover the hard way that you’ve made a terrible mistake,” Lissack said.
“What I care about is that young people talk about what they’re doing. If we can get the kids to talk — that’s the victory.”
Michigan lawmakers have a different definition of victory in the quest for affirmative consent. In addition to high school students being taught how to ask for sex, the legislation mandates they be told celibacy is really their best option.
“Educating teens about consent and open communication in regards to physical intimacy in relationships does not promote sexual activity,” said Kathy Hagenian, the executive policy director of the Michigan Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence. “In fact, research and experience shows the opposite is true.”