A look at the new landscape of sex education published by The New York Times contains an eye-opening anecdote: In California, teachers are telling kids to get consent every ten minutes during sex to avoid committing rape.
The article is about the brave new world created by affirmative consent, or “yes means yes,” which holds that a person must obtain explicit prior consent for every sexual act or else be considered to have committed sexual assault.The standard isn’t limited to sex itself; a person would also need explicit affirmative consent to kiss somebody, too.
All of this is in contrast to the prevailing criminal standard, known as “no means no,” where sexual assault occurs when a person proceeds with sexual activity despite an explicit refusal of consent. While this remains the criminal standard, California made a major shift last year by requiring all school disciplinary bodies to use affirmative consent, and it also required state sex education classes to use the standard as well. (RELATED: Students Explain Affirmative Consent With Cringeworthy Video)
That shift means a change in how sex education is handled, and the Times suggests that kids are finding affirmative consent to be a somewhat difficult standard to grasp. Among other things, some kids are getting the impression they need to set a timer during their intimate encounters to make sure their casual hookup doesn’t accidentally become a rape.
“What does that mean — you have to say ‘yes’ every 10 minutes?” one tenth grader is quoted asking sex ed instructor Shafia Zaloom.
“Pretty much,” Zaloom replied, adding that “It’s not a timing thing, but whoever initiates things to another level has to ask.”
If Zaloom’s advice is confusing, it isn’t because she lacks experience teaching the standard. The Times says she “has written a curriculum for affirmative consent programs that is being used throughout the country.”
But despite Zaloom’s expertise kids are still finding that affirmative consent is hard to mesh with the way people actually have sex (or, given their age, how they imagine people having sex). When given a list of phrases that could be used to gain consent, such as “Can I touch you there?”, students were dismissive.
“They’re all really awkward and bizarre,” one girl said.