California recently passed a new bill that requires high school curriculums
to include affirmative consent. The high school health education classes
will now have to teach students that “yes means yes,” an evolution
of the “no means no” chant. This bill is hoping to combat
the negative culture that has centered on rape and sexual consent. However,
there are those who are skeptical.
Critics believe that this new law is trying to draw concrete lines in a
generally gray area. They believe that rather than resolve the issue of
sexual consent, it will confuse an already complicated subject. Skeptics
like John F. Banzhaf III, a professor at George Washington University
Law School, believe that the law will simply further confuse high school
students, who are already trying to cope with the awkwardness of teenage
romance. He states that:
“There’s really no clear standard yet — what we have
is a lot of ambiguity on how these standards really work in the court
of law. The standard is not logical — nobody really works that way.
The problem with teaching this to high school students is that you are
only going to sow more confusion. They are getting mixed messages depending
where they go afterward.”
Many high school students also seemed concerned by the new curriculum,
questioning how consent needed to be given and proven. Many wondered if
they need to verbalize consent at every romantic encounter.
Not everyone is skeptical, though. Teachers like Shafia Zaloom believe
this is an important addition to high school health classes. The affirmative
consent bill allows students to have a conversation about different levels
of consent. And though it can be confusing, it will be in the students’
minds. Supporters of the bill hope that this will change the way students
and citizens discuss sex and consent.
The new bill requires that educators incorporate affirmative consent into
their health classes. This does not directly affect rape charges, however.
Though students will learn about the topic, students on trial for rape
charges will not be expected to prove that oral consent was given by the accuser.
At Koffel Brininger Nesbitt, we believe that everyone has a right to due process
in the court of law. You are innocent until proven guilty. Only time will
tell how effective this new bill will be.