With the #MeToo movement in full swing, and the issue of sexual assault in the spotlight (particularly here in Michigan), the issue of consent has been pushed to the front once again. In fact, it has become such a hot topic that Senator Curtis Hertel introduced a bill that he hopes will change the way consent is taught in Michigan schools.
“Under the current system, my daughter will be taught where not to walk, what not to wear, where not to leave her drink, while my sons will never be taught not to be perpetrators.” Hertel says. And many people agree with him, claiming that the current system favors a lack of responsibility for boys and men, and puts the responsibility for rape and other sex crimes against women and girls on the shoulders of the female portion of the population.
What will change if the ‘yes means yes’ legislation is passed?
Under the new law, schools that teach sex education to students would be required to talk about “affirmative consent” as part of a healthy physical relationship. Affirmative consent is defined as “explicit, informed, and voluntary agreement to participate in a sexual act.” Schools would also be required to teach the following:
- That silence doesn’t count as consent,
- That consent can be given, and then taken away at any time (and that the removal must be honored), and
- That just because two people are in a relationship together, doesn’t mean that consent is implied.
Other issues the bill would require schools to address with students during sex education classes include sexual assault, dating and domestic violence, and bystander intervention. However, for parents who are concerned about what their children may be taught at school, it’s important to know that the bill does not make sex ed mandatory. A school can still choose not to offer sexual education. And if the class is offered, parent still have the right to take their children out of the class.
How would this type of legislation benefit Michigan’s children?
In the long term, Senator Herschel and others who support his efforts hope to eradicate the so-called “rape culture” that allegedly removes responsibility for sex crimes from men and boys. They are also hoping that by putting more emphasis on sexual consent, they can reduce the number of sex assault crimes in Michigan, specifically rape, against women and children.
According to the Michigan State Police website, the most recent annual criminal statistics available show that there were 3,173 reported rapes in Michigan, which is a 5% increase from the year before. In addition, statistics show that there has been a steady rise in child abuse in Michigan in recent years. This bill hopes to reduce some of those numbers, and protect Michigan’s women and girls from sexual abuse and assault.