Affirmative Consent

Teach Students About Consent, Don't Expel Them for Failing to Prove They Had It

'Yes Means Yes' works as instructional lesson, fails as policy

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The affirmative consent standard is a bad one for college sexual assault trials—in combination with the preponderance of evidence standard and lack of due process protections, it creates a scenario where the accused is essentially presumed guilty unless he can prove his innocence.

But is merely teaching affirmative consent so bad? In an op-ed for The Orange County Register, I argue that a new California law requiring high schools to educate teens about affirmative consent might pass muster:

If schools teach students that sex is illegal without affirmative consent, then this law is a bad idea. But as long as schools treat the affirmative consent standard as an aspirational goal – one should strive for clearer communication of sexual expectations, even when not explicitly required – rather than a license to restrict students' rights or scare them away from the idea of ever having sex at all, SB695 could work. Better education could, in theory, curb sexual assault rates on college campuses by fostering a generation of teens more likely to ascertain ironclad permission before they have sex.

Teaching affirmative consent and requiring evidence of affirmative consent are two different things, however:

It's all well and good to teach teens that clearly articulated consent is the goal. But expelling students who have been denied their constitutional rights and have no way to prove their innocence isn't a recipe for a culture of healthy consent.

Read my full op-ed here.

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  1. Back door abstinence education is what I call it. (Go ahead, try to make a joke out of that.)

    1. I’m not going to endorse “abstinence education,” because (a) I don’t think the pblic schools will teach abstinence any better than they teach math or science and (b) the best abstinence education is to lay down moral standards for students and suspend them, or send them to detention, if they violate those standards. Herding them into a classroom to hear some old dude talk about sex probably won’t do much.

      Of course, some of the criticism of abstinence education isn’t based on “this isn’t working, how can we do it better?” but on “I really don’t care anyway if the kids are abstinent.”

      1. I had to lie to my fundie mom to get into it but the old school sex ed I attended might as well have been “abstinence” education: horrifying pictures of venereal diseases at various stages of development seared into a young brain.

        1. Maybe you’ll obey the old lady next time.

        2. I had a number of encounters at a very early age with a neighbor girl, and after taking sex ed in fifth grade left me convinced that I was already riddled with diseases that would flare up any day.

          Little did I know it would be another ten years before I was an infection-riddled ambulatory disease vector. So HAH.

      2. It’s not the place of public schools to “lay down moral standards” for kids, especially in a multicultural society.

        1. OK, which rules *should* a public school have, if any?

          1. Don’t physically harm or emotionally abuse other people while on school grounds.

            1. Naturally, teachers and administrators would have to be exempt…

              1. Don’t be retarded dude, the rules absolutely apply to faculty and staff. They just don’t face any consequences for violating them.

          2. “OK, which rules *should* a public school have, if any?”

            1) Learn the stuff that we teach you.
            2) Don’t get in the way of other students learning what we are teaching them.

            The Left and Right in this country have so taken for granted that the government schools are their pet ideological indoctrination centers that they have both forgotten that:

            School is there to *educate* children in language arts and mathematics primarily, with maybe some basic history thrown in with as little ideology as possible.

            School is *not* there to engineer social morality to reform society into something you personally find more palatable.

            1. I guess now that you’re no longer square, I’ll have to be square for both of us.

              I would think that a sexual affair might “get in the way” of a student’s studies. It might even lead to people “emotional abus[ing]” each other.

              Now, I should specify that I’m talking about behavior on school grounds.

              1. …as a practical limit on public schools’ jurisdiction.

              2. Well, if you’re talking about students just going at it in the classroom during a lecture then, yes, I would agree that this would be disruptive behavior.

                But that is not the same thing as “laying down moral standards.”

                What, for example, would your opinion be if that “moral standard” was a radically individualist rejection of papal authority?

                1. Oh, no you di’nt!

                  To repeat what I’ve said around 456,789 times before, if I thought that only the Catholic Church upholds traditional moral values like avoiding premarital sex, I would not hesitate to trumpet that fact – I would boast of it as further proof of the Catholic Church was the true Church, and that all other institutions had simply collapsed into moral incoherence.

                  However, at present I cannot make this claim. There are plenty of non-Catholics who think you should keep your pants zipped until marriage. I need only mention Orthodox Jews, Confucians, and regular old secularist types – what we used to call “virtuous pagans.”

                  So you’re going to have to think of a better rebuttal than “huh, huh, yur a papist, huh, huh, the Pope has a funny hat, huh huh.”

