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Affirmative Consent, New Way of Sexual Behavior

January 28, 2017
Plain English Version

A rite of passage for teens is changing. Older people remember themselves as boys and girls testing the world of intimacy. Kissing, touching and “going further” was like Kabuki Theater. Words, movements, starts, and stops were dramatic actions.

Not anymore. At least not anymore in America. It seems like the new sexual freedom is leading to far more acting-out behaviors. Nobody knows exactly why. A lot of problems in college are around drinking. Drinking at parties leads to intimate moments. There may be regrets the next morning. And differences of opinion about what happened the night before.

What was considered bad behavior is now regarded as sexual assault. The word most often used is rape. Schools were at a loss about what to do about the many complaints about sexual behavior. They started to develop rules of conduct. The approach is now called, “affirmative consent.”

Boys are usually the bad actors. Affirmative consent now means that, as intimacy goes from step to step, the girl has to signal actively her consent.

California has a new law making lessons in sexual conduct required in high schools.

The lesson plans are not always clear. In a classroom, a girl asked, “What does that mean – you have to say ‘yes’ every 10 minutes?” The teacher responded, “Pretty much.” Whoever wants to go to the next step has to ask permission to do so.

The approach does not specify how the schools and courts will handle complaints. People are still innocent until proven guilty. Courts have sometimes overturned disciplinary decisions made by schools.

Some experts have a different goal. They want to change the way boys and girls think about their sexual behavior. A change in the culture is what they are after. This makes sense. Experts are saying affirmative consent should lead to a new understanding of how a sexual relationship should take place.

Source: The New York Times October 15, 2015

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