October 16, 2015
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
It’s Friday, October 16, 2015. I’m Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
Insanity of 'yes means yes' sex ed shows implausibility of sexual morality of consent
Sex education, often discussed, is now on the front page of two of the most influential newspapers in the world, in about thirty-six hours appearing as a major news focus in both the Washington Post and The New York Times. The article in The New York Times was on the front page of yesterday’s edition. The headline: Sex Ed Lesson: “’Yes Means Yes,’ but It’s Tricky”. The reporter is Jennifer Medina. It points to the internal contradictions, indeed the absolute implausibility of the new sexual morality.
One of the tests of any form of sex education is how in the world you could teach this to teenagers with a straight face. Interestingly, one of the points that Jennifer Medina makes in this article is, both explicitly and implicitly, no one’s able to actually pull this off with a straight face. That really does tell us something. Medina writes about a San Francisco classroom of tenth graders, that is of fifteen and sixteen-year-olds. They had already learned, she says,Show Full Transcript
“about sexually transmitted diseases and various types of birth control. But on this day, the teenagers gathered around tables to discuss another topic: how and why to make sure each step in a sexual encounter is met with consent.”
The background of this is the shift in terms of the prevailing secular sexual morality having to do with a shift as it’s defined in California from “no means no” to “yes means yes.” This is a movement that’s not limited to California, but California has become the first major state in the union to require the “yes means yes” approach to be taught in sex education in the public schools. What’s the distinction here? Well, those who had been the prophets of the sexual revolution had held to a morality code for especially teenagers and most specifically college students in which the definition was “no means no.” This was extended beyond adolescents and college students to the general population in questions of sexual assault or sexual harassment. The suggestion was that if a woman says “no,” and of course it could be a man conceivably, not just a woman, but in almost all situations that have become a matter of law where it is a woman, if she says “no,” “no means no.”
That’s the old understanding. The new understanding, now also pushed by the advocates of the sexual revolution, is that “no means no” isn’t enough. Now it has to be “yes means yes.” That points to the fact that, as we have underlined so many times, a society that is losing all moral sense on sexuality eventually has no moral criterion left but one, and that is consent. As is now so obvious and as we have said over and over again, consent is just no adequate basis for any kind of sexual morality or even for a behavior code, even if you’re committed to an entirely secular worldview. It simply doesn’t work, and evidence of that is this story that appeared on the front page of The New York Times. That placement is important, and the fact that it appeared in The New York Times is really important. What is embedded in this article is a secular message to secular people, saying, “This isn’t working,” and we need to note very carefully why.
As Medina’s story continued, she said,
“Consent from the person you are kissing, or more, is not merely silence or a lack of protest.”
That was said by Shafia Zaloom, a health educator at the Urban School of San Francisco who was speaking to the students. According to the reporter they listened raptly, but several did not disguise how puzzled they felt. One sixteen-year-old boy said,
“What does that mean, you have to say ‘yes’ every ten minutes?”
The teacher responded,
“Pretty much. It’s not a timing thing, but whoever initiates things to another level has to ask.”
At this point we simply have to insert the fact that we are talking here about an attempt to talk to sixteen-year-olds about what is only described as insanity. This is an insane moral calculus they are being asked to understand as if it makes sense. In reality, they’re the ones who are seeing clearly. This doesn’t make sense. It really can’t make sense.
“The ‘no means no’ mantra of a generation ago is being eclipsed by a ‘yes means yes’ as more young people all over the country are told that they must have explicit permission from the object of their desire before they engage in any touching, kissing or other sexual activity.”
She goes on to say that
“with Governor Jerry Brown’s signature on a bill this month, California became the first state to require that all high school health education classes give lessons on what’s called affirmative consent, which includes explaining that someone who is drunk or asleep cannot grant consent.”
Let’s look at this closely again. We’re talking about a movement that packages itself as affirmative consent or “yes means yes.” The background of this is indeed the pervasiveness of sexual assault that is taking place, and no doubt from a secular perspective is a well-intended effort to try to put the brakes on sexual assault. The problem is it assumes casual sexual activity. It assumes the hooking-up culture. It assumes the legitimacy of sex outside of marriage. In this case, it assumes that teenagers are going to have sex, they’re going to have sex outside of marriage, and the issue is how they are being taught they ought to relate to one another sexually. The sex code here is a new morality, an artificial morality that will not stand and is puzzling, as this article says, to these teenagers about what exactly “yes means yes” is supposed to mean.
