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Culture Wars
Maryland Sex Ed Could Soon Teach “Yes Means Yes”

From 1990s multiculturalism fights to Bush-era scuffles over abstinence-only education to modern arguments about rape and consent, the secondary school classroom has always been the place where culture war victories are ratified. So it’s a major win for third-wave feminists and campus progressives that another blue state legislature has voted to implement “yes means yes” training in its public schools. The Washington Post reports:

Maryland’s House of Delegates on Saturday approved legislation that would require public schools to teach a “yes means yes” standard for sexual consent, moving the state one step closer to becoming only the second to adopt such a mandate.

The “yes means yes” bill, which passed with bipartisan support in a 115-to-25 vote, would require sexual-education classes in all Maryland public schools to teach a concept known as affirmative consent, defined by the legislation as “clear, unambiguous, knowing, informed and voluntary agreement between all participants to engage in each act within the course of sexual activity.” Local education officials would decide how to tailor the lessons in an age-appropriate way.

So far, two deep-blue state legislatures—California and New York—have voted in favor of “yes means yes,” the intensive standard for sexual consent that makes it easier for students to be found guilty of sexual assault, though only California has required that it be taught in the K-12 schools. No states have yet enshrined affirmative consent in their actual penal codes, where it would surely face sustained challenges in the courts for violating defendants’ due process rights. (Judith Shulevitz has pointed out that holding someone’s hand without their explicit permission could be grounds for punishment under the letter of most affirmative consent policies.)

The changing definition of sexual assault pushed by campus feminists made headlines in 2015 after California’s state legislature became the first to give “yes means yes” its stamp of approval. These debates were sidelined somewhat by the presidential election, which pushed other social issues to the fore. But it’s still worth paying attention to the progress of this swift and ongoing cultural revolution, which promises to redefine how we think about such core concepts as sex, love, and autonomy.

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  • lurkingwithintent

    After all, “Say no to drugs!’ worked so well. When it comes to our desires, we never mean what we say until after the fact. We have no idea what we want.

    • Andrew Allison

      Well, in this case at least one of the parties has a pretty good idea about what they want [/grin]

      • lurkingwithintent

        And, of course, that is the problem. As a legal standard, this is not helpful, but as FG says below, it certainly could be a courtesy or form of sexual ettiquette which has been all but destroyed in our culture. I do not see this as having any effect in the long term, because you never know what you are consenting to, what the other person is expecting and so on. So, even with a “Yes” on the consent form, you will find someone saying, “well I didn’t consent to that.” In the world of “Fifty Shades of Grey” we are not going to know what fantasies or expectations are on the other side unless we talk it to death.

    • FriendlyGoat

      Your second and third sentences are—–more often than not—–true, and are one of the best justifications I have ever heard for teaching “yes means yes” to children, and the sooner the better. It cannot and will not hurt the youngest kids to learn to talk with each other about physical contact before doing physical contact. Middle school would be a great place to practice this with those first hand-holds, first kisses, first hugs. Remember (old dudes, here) those first slow dances somewhere around seventh grade? You didn’t just grab somebody and start rocking back and forth. You asked. Then she said yes. Then you touched her with the dancing position. In that order, as I recall.

      BTW, for those who kids who might find this something to make fun of—–they can always goof around with it by having the girls ask the boys and the boys can say “yes”. The point is, YMY can be taught as a form of expected courtesy—-and it should be.

  • Andrew Allison

    Surely a moment’s thought would suggest that “yes means yes” is nonsensical. First, of course, there’s the due process issue referred to. Then there’s the question of what exactly are the steps are in an encounter which require affirmative consent, not to mention the fact that a couple in midst of a consensual encounter are not going to get out the manual to check each step which requires affirmative consent. Finally, there’s the issue of “buyer’s remorse”, i.e. I said yes but now wish (for any number of reasons) I hadn’t, so I’ll deny it. What on earth is wrong with “no means no”?

    • Tom

      The truth is, I think the difficulty with “no means no” is the whole date-rape issue–i.e., person slips drug into drink and then has their way with the other person. In principle, “yes means yes” is a good idea.
      Unfortunately, the way it’s being applied is, as you pointed out, utterly asinine and divorced from reality.

      • Andrew Allison

        I beg to differ. It’s stupid for the reasons I stated. Meanwhile, an impaired yes has been legally established not to be consent. Granted, it’s a minefield, but of the available options it appears to me that no-means-no it the least ugly.

    • Boritz

      There are YMY apps for most of that. Unfortunately there appears to be only so much IT can do to offer solutions for some things.

  • WigWag

    Lots of Republican legislators voted in favor of this. Republicans are stupid, just like Democrats.

    • Makaden

      More accurately, the voters are stupid and the Republicans are trying to save themselves for “He supports rape!” charges from the left if they voted nay.

  • jburack

    This says all these laws promise “to redefine how we think about such core concepts as sex, love, and autonomy.” Not a chance. These laws in all their absurdity arise because there is an ongoing and inevitable failure to redefine how we think about such core concepts as sex, love, and autonomy. Not to say these laws will not be used to punish those whom the powers that be want to punish. They just will not unwire what is hardwired. A sigh. A laugh. A “no” that means “you’ll have to try harder,” or “maybe one of these days,” etc. Do these bureaucrats of the human heart think they can fathom any of this? No one has yet and no one ever will. In the meantime, we have to figure out how to ward off these pests. As for the schools, do you really think the kids are going to fall for this nonsense? No way.

  • Charles Martel

    Given the deformation of sexual expectations and behaviour that our porn-soaked society has caused, I suspect that “yes means yes” as an educational and social standard is, on balance, positive. On the negative side, it provides one more excuse for snowflake girls to cry “rape”, and affirmative consent should never be incorporated into the legal standard for consent.

    • Matt_Thullen

      I think you are right on point. Liberal values regarding sexual license are, as anyone with any common sense would have predicted, harming women more than men. These laws are a reaction to the fact that women in college, while nominally enjoying the hook-up, no commitment sexual lifestyle, aren’t finding themselves satisfied with it. Rather than rethink what they are encouraging young people to do with their bodies, this is an attempt by liberals to remediate some of the damage.

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  • Will

    Left-wing prudes.

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