Yes means yes but should it be taught in public schools?
Should sex education courses taught to Michigan students require instruction on affirmative consent?
That’s a question we may not have seen coming a few decades ago, but the times, yes, they are changing — and quickly.
The #MeToo movement and the scandals and stories seeping out of Hollywood and elsewhere have changed the game dramatically in just the past few months, and it’s now bringing attention to a new focus — clear consent.
Some people in the past may have scoffed or laughed at the idea of getting your partner to sign a prepared statement of consent before engaging in intercourse, but regrettably our world has evolved to a point where that may not seem quite so ridiculous.
To be clear, we’re not talking about forcible rape. Some of the #MeToo examples we’ve read about in the media may not constitute rape in legal terms, but instead might have fallen into a gray area, where consent may have been implied or was believed to have been given through silence — when actually it wasn’t given at all.
A bill has been proposed in the Michigan Senate that aims to address the issue of consent through education. The bill would require public school districts to give lessons on affirmative consent, or “yes means yes.”
The topic was in a front page Journal story last week. Though the Associated Press story notes the legislation is unlikely to budge in the Republican-controlled Legislature before the summer recess, supporters remain optimistic the idea will gain traction in future legislative sessions.
In our opinion, education is always important, and teaching our young folks about the rights to their bodies and respecting others’ rights should be important to everyone.
The “yes means yes” legislation is sponsored by East Lansing Democrat Sen. Curtis Hertel. The bill, according to the AP story, defines affirmative consent as “conscious,” “ongoing” and “can be revoked at any time.” It clarifies that a “lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent.” Neither does silence, being in a relationship with the other person or having had past sexual encounters with them.
“We have a culture that is broken in Michigan,” Hertel told the AP. “We need to change our culture and adapt to changing times when ‘no means no’ doesn’t work.”
So far, the AP reports, California is the only state in the union that mandates consent education in K-12 public schools. It took the lead again when in 2014 it became the first to legalize affirmative consent at the university level, and has since been followed in that arena by Connecticut, New York and Michigan’s Midwest neighbor Illinois.
It may not be what some people want to hear, but the chances of teenagers having intercourse is high. Using protection is important, but so is respecting another person’s body and setting clear boundaries.
We believe educating students about giving and receiving affirmative consent will set a good foundation for the years to come.
From where we stand, the ability to clearly communicate is critical in many aspects of life, and sexual intercourse should be no exception.