“Yes means yes” (affirmative, conscious and voluntary consent to sexual activity) is intended to replace the saying “No means no,” but how far does this new maxim extend? Is it only relevant to college students? Is there any clear way to draw a line between consensual sex and rape? These are important questions. Nationally, several federal complaints have been filed alleging that numerous campuses virtually ignored such issues and in doing so, created a hostile campus environment for victims.
The topic of consent has been on many people’s minds since the vociferous debate over campus sexual harassment and how universities have been handling sexual assaults. There have been many complaints about schools failing to protect victims, often allowing their assailants to remain on campus in the aftermath of accusations and counter-accusations. Eventually, under national furor over campus non-consensual sex, a new motto was born: “Yes means yes.”
California State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson and Senate President pro Tempore, Kevin de León proposed Bill 695 in the legislature. The bill suggests that it may be a fine idea for schools to teach children the new motto. Adding sexual violence and affirmative consent to the curriculum would expand and supposedly enhance the heath education component of graduation. Most students already learn about bullying, setting boundaries, rape and sexual harassment.
Now, there is a push to educate high school students about new expectations for considering having sexual relations.
But is it really appropriate to teach high school students that “yes means yes?” This is one of those dicey areas where some parents are likely to have serious issues with someone else teaching their children that “yes mean yes.”
Do schools have a role to play in teaching children how to harness their hormones, dictate their partner choices and explain that drunk or drugged sex without consent is not acceptable?
Where are the legal boundaries on this issue — or are there any? Legal scholars have already said they have no idea how the new “Yes means yes” rubric is going to translate in a court of law. We are poised on the cusp of forging new interpretations of the affirmative consent law and many are wondering where it may lead.