                  1. Oh yes I did!

                    And you are not responding to what I in fact said. While the Pope does, indeed, wear a funny hat, I actually have tremendous respect for Catholicism, and count it supreme among the Christian franchises.

                    Given the history of the reception of Catholicism in this country, however, as well as in Protestant Europe, I would think you would have an especially keen sense of the importance of the separation of Church and State. Not, perhaps as keen as a Mormon, or a downright heretic like myself, but keen

                    The fact that there exist other religious traditions that also poo-poo on pre-marital sex has no bearing whatsoever on what I was saying.

                    My *actual* rebuttal was that if your example is kids having sex *in the classroom* then that is objectively disruptive for the same reason that having a one-on-one basketball game would be, and in no way because of any moral implications of either activity.

                    As I said in the first place, the (compulsory public) school system is there to teach universal and practical things – like language and math. You are absolutely free to go moralize in a church until you are all moralized-out.

                    Just keep it out of my kid’s classroom, because I don’t agree that your moral standards are universal.

                    1. To further clarify what I mean when I reference Church and State in the education system:

                      As a child growing up, *I* was taught in the government schools that the Catholic Church is backwards and medieval, and is a fundamentally corrupt institution that exploits the desperate clinging of superstitious people to simplistic doctrines that Progress has marched past.

                      If we go ahead and go full bore “let’s teach morality in the classroom,” why in Heaven’s name do you think it would be Catholics empowered to do that, and not, say, Presbyterians.

                      What will *they* teach about proper Christian doctrine?

                    2. Whoosh.

                      All your references to “proper Christian doctrine” are completely beside the point. I have already explained this.

                      “The fact that there exist other religious traditions that also poo-poo on pre-marital sex has no bearing whatsoever on what I was saying.”

                      Of course it does. The existence of moral standards which are common among Catholics, Presbyterians, Confucians, Jains, virtuous pagans, etc., is such a rebuttal to your position that I’m surprised you keep reciting the same talking points.

                      To repeat – Catholics (and Presbyterians) don’t have a monopoly on moral standards, particularly the part about avoiding premarital sex.

                      Why is this point so difficult to understand?

                      And you yourself admit that the schools can limit behavior that gets in the way of education. Which would include fooling around in the closet, cafeteria, parking lot, etc.

                      As I mentioned, I’m not interested in having the public schools monitor off-campus behavior.

                      So under your public-school regime, I suppose you’d allow the full range of sexual activity on campus, for fear of being just like the icky Catholics?

                    3. What you don’t seem to realize is that you’re the outlier here, not the papists.

                      The idea that premarital sex is OK is restricted to a few cultures in history, most pertinently Western secularists. The other traditions – and again, this isn’t limited to Christianity – think it violates moral standards and is to be discouraged.

                      And it doesn’t matter how many times you say “that’s not relevant!” or “Church and State!”

                    4. Fail.

        2. “It’s not the place of public schools to “lay down moral standards” for kids, especially in a multicultural society.”

          ^ This.

      3. Nice. Suspend students if they have sex.

        Never leave us, man.

      4. Public schools will NEVER be able to teach morality. High School especially – if you can’t grasp the concept of morality by 8th grade, a high school is only going to make the problem worse. This is especially true with public schools as over the last 30 years they have been explicitly AVOIDING any instruction that would increase an individual’s responsibility. We’re supposed to pretend that public schools can teach individual responsibility at the same time they teach socialist claptrap?

        For starters, public schools are immorally funded and they like it that way. Secondly, if they teach math and science so poorly, how do you expect them to teach morality any better? suspension and detention are essentially the way schools do policing – and they do a shitty job of it.

        Morality is learned at home and on the streets, not in some government confinement scheme. The idea that education legislation has ever worked should be laughed at by now, especially by libertarians. Soave’s is either naiive or is indoctrinated into social signaling by presenting legislative suggestions. Either way, its foolishness.

    2. Back door abstinence

      I’m listening.

      1. Kids who have to be taught not to go around sticking things in their butts probably aren’t worth the effort to try and teach in the first place.

        1. I don’t think it would be so hard… just show them this

          Super NSFW. Just sayin’.

    3. It’s not sex if they “do it” in the butt!

  2. Lindsey Boyes says a rape prevention class caused her to realize that she had been raped at a drunken party. Researchers report that such programs substantially lowered the risk of sexual assault.

    Seems like in that case it increased the number of sexual assaults by one.