At least one clear-minded man was cited in the article. That’s John F. Banzhaf. He is a professor at George Washington University’s Law School. He said,
“There’s really no clear standard yet. What we have is a lot of ambiguity on how these standards really work in the court of law.”
Let’s just note that he’s speaking here a very adult conversation about the fact that when you get in the courtroom, even those who are in the courtroom don’t know how to define these standards that here a teacher is trying to teach to sixteen-year-olds.
The law professor went on to say,
“The standard is not logical. Nobody really works that way. The problem with teaching this to high school students is that you are only going to sow more confusion. They are getting mixed messages depending where they go afterward.”
That is a very clear-headed statement, as we said. There you have an actual bit of honesty from someone who says this actually doesn’t make sense. The standards are by no means clear, and yet the most clarifying section of what he said is that this is going to sow confusion because this is the advertisement, this is the instruction of mixed messages.
As I have said, one of the tests in terms of a worldview is whether or not you can even articulate it with a straight face. With that as our test, just consider this next section of Medina’s article. She writes, citing the teacher in this class, Ms. Zaloom, who said,
“What’s really important to know is that sex is not always super smooth.”
She’s speaking here to tenth graders.
“It can be awkward, and that’s actually normal and shows things are okay.”
Here’s how the article continues:
“The students did not seem convinced. They sat in groups to brainstorm ways to ask for affirmative consent.”
The following section of the article in The New York Times is a bit more explicit than I mean to read on The Briefing, but let me just tell you, in summary, it shows the very kind of confusion we’re talking about here, and it makes very clear the students aren’t going along with this logic.
Keep in mind here we’re talking about a public school in a setting in California, and we’re talking about fifteen and sixteen-year-olds. The article ends with the sex educator telling the teenagers that they ought to make “clear plans with friends ahead of time, like making pacts to leave parties together,” and she urged them to have conversations with potential sexual partners “before you get swept up in the moment.” Then one boy asked out loud, “How do we even start a conversation like that?” The sex educator’s response is simply one word: “Practice.” There’s actually only one word needful after that, and that is the word “insanity.”
The sex education context in this San Francisco classroom depicted in this story demonstrates that all too clearly, but the thing we need to note is that this doesn’t make sense anywhere. It doesn’t make sense on American college and university campuses where the “no means no” has supposedly shifted to “yes means yes.”
As this article in The Times indicates, the courts are extremely confused and confusing as to how in the world that is supposed to be applied, but from a Christian worldview perspective, what we have to come back to is that anything that represents the legitimation of sex outside of marriage is a sexual morality that is doomed to fall into collapse. In this case, that collapse is that they’re trying to reduce everything to what’s called affirmative consent, but consent is no substitute for sexual morality.
If indeed you’re going to say that somehow sex can be legitimate outside of marriage, you’re going to have to try to come up with a list of rules about where, why, and when, and with whom it might be legitimate, and that means you’re going to fall into exactly this trap. What you see here is a group of fifteen and sixteen-year-olds seeing through the illogic and the insanity of this position. You even have The New York Times and one of its reporters depicting this very honestly. That’s important, but it’s also important to recognize that another of the most influential papers in the country and in the world, that is the Washington Post, ran a similar story in about the same time period.
In this case, Jon Zimmerman, writing an op-ed piece for The Washington Post, writes about how this is now working … no, it’s not working … on American college and university campuses. This is what he writes:
“University administrators take it for granted that a certain amount of sex will be ‘casual’, that is, devoid of intimate emotion or connection. But our rules now require the sharing of feelings even in an encounter that is by definition divorced from them. We simply assume that virtual strangers will be having sex, but we urge them, or even legally enjoin them, to communicate openly and explicitly about it.”
“Good luck with that,” he writes.
“We might succeed in cajoling more students into some kind of verbal consent, but that’s a script, a bedroom contract between sexual vendors. Yes, it will make the whole transaction legal. But consensual? Really?”
As he concludes his article,
“For the past several years, we’ve tried to be casual about sex but serious about consent. And it’s not working.”
There is gold in that insight. He says, “We have tried to be casual about sex but serious about consent,” but as he understands and makes all too clear in this article, once you decide you’re going to be casual about sex, you really can’t be serious about any aspect of sexual morality.
