Photo: Noah Berger, New York Times
New rules for “affirmative consent” are complicating sex education classes, reports the New York Times. In San Francisco, 10th graders were surprised to learn they need a “yes” for every step of a sexual relationship to meet the “yes means yes” standard.
Consent from the person you are kissing — or more — is not merely silence or a lack of protest, Shafia Zaloom, a health educator at the Urban School of San Francisco, told the students. They listened with rapt attention, but several did not disguise how puzzled they felt.
“What does that mean — you have to say ‘yes’ every 10 minutes?” asked Aiden Ryan, 15, who sat near the front of the room.
“Pretty much,” Ms. Zaloom answered. “It’s not a timing thing, but whoever initiates things to another level has to ask.”
California requires high schools to teach about “yes means yes,” but the standard only applies to college disciplinary panels. It doesn’t affect criminal prosecutions — or Californians who aren’t college students.
Other states are considering similar legislation for colleges, reports the Times.
In San Francisco, the private school students brainstormed ways to ask for consent.
They crossed off a list of options: “Can I touch you there?” Too clinical. “Do you want to do this?” Too tentative. “Do you like that?” Not direct enough.
“They’re all really awkward and bizarre,” one girl said.
“You good?” was the best they came up with.
California’s law is “terrible,” Vox’s Ezra Klein tells the Los Angeles Times. But he supports it because “men need to feel a cold spike of fear when they begin a sexual encounter.”
One in five college women report an attempted or completed sexual assault, says Klein.
Of course, that requires defining “sexual assault” very broadly. Unwelcome sexual contact is very common. If “yes every 10 minutes means yes” becomes the standard, four out of five students will be victims of nonconsensual sexual activity.
Defining all drunken sex as nonconsensual will take that even higher. It’s not what the law says, notes Hans Bader, but it’s where it’s going.
A “yes” can be withdrawn without a clear “no” under affirmative consent theory, points out Megan McArdle. Nobody could be “fully sure that they were not breaking the law.”
Until now, college has been seen as place to experiment with alcohol, drugs and sex. (And ideas.) The “cold winter” already has set in. Now, sex is dangerous — and not in a fun way — especially for males.
“It’s as if George Orwell’s Junior Anti-Sex League has occupied feminism,” said Christina Hoff Sommers.