Is this OK? What about this? Still OK?

Students at the Urban School of San Francisco attended a forum on affirmative consent. 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.
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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A “yes” can be withdrawn without a clear “no” under affirmative consent theory, points out Megan McArdle.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.

Reporting rape

How One College Handled a Sexual Assault Complaint in the New York Times shows how Hobart and William Smith College botched the investigation of a student’s rape complaint.

As the case illustrates, school disciplinary panels are a world unto themselves, operating in secret with scant accountability and limited protections for the accuser or the accused.

. . . At a time of great emotional turmoil, students who say they were assaulted must make a choice: Seek help from their school, turn to the criminal justice system or simply remain silent. The great majority — including the student in this case — choose their school, because of the expectation of anonymity and the belief that administrators will offer the sort of support that the police will not.

Yet many students come to regret that decision, wishing they had never reported the assault in the first place.

College officials aren’t competent to investigate violent crimes. All victims of assault should be told to call the police immediately — before evidence is destroyed — and cooperate fully. Treat sexual assault as a crime, not a violation of the student behavior code.

All sexual assaults should be reported to the police immediately — for the safety of the victim and possible future victims.

Student-teacher sex: Is it always a crime?

A Montana teacher will serve 30 days in jail for involuntary sex with a 14-year-old student, who later committed suicide. Stacey Dean Rambold, who was 49 when he started a sexual relationship with Cherice Morales. The troubled girl killed herself a few weeks before her 17th birthday.
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Judge G. Todd Baugh said the girl was older than her chronological age and “as much in control of the situation” as her teacher. In response to protests, Baugh apologized.

Rambold had a chance to get the charges dismissed, but failed to complete a sexual offender treatment program.

Thirty days was too long a sentence, argues Betsy Karasik, a writer and former lawyer, in the Washington Post. Sex between students and teachers shouldn’t be a crime, she believes.

“Teachers who engage in sex with students, no matter how consensual, should be removed from their jobs and barred from teaching unless they prove that they have completed rehabilitation,” Karasik concedes. But let’s not get “hysterical.”

When I was growing up in the 1960s and ’70s, the sexual boundaries between teachers and students were much fuzzier. Throughout high school, college and law school, I knew students who had sexual relations with teachers. To the best of my knowledge, these situations were all consensual in every honest meaning of the word, even if society would like to embrace the fantasy that a high school student can’t consent to sex. Although some feelings probably got bruised, no one I knew was horribly damaged and certainly no one died.

No harm, no foul? That’s hard to argue when Cherice Morales killed herself, but Karasik blames the criminal case against Rambold for his victim’s suicide.

If someone wants to argue that it’s OK for teachers to have sex with their underage students, I’d look for a 23-year-old teacher who falls for an 17-year-old student. This was a 49-year-old preying on a 14-year-old girl who was hurt so badly she killed herself. If she was mature, consenting and in control, she wouldn’t have killed herself. 

How low can we go? asksWesley J. Smith, who links to articles “normalizing” what used to be called pedophilia and is now “cross-generational sex.”

Violence, sex and 'dark' lit

School reading lists are full of violence, wrote Justice Antonin Scalia in the U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down a California law barring the sale of violent video games to minors on free-speech grounds. It starts with violent fairy tales, Scalia wrote in the majority opinion.

Homer’s Odysseus blinds Polyphemus the Cyclops by grinding out his eye with a heated stake. In The Inferno, Dante and Virgil watch corrupt politicians struggle to stay submerged beneath a lake of boiling pitch, lest they be skewered by devils above the surface. … And Golding’s Lord of the Flies recounts how a schoolboy called Piggy is savagely murdered by other children while marooned on an island.”

I wonder how many high school students read Homer or Dante.  Still Lord of the Flies is still big on high school reading lists (no sex) and some complain that teachers are assigning or allowing students to read “dark” novels.

Much of young-adult literature invites teenagers to wallow in ugliness, barbarity, dysfunction and cruelty, writes Meghan Cox Gurdon in the Wall Street Journal, defending an earlier commentary.

It is true that so-called problem novels may be helpful to children in anguished circumstances. The larger question is whether books about rape, incest, eating disorders and “cutting” (self-mutilation) help to normalize such behaviors for the vast majority of children who are merely living through the routine ordeals of adolescence.

Siobhan Curious, who teaches 17- and 18-year-olds worried about going too dark in choosing a book list for a class on personal narrative.