Generational differences in parenting demonstration of worldview beliefs
Next, as we go into the weekend, Time Magazine has an interesting bit of research that’s published in the new edition. This is a Time Magazine SurveyMonkey poll that examines three different generations and their approach to parenting. Once again, we’re at the very heart of worldview significance, because how we raise our children, how we understand our responsibility as parents, is deeply and inescapably rooted in worldview. Our worldview is going to come out in our parenting. As Time indicates, there are significant differences in the worldview and thus in the parenting of successive generations, in particular the generations identified as baby boomers, Generation X, and the Millennials.
There are some interesting things here. For one thing, when you’re looking at the Millennials, they are actually, according to at least this documentation, more likely than the previous generation to be stay-at-home parents. One of the things to ask there is whether or not the experience of not being in a home with a stay-at-home parent has led some millennials, an increased percentage of millennials, to believe that they want to make whatever sacrifice is necessary to be home with their children. That’s a very interesting question to ask from this data.
It’s also interesting to note when looking at this that food once again has become such a new focus of morality. Thirty percent of Millennial parents say they are somewhat, very, or extremely concerned about other parents judging the food their children eat. When it came to the baby boomers, it was only eleven percent, and Generation X only seventeen percent. That is a skyrocketing percentage of Millennials who are looking over their shoulder thinking that someone else is looking over their shoulder at what their children are eating. One of the things that we’ve come to time and again is the fact that when you are more confused about the morality of sex, it turns out that you tend to be far more concerned about what you define as the morality of food. That’s coming through in an odd way in this survey.
According to this data, fewer Millennials believe that parents ought to be married before they have children. That’s a fall from fifty-one percent of baby boomers, to forty-nine percent of Gen-Xers, to now just forty-two percent of Millennials. Here we have to note once again the impact of the sexual revolution, and the fact that, as has been well-documented now, the first serious romantic relationship of cohabitation when it comes to young adults is now indeed that, cohabitation, and not marriage. Another thing to note is that previous surveys asking this kind of question had pointed to the fact that far fewer Millennials than reflected here affirmed that a couple ought to be married before they have children. You ask the question: why would this be different? Then you note this is a research sample of those who around parenting.
That gets to another insight from the Christian worldview. There is nothing that makes someone more conservative as fast as having a child, and in this case we’re talking about moral conservatism which is reflected in the kind of moral concern that would say that a couple ought to be married before they have children. A sample that’s not limited to parents is far more likely to hold a more liberal view on this position, while when it’s limited to parents it turns out this swings in a considerably more conservative direction. We understand why. When you have a child, you understand there is greater moral responsibility, and you have to face the fact that the reality of parenthood is going to bring about some moral judgments that you just might have been able to avoid if indeed you never had children.
It’s also interesting that one of the questions in this survey was whether or not parents felt that they were overwhelmed by a superabundance of parenting information and advice coming to them, and once again it was Millennials who were significantly more concerned about this overabundance of information. After all, they are the first digital generation. They are awash in information of every kind, and we shouldn’t be surprised that that’s a bit overwhelming to Millennial parents.
The key insight from this survey comes down to something very important to the Christian worldview, and that is that marriage and parenting is at the center of civilization, and it’s at the center of how a worldview is demonstrated. In this case, the worldview implications of parenting come out in a survey published by Time Magazine and SurveyMonkey about differences between three generations and their parenting styles. A Christian would have to respond: It’s not merely parenting styles, it is a worldview that is demonstrated in parenting.
Inevitable meltdown of transgender movement clear in Chicago school locker policy, non-binary identification
Next, a series of articles on the transgender issue that emerged just in the last day or few hours. The Washington Post ran an article about a school district in suburban Chicago that is defying federal mandates and is not going to allow transgender students to use locker rooms for changing and showering. In this case, the suburban Chicago school district has said that it’s not going to sign a consent order by which it would agree to allow transgender students to use the locker room facility of the student’s choice having to do with gender identity, and that the reason the school district has cited in refusing to go along with this is that it would be injurious to the safety of all students. We have here further evidence of the fact that the transgender movement has at the very center of its worldview a massive contradiction, and even those who were saying that we have to go along with this revolution aren’t certain exactly how in the world that’s going to be pulled off.
