The "yes means yes" revolution could be coming to California high schools.
Based partly on a law enacted last year that requires state college campuses to adopt policies that prohibit sex if one party offered only silence instead of "affirmative consent" (as in a verbal or written "yes"), a bill that seeks to bring "yes means yes" instruction to most California high schools was passed by the state Senate yesterday.
The idea is to ensure high schoolers, especially teen boys, understand that lack of consent is not consent. Under the legislation, students would be taught that it's either yes or it's illegal when it comes to sexual encounters.
"As it stands, we are not doing nearly enough," says the bill's co-author, Senate Pro Tem Kevin de León of Los Angeles. "We can and must educate the youth of our state, especially our young men, about affirmative consent and healthy relationships. This bill represents the next step in the fight to change behavior toward young women."
The yes-means-yes training would apply to schools that require health courses for graduation. Here's a sample of the bill's fact sheet:
De León's office notes that 18- to 24-year-old women experience the highest rate of sex crimes. His people argue that it's time to teach public school kids about sexual boundaries:
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Given the statistics regarding the victimization of women between the ages of 18-24, high school students are the most vulnerable population and the importance of educating them early on these issues is paramount to reducing the number of incidents. Many California high schools require health education as a condition of graduation. As part of this education, students in grades 9-12 learn about the importance of healthy relationships, how interpersonal communication affects relationships, decisionmaking skills to extract oneself from an unhealthy situation, and an understanding of issues related to bullying, sexual harassment and violence. The next step in expanding these education efforts is to discuss the issue of rape and sexual violence with all high school students — male and female.
Instruction on sexual assault and violence would also be a part of the health curriculum if the bill passes.
Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson of Santa Barbara, who co-authored the legislation, says, "If we want to prevent sexual assault, it’s important that we start early."