    1. Rape culture exposed!

      Wait, is ‘exposed’ a triggering word? Also, is ‘triggering’?

  3. If schools teach students that sex is illegal without affirmative consent,

    Well, they are teaching them wrong, unless CA passed an affirmative consent law already.

    Affirmative consent is not the legal standard in most, if not all, places, in the US. And for very good reasons: “affirmative consent” is a terrible legal standard that, as proposed, shifts the burden of proof for major felonies to the defendant.

    1. “But expelling students who have been denied their constitutional rights and have no way to prove their innocence isn’t a recipe for a culture of healthy consent.”

      No, but it does condition them to accept government as the final word in defining their reality.

  4. How long until the first “Hot For Teacher” reference?

    1. Does the alt-text count?

      1. I don’t see how the alt-text references the song.

        1. I think the article is about students boning *each other,* not going cougar hunting.

          1. It’d help if I read the article right? I guess the alt-text is as close as I’ll get.

  5. “But as long as schools treat the affirmative consent standard as an aspirational goal ? one should strive for clearer communication of sexual expectations, even when not explicitly required ? rather than a license to restrict students’ rights or scare them away from the idea of ever having sex at all, SB695 could work.”

    Let me take a wild guess and speculate that this is *not* how the law is going to work.

    Instead, it will promote “rape culture” hysteria, smearing people as rapists when they merely fornicated. You can admit to fornication and still get into a good school, but get convicted of rape and good luck getting a good education or job with that prison record.

    1. Not to mention the added “bonus” of being put on a sex offenders registry and have that follow you around the rest of your life too. All for the “crime” of sticking it in crazy.

  6. Unless a guy records the entire sex act, there’s no proof that Affirmative Consent rules were followed; it’s still he-said, she-said. The real problem is that women are allowed to withdraw their consent days (and even years) later. How do you get around a problem like that?

  7. ‘Yes Means Yes’ works as instructional lesson

    No, it fucking doesn’t.

    Look, if for some moral reason you think affirmative consent is a good thing, have at it. Won’t agree with you, but I’m hardly going to say it’s a bad standard. However, lacking affirmative consent is not the same thing as violating consent, and the disagreement surrounding this topic is not a subject of “instruction” but rather of debate — because people are disagreeing in good faith and with plenty of sound reason to do so, rather than out of churlishness and unreasonability.

    This is the problem with the social left: their values are so unassailable and obviously correct, that they have taken on the role of society’s teacher and any chastening to drag society to those values is fair game. Yet, these values are largely untried and rely in large part on various abstractions about humanity which are either untrue (e.g., equality among humans) or impractical to implement at a level matching the Platonic ideal (humans should consent to every interpersonal interaction). Libertarians are poorly-served by adopting this mode of ascendancy.

    1. Look, if for some moral reason you think affirmative consent is a good thing, have at it. Won’t agree with you, but I’m hardly going to say it’s a bad standard. However, lacking affirmative consent is not the same thing as violating consent, and the disagreement surrounding this topic is not a subject of “instruction” but rather of debate — because people are disagreeing in good faith and with plenty of sound reason to do so, rather than out of churlishness and unreasonability.

      Thank you Immaculate Trouser!

      This bugs the shit out of me on the educational level too. Debate in a sexual studies course makes sense, the debate/lecture/viewpoint would advance itself, but having it as a course smacks of fabricate a panic to fit a narrative and then advance that narrative through education until you’ve ingrained the myth of rape culture in the culture at large.

  8. “a generation of teens more likely to ascertain ironclad permission before they have sex’

    “Ironclad”… as in, completely subject to someone’s post-facto emotional state?

    “Yes” in the moment becomes “I said it because I was uncomfortable” becomes “I was exploited”

    1. my point being (i realize it could be mistaken)….

      …there’s never any such thing as “ironclad permission”. It takes 2 to tango, and if both parties are willing, its a *shared responsibility*. If anything it should be beholden on people to SAY NO before doing something they might regret.

      But the idea that only one person is to blame if the other later decides there “wasn’t enough talking beforehand”? Is bullshit. You own it and so do they. And you deal with it like an adult who made a bad decision, rather than a child whose decisions are supposed to be constantly policed.

      What i dislike about the bureaucratic regulatory approach to people’s sexual lives is this idea that “someone else will fix everything” if things “go wrong”. There’s an irrational expectation that everything is either perfect….or “problematic” and requiring Committee Review. The idea that a student expects “justice” whenever someone tries to kiss them at the wrong moment is absurd. It strikes me as the institutionalization of a juvenile mindset

      1. It is, to a word, what Yuri Bezmenov describes as the process of demoralization and it is done in a calculated and deliberate way.