Once again, parents are central to the understanding of this story, even as they were to the last, because in this case, the parenting has to do with the fact that parents, of girls in particular, in the high schools in this school district do not believe that their girls will be fully safe if those who were born biologically male are allowed access to those locker rooms, and the school district was sufficiently influenced by the parents making that argument that they have said they’re going to withstand federal pressure to allow transgender students to use the locker room of the student’s choice.
One interesting thing to note in this article is an argument made by a man identified as John Knight of the ACLU, that’s the American Civil Liberties Union, of Illinois. He said this:
“Transgender students are now a part of everyday American life as society has become more accepting of all kinds of differences.”
What we need to note there is that transgender students are not really a part of everyday American life, not in the sense that is implied in that statement. If this was a part of everyday American life and it was a settled fact, then this headline and this news story wouldn’t have appeared.
Secondly, another article demonstrating the inconsistencies and incongruities in the transgender worldview has appeared in The Guardian. That is a liberal London newspaper. The writer says,
“Putting trans celebrities on pedestals doesn’t translate into safety for those of us who are visibly gender non-conforming.”
That’s a very interesting statement, “Gender non-conforming.” Then comes this particular sentence:
“I often walk around the city wearing a beard and a skirt. This is when I’m most myself, but it’s also when I’m most afraid of people’s reactions.”
It goes on to say, “Our culture still holds an ingrained suspicion of gender non-conformity.” He goes on to argue that even though the society claims that it’s very accepting of trans celebrities, when it comes to an individual walking around the city wearing a beard and a skirt, he still is concerned that people will not be fully accepting.
I draw attention to this article because once again it points to the intellectual meltdown of this movement. At no point in this article does the individual indicate that he intends to be presented as a man or as a woman, as a male or as a female. Instead, he presents himself as wearing a skirt and also a beard. The meltdown of this worldview is demonstrated in the fact that actually no society at any time has had an endless series of categories in order to deal with any kind of gender non-conformity that any individual might be able to come up with.
The author concludes by saying the problem is
“a larger system of gender binarism that requires us to assimilate into discrete categories of man or woman.”
Here again a bit of clear thinking would be helpful. A skirt is not an accidental piece of fabric. It is fabric that is fashioned into a particular garment that was intended to classify someone as a woman. Throughout human history, a beard has been a nearly universal statement of the fact that the individual is male. By intentionally mixing those two, the individual who writes this articles says this represents being gender non-conforming, but we need to note something very carefully. The very building blocks by which that individual is expressing that non-conformity is built upon symbols of conformity that are merely now mixed together. In that sense, even claiming gender non-conformity points to the fact that a very conventional understanding of gender is really behind that supposed non-conformity.
Use of 'science' as moral authority evidenced with mislabeling of economics as science
Finally, in terms of how intelligent Christians should think, one of the things we need to note very carefully is what is implied in the word “science.” That gets to another article that appeared at The Guardian. In this case, it’s by Joris Luyendijk, and he’s pointing to the fact that the Nobel Prize in Economics is actually named the “Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel.” I happen to think that economics is one of the most interesting intellectual fields of study, but the point being made by this author is the use of the word “science” here is really rather problematic. That’s because when it comes to the so-called human sciences, whatever they are, they aren’t sciences in the same sense as other sciences. Whether it’s sociology or it’s psychology, or in this case economics, you’re dealing with human thinking, you’re dealing with the human being, you’re thinking with human behavior, and that’s never as reducible to the kind of laboratory context that most people associate with the word “science” and with the scientific method.
That’s because, as several recent headline stories have told us, even as they have told us that many of these so-called scientific studies in the social sciences have been non-replicatable, and indeed they’ve been determined to be lacking in scientific credibility, the reality as this author points out is that the word “science” is sometimes the wrong word to use. Just because a field of knowledge is associated with research doesn’t mean that it actually is best describe by the word “science.”
The thing to note here is that intelligent Christians should know that when the word “science” is being invoked, it is now a matter of authority. It’s being invoked as a matter of intellectual authority. Sometimes it deserves it. Sometimes it does not. It’s really interesting that here you have a major author in a major newspaper saying that whatever the Nobel Prize in Economics is, and there have been some stellar winners of the Nobel Prize in Economics, he says it’s just wrongly described as the Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel. That’s an interesting point. The biggest point is what is now invoked with the word “science.”