When preparing the list last year, I hesitated over a couple of titles, including Kathryn Harrison’s The Kiss (about the author’s consensual adult sexual relationship with her father) and Alice Sebold’s Lucky (about the author’s brutal rape and its aftermath).  In the end, I decided to include Lucky on the list, and when I presented the book to the class as one of their choices, I told them about its subject matter and my hesitations.  I warned them that certain passages were very graphic, and that they should keep this in mind when deciding whether they wanted to read the book.

Almost every girl and about half the boys put Lucky on their list.

. . . many readers said that they found the book upsetting but rewarding.  Many of the boys who read it said it helped them understand the effect rape has on a woman; many girls said it allowed them to see how, after a terrible and scarring experience, someone could struggle on and make use of their suffering to help others.  But mostly they said that it was a really good read.

Adolescence is a dark time for some kids, counters Linda Holmes on NPR blog. She “took an entire class in high school where we read books about killing your family, double suicide, drowning, being murdered in your bed … it was called ‘Shakespeare,’ I believe.”

I was troubled by the murder of MacDuff’s family in Macbeth, the tortures of sinners in The Inferno. And poor Piggy.

Violence, sex and ‘dark’ lit

School reading lists are full of violence, wrote Justice Antonin Scalia in the U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down a California law barring the sale of violent video games to minors on free-speech grounds. It starts with violent fairy tales, Scalia wrote in the majority opinion.

Homer’s Odysseus blinds Polyphemus the Cyclops by grinding out his eye with a heated stake. In The Inferno, Dante and Virgil watch corrupt politicians struggle to stay submerged beneath a lake of boiling pitch, lest they be skewered by devils above the surface. … And Golding’s Lord of the Flies recounts how a schoolboy called Piggy is savagely murdered by other children while marooned on an island.”

I wonder how many high school students read Homer or Dante.  Still Lord of the Flies is still big on high school reading lists (no sex) and some complain that teachers are assigning or allowing students to read “dark” novels.

Much of young-adult literature invites teenagers to wallow in ugliness, barbarity, dysfunction and cruelty, writes Meghan Cox Gurdon in the Wall Street Journal, defending an earlier commentary.

It is true that so-called problem novels may be helpful to children in anguished circumstances. The larger question is whether books about rape, incest, eating disorders and “cutting” (self-mutilation) help to normalize such behaviors for the vast majority of children who are merely living through the routine ordeals of adolescence.

Siobhan Curious, who teaches 17- and 18-year-olds worried about going too dark in choosing a book list for a class on personal narrative.

When preparing the list last year, I hesitated over a couple of titles, including Kathryn Harrison’s The Kiss (about the author’s consensual adult sexual relationship with her father) and Alice Sebold’s Lucky (about the author’s brutal rape and its aftermath).  In the end, I decided to include Lucky on the list, and when I presented the book to the class as one of their choices, I told them about its subject matter and my hesitations.  I warned them that certain passages were very graphic, and that they should keep this in mind when deciding whether they wanted to read the book.

Almost every girl and about half the boys put Lucky on their list.

. . . many readers said that they found the book upsetting but rewarding.  Many of the boys who read it said it helped them understand the effect rape has on a woman; many girls said it allowed them to see how, after a terrible and scarring experience, someone could struggle on and make use of their suffering to help others.  But mostly they said that it was a really good read.

Adolescence is a dark time for some kids, counters Linda Holmes on NPR blog. She “took an entire class in high school where we read books about killing your family, double suicide, drowning, being murdered in your bed … it was called ‘Shakespeare,’ I believe.”

I was troubled by the murder of MacDuff’s family in Macbeth, the tortures of sinners in The Inferno. And poor Piggy.

No sex for Duke Devils

The Duke Blue Devils had better remain chaste. As national champions, they are unable to have consensual sex with other students under Duke’s new “sexual misconduct” policy, warns the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). A person seen as “powerful” — such as a varsity athlete — may “create an unintentional atmosphere of coercion,” the policy states. For the “powerful,” it’s not just that “no” means no and silence means no. “Yes” means no too.

In addition, sex with someone who’s been drinking — not like that ever happens — is considered a form of rape because the policy considers any level of intoxication makes a student unable to consent to sex. FIRE, which is challenging the policy, writes:

Duke’s new policy transforms students of both sexes into unwitting rapists simply because of the “atmosphere” or because one or more students are “intoxicated,” no matter the degree. The policy also establishes unfair rules for judging sexual misconduct accusations.

Even a couple who’ve engaged in consensual sex need explicit permission for every sexual act every time.

The policy will be impossible to enforce fairly or equitably, said Adam Kissel, Director of FIRE’s Individual Rights Defense Program. “As a result, this policy effectively trivializes real sexual misconduct, which is a gravely serious crime.”