We live in a state built on a quest for freedom, in a country founded on an ideal of liberty. Much of the world has adopted constitutional civil rights modeled after the United States. Utah’s most common religion prizes human agency as a sacred, divine gift. Our political parties call for liberty at every rally and convention. So, how is it that consent education is controversial?
Consent education means, simply, teaching young people that they have a right to sexual agency — to choose, and not be coerced, into physical intimacy. It means much more than refusal skills, although it includes them; it means teaching people to respect each other’s agency in many ways. Young people need to be taught to respect each other’s autonomy and basic rights, and they need this education both at school and at home.
In other words, consent education teaches our children the essential principle made law in Article I, Section 1 of the Utah Constitution: “All persons have the inherent and inalienable right to enjoy and defend their lives and liberties.” Many Utahns also revere the scriptural teaching that we are “free according to the flesh,” that the human body and human freedom are sacred. If anyone ought to be a wholehearted advocate of consent, it is the Utahn Latter-day Saint.
Sexual violence, in all its forms and degrees, is at once a violation of chastity, safety and liberty. It represents both the lust and aggression condemned in basic Christian teachings of Jesus, and it leaves lasting damage to the victim’s sanity and sense of agency.
Surely, we should take every action, every initiative, every opportunity, to cultivate a healthy culture of consent in the rising generation.
Michael Reed Davison