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.