Thursday, October 15, 2015

From "No Means No" to "Yes Means Yes"

Sex Ed Lesson: 'Yes Means Yes,' but It's Tricky
A political cartoon against affirmative consent.
As public high school students, most, if not all, of us have already gone through sex ed and learned about the phrase "no means no," which means that sexual advances must stop at any and all forms of the statement "no." Recently, however, there has been a shift towards a new mantra, "yes means yes," which makes the line between consensual sex and rape more distinct: one can only make sexual advances when his or her partner has given explicit consent. In fact, under the new legislation signed by Governor Jerry Brown, public high schools that are already teaching sex ed. must teach the new mantra and teach sexual consent.
Already, California has required colleges to use affirmative consent, and established standards for what consent is. Over a dozen states are following suite by establishing their own standards.
Critics of this new mantra, including John F. Banzhaf, a professor at the George Washington University of Law, argue that the initiative towards affirmative consent is "illogical," and that "nobody works that way." Indeed, a class of high school students in a sex ed class seem to feel awkward about the overly "clinical" way of asking for consent: asking questions like "can I touch you there." 
Sex ed can sometimes be quite an awkward topic to talk about, even though we have already experienced the class years ago. This issue, however, like many others, is certainly not going to improve by avoiding it, no matter how awkward it may be. Are these rules really practical? Is mandating that consent be an explicit verbal "yes" too intrusive and impractical to our private lives? Or is it a necessary law to make the lines of the law clearer, and to lower sexual violence? 



Juliana Stahr said...

Thank you for writing this post Nick! I think that the government underlining a definition for consent is much needed. For a long time, people were confused about what consent really was. Not having a clear cut definition of what is okay and what is not absolutely increased sexual violence. Many victims of rape exist today and few of their attackers were actually charged with anything because there was not a true definition of consent. In fact, 98% of rapists will never spend a day in jail. This absurd statistic found on, really showcases the action that needs to take place. With this spread of awareness of what is consent and what is not consent, people will be more careful and more communicative to make sure that both are in agreement for a sexual advance. I believe that communication is the best method between two people and if we become more verbal, we can hopefully put an end to sexual assault. While some may argue that it might be weird or awkward to ask a person for a yes/no answer, we must have some sort of "sign" so to speak on what is okay to do to another individual. The government is only introducing this mantra as an attempt to eliminate the large amount of cases that involve sexual abuse. We can consider this to be more experimental than anything else and I believe this is much better than taking no action at all. Overall, I think that these laws are not necessarily practical, however, I think the government is putting attention to the right subject and trying to deduce sexual violence can only result in positives. Think about this: would you rather have a two second awkward moment asking for a yes or no answer or would you rather have an individual live with years and years of trauma from an experience that could have been completely ignored all with a simple "yes" or "no" answer?

Christopher Duan said...

I agree with Juliana's point of view on this. While efforts to reduce sexual assault are in good intention, I don't think that this is the right way to handle "affirmative consent". I understand that consent is a mutual agreement, and the long stated mantra, "No means no". Additionally, those intoxicated or otherwise judgement- impaired also are unable to consent. However, I think that often times, people's private lives should be left to a degree of freedom. In the absence of no, sometimes kissing, touching, etc. are left to the discretion of the parties involved, and often times, things "happen" without verbal connection. For example a kiss is usually not discussed beforehand and planned out. Similarly, I feel that despite the best intentions of this bill, it might turn people who didn't willingly say "yes" into criminals, simply because of this technicality. Finally, I would just like to add that I don't feel as though there is a considerable difference between "no means no" and "yes means yes", because in both cases, there is still the ambiguity of the accused vs the accuser's testimony, and in the end, is just as hard to figure out who is telling the truth.

Monika Kepa 1 said...

I like the fact that there have been some hope for reforms and this may be the first step. I can see the difference between the two sayings but I worry that it is not enough of a change. What happens when someone changes their mind? does it become ambiguous again? Also there is the question of intoxication and will the law protect the affirmative action or the level of consciousness of the parties involved. If an intoxicated student says yes as the go word for sexual relations instead of no when they want to stop would they have to? or would they be too intoxicated for it to be considered consensual in the first place? This seems like the first step, but I believe some sort of preventative measures should be taken in teaching both young men and women about how to respect each other and each other's bodies and sexual wills instead of hoping they were raised in a respecting environment and will simply listen when their partner states they wish to not continue.