On Thursday, Illinois lawmakers proposed a bill that would make it mandatory to include the concept of consent in sex education curriculum.
State Rep. Ann Williams (D-Chicago) said that “we’ve seen it with the terrible stories of college campuses, assaults happening, women passed out. I think the sex ed component, including consent—a robust conversation about what consent really means—is important.”
According to WJBC, Williams went on to say that it is important to include the curriculum in public schools because college is too late for these lessons, and that the bill would address the fact that a lack of response does not constitute consent, how one dresses or how much sex one has had in the past.
It seems hard to believe that something as basic as consenting to sexual intercourse would not be required up to this point, or that a bill would need to be passed in order to make clear its importance, but the need for the issue to be taught is clearly undeniable.
It is crucial to raise a new generation that understands when no means no, and if you are old enough to learn about what sex is, then you are old enough to learn how to do it safely and responsibly.
According to a 2002 study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, teens who received comprehensive sex education were 60 percent less likely to report a pregnancy, and those results were 30 percent lower than those who received an abstinence only education. Studies show that talking about these issues with teens does work, so there’s no reason to think that talking about consent won’t normalize the issue as well.
But if public schools are working to include the topic of consent within the sexual education classroom, they shouldn’t stop there.
Recently, there has been more debate of the harmful underlying messages that implementing a dress code sends to students. Dress code policy in schools has often targeted women specifically, mandating that they cover their shoulders or wear pants past their fingertips, regardless of the weather outside.
The idea of these rules seems to suggest the opposite of consent, rather, it seems to suggest that what a girl wears or how she looks makes her responsible for the thoughts or actions of others, even in a setting that is simply meant for education.
With movements like “pass the skirt” that show how dress code unfairly targets women of color or women with different body types, it seems like students are ready and eager to fight back against body and slut shaming. There is no reason why they wouldn’t be equally as ready to welcome the topic of consent into the sex education classroom.