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Educating about consent

As the #MeToo movement has unearthed myriad accounts of sexual assaults and unwanted advances, several of the accused--from Harvey Weinstein to Charlie Rose--have said they believed the encounters were consensual.

False accusations of sexual assault are statistically rare. But putting that aside, saying these acts were consensual is a convenient defense that overlooks what could have been a simple solution: If unsure whether someone wants to engage in sexual activity, just ask.

Putting this into practice may be awkward for some. But that is exactly why young people need to learn how to communicate about sexual consent earlier in life.

Public schools in King County, in Washington state, are on the right track by incorporating lessons about affirmative sexual consent into their curricula, as reported in a recent Seattle Times article. By emphasizing that students should ask for and receive a "yes" before proceeding with sex, rather than stopping only if their partner says "no," schools can combat cultural influences that contribute to sexual assaults. These include gender norms that encourage men to be sexual "conquerors" while discouraging women from speaking up.

Commentary on 01/13/2018

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