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People are beginning to rethink the fundamental attitudes once commonly held about relationships and consent. The #MeToo movement has made waves across society, and one place where it has been influential is in sex education legislation. Although social values have long played a role in many states’ legislation, the rise of #MeToo has made a significant impact and caused legislators to reconsider their approach.
Several states have introduced new legislation since 2016. Missouri, New Jersey, and California adopted legislation addressing sexually inappropriate behavior online. Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois, and Colorado, while keeping sex education optional, now require a discussion about healthy relationships or sexual consent.
Nine states and the District of Columbia require discussion of consent, and there is growing support for consent discussion to be mandatory everywhere. Opponents of required consent discussion have expressed concern that this encourages sexual behavior. Many feel that it is difficult to find a middle ground between these two positions.
State laws about sex education have often avoided discussion about consent. In many locations, education still focuses on abstinence. Appropriate education regarding sexual information protects people from abuse by helping them discern between healthy and unhealthy behaviors.
The #MeToo movement has had a significant influence on schools’ sex education. Positive results have included students being given a broader education in what constitutes inappropriate behavior and learning to discern when someone has gone too far. Adverse effects include the possibility of someone raising false accusations based on their understanding of the law.
Even though the #MeToo movement has focused mainly on heterosexual assault, many in the LGBTQ community have also encountered problems with sexual harassment or assault. However, some states and individual school districts ignore this group in their sex education curriculum. Others might affirm LGBTQ relationships but still focus most of their education on abuses in heterosexual relationships.
In the aftermath of the #MeToo movement, many young people are standing up and acknowledging that teaching about consent and other issues is essential, regardless of sexual orientation. The teenage years are among the most difficult for many, and LGBTQ youth are no exception. If teens feel more empowered, they are less likely to feel stigmatized when they come forward about abuse and harassment.
The way sex education legislation is being approached is just one of the things that have been impacted. Sex education for teens has seen some changes in the wake of the #MeToo movement, and further changes will likely continue as the movement’s influence increases.
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