By: Scott LaPorta, M.S.
The Chicago School of Professional Psychology
According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), every 107s, another American is sexually assaulted. RAINN states that of 44% of victims sexually assaulted are under the age of 18, and 80% are under the age of 30. So why is consent not commonly taught in high school sex education curriculum? According to Florsheim (n.d.), Nora Gelperin, director of training at Answer said, “Unfortunately, it tends to be that teachers focus on what they see as the core content, which is generally pregnancy prevention and STD/HIV prevention.” Consent education, which can be seen as a preventative measure to facilitate healthy sexual communication between two or more partners, is not being explicitly taught to students until, and if, they attend college. It should be also noted that not all universities teach consent education.
Illinois state law defines sexual assault as “sexual penetration by force or threat of force or an act of sexual penetration when the victim was unable to understand the nature of the act or was unable to give knowing consent” (“Defining Sexual Assault and Consent”, n.d.). However, there is no operational definition or example provided for giving “knowing” consent, or being unable to give “knowing” consent. Furthermore, no information is provided for learning how to acquire education regarding sexual consent.
“Consent is a key issue in defining sexual coercion yet few researchers have analyzed sexual consent attitudes and behaviors and, to date, there has been no published research examining sexual consent within same-sex relationships” (Beres, Herold, and Maitland, 2003, p. 475). Beres et al. (2003) investigated which behaviors people used to ask for and to indicate sexual consent to their same-sex partner(s). Results indicated that both men who have sex with men (MSM) and women who have sex with women (WSW) were far more likely to use nonverbal than verbal behaviors both to ask for and to give sexual consent. In addition, MSM were more likely than WSW to use nonverbal behavior in giving sexual consent.
These previous findings suggest that nonverbal, verