In a demonstration of good judgment, Rep. Justin Fawson altered his online sex education bill so that kids aren’t going online for sex education. Fawson’s bill now expands Utahs’ sex education curriculum to include teaching students about harmful effects of pornography and the nature of consent.
As we argued in November, the internet is the last place we want kids to go for their sex education.
The pornography aspect of the updated bill could be helpful. Utah’s Legislature is well-known for its crusade against pornography. But it is true that children are being exposed to pornography at very young ages, and it is important that they know the difference between fantasy and reality.
Additionally, Fawson said, “Teaching [students] that sexting is actually illegal is something that didn’t apply to my age group going through high school. But it certainly applies today.”
Even more, the conversations on consent that the bill requires could be revolutionary. If you haven’t seen the online video comparing consent to a cup of tea, look it up.
The lecture given by Dean Ben Ogles at Brigham Young University earlier this month was impactful because it was so straightforward. Teenagers and young adults need to, and want to, talk about consent.
Salt Lake Tribune reporter Benjamin Wood wrote that the bill requires schools to teach students about their “ability to refuse unwanted sexual advances, the obligation to cease sexual advances when refused and the criminal prohibition against transmitting explicit images.”
Because the bill deals with sex education, Fawson’s very conservative bill is still vulnerable to scaremongering from the far-right. Namely, Gayle Ruzicka of Utah Eagle Forum.
Ruzicka objected that the language regarding consent improperly assumed that there could be legitimate, wanted sexual advances, since students are being taught to refuse only “unwanted” sexual advances. She argued that legally, there cannot be wanted sexual activity between minors.
Does she not remember high school?
We know that Utah’s sex education centers on abstinence. A discussion of consent does not change that. A girl needs to know she can refuse a kiss. A boy needs to know that he doesn’t have to dance with a girl just because she asks.
And students need to be taught, explicitly, that when someone says no, you need to stop. Whether it’s no to sex or even just a hug or kiss.
The House Education Committee rejected Ruzicka’s prudish position and approved Fawson’s bill unanimously.
That’s big for Utah.