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States consider requiring schools to use "yes means yes" in sexual education

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In 2015 California became the first state to require public schools to teach students that "yes means yes" rather than "no means no." This "affirmative consent standard" teaches that both participants in sex need to actively, preferably verbally consent.

This year Maryland, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Nevada have considered similar bills, though none have become law.

Supporters of teaching "yes means yes" argue that the old way of teaching "no means no" leaves too much ambiguity--that there are situations where a person might not be able to verbalize "no" or cannot physically struggle but does not wish to have sex. For example, the "fight, flight, or freeze" response may cause a victim to freeze rather than try to get out of the situation. Supporters maintain that "yes means yes" also makes it clear that a person cannot consent when they are incapacitated, for example from the use of drugs or alcohol. 

By promoting a culture where active, clear and ongoing consent is sought by both partners, advocates hope that "yes means yes" education will help prevent rape and assault by providing a clear standard of when it's OK to keep going. 

Opponents of the affirmative consent standard argue that it defines consent too narrowly. They believe it unjustly requires those accused of assault to prove their innocence by showing they received a clear signal of consent from their partner, rather than keeping to the standard of "innocent until proven guilty."

"They’re trying to change the nature of human affairs," said Harry Crouch, president of the National Coalition for Men. 

Do you want your town's high school to teach "yes means yes"? Share your opinion in the comments below.


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I think as an aim of changing culture, teaching 'yes means yes' is a good move. Whether kids implement it or not, getting across the belief that you have a responsibility of making sure that the person you're with is actively and continually consenting makes sense. But as a legal standard, this feels like it puts the burden of proof on the accused. And while I certainly believe that sexual assault is a serious crime and that perpetrators should be convicted, I also believe in the principle of 'innocent until proven guilty'.

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