        1. as much as i enjoy that cultural-marxist theory stuff, its also equally entirely possible that this stuff is caused by the gradual normalization of an infantile worldview.

          i.e. – it doesn’t have to be a leftist conspiracy. it can just be that baby boomers kids are a bunch of morons.

          1. The gradual normalization of an infantile worldview is exactly what demoralization is. Some elements of the left are employing it deliberately, but what I find even more insidious is that you are correct. It does become an organic movement with a life of its own. It is more of a hydra than a snake. Removing the head will not kill it.

          2. I can confirm that its because the baby boomers’ kids are a bunch of morons. We get our news from memes.

  9. I am convinced that the ‘rape culture’ myth and the push for affirmative consent is simply an attack on rule of law which social marxists want to apply on a wider scale. What they want is to punish the wrong kinds of people and those filled with bad thoughts by decree. The current CJ system hinders their efforts at that. They want to add real teeth to their spurious accusations of racism, rape and hate speech against anyone who disagrees with them.

    It is what they have done everywhere else where they held power, why wouldn’t it be part of the MO here?

    The left really is composed of the worst kinds of people.

    1. No, the really fucking horrible thing about the left is that, rather than view the worst elements on the right as their arch-enemies, which might at least lead to some balance, they will fucking team up with them out of convenience. Whether its Hitler, or some other bunch of vicious, arrogant, Jew-hating foreign authoritarians, they really seem to prefer the company of people on their side of the Good/Evil axis rather than the Left/Right.

  10. For years I have been describing the cultures in Central Asia, Northern Africa and the Arabian Pennensula as actual rape/slave cultures (not all of them of course, just the dominant ones). I am usually met with some skepticism or outright disbelief. They are just people like us after all, right?

    No, they aren’t.

    Even with the story now breaking about widespread child rape in Afghanistan I don’t think people really get it.

    These fuckwits pushing the ‘rape culture’ myth here in the US should go spend a year or two in Pakistan, a real, no-shit, rape culture. Lets see if they keep spouting their clap-trap when they get back to a place where men are more likely to hold a door open for them and speak politely instead of beat them and rape them.

    My buddy who spent 20 years working in Iran explained it this way: “You absolutely cannot leave them alone with a woman, even for a minute. If you do it is a certainty the woman will be raped.”

      1. I would be interested to see believable numbers of rapes over a time period spanning the last 50 years or so for all of Scandanavia. I would put money on a sharp increase in the early 1990’s before looking at them.

        1. It would unfortunately be meaningless because whatever “growth” you find could just as easily be explained by the increased rate of reporting of just about *ANYTHING* as “sexual assault”… as the laws re: rape got increasingly expanded by the feminist activist camp in Sweden.

          the people who want to attribute their ridiculous high rape #s entirely to the immigrants sadly are stuck with anecdotes. the stats are more a reflection of their national psychosis than anything else.

          1. That is why my comment was in the spirit of a wish and I used the word ‘believable’. No such data actually exists.

  11. “Better education could, in theory, curb sexual assault rates on college campuses by fostering a generation of teens more likely to ascertain ironclad permission before they have sex.”

    Robbie you are living in a dream world and completely missing the root cause of campus “sexual assault”

    In well north of half of the cases it is not the actions of the alleged assaulter but rather the assaultee that is the problem because the assaultee cannot properly ascertain what they really wanted out of the encounter and whether it was assault or just morning after regret.

    In none of these cases was there anything even remotely resembling a rape or an assault and the “victim” was a fully willing participant at the time even if they weren’t 100% sure it was what they wanted and after the fact they build a narrative that they were raped/taken advantage of creating a false case of campus sexual assault.

    You will cut down the rate of campus sexual assault by creating a very strict definition of what constitutes rape and assault and then teaching students what that is so they can calibrate their expectations accordingly

  12. Yeah, ironclad permissions is very sexy, and naturally in line with sexual dynamics. Seriously though, formalizing sex, and raising the expectation that it’s going to be predictable and rational makes no sense. That doesn’t match reality and will cause more confusion, irration, danger, and resentment.

  13. So to summarize if the branding of Affirmative Consent accurately reflected the actual law it wouldn’t be particularly objectionable.

    True, so what does this say about people who promote such branding and attack others based on it rather than the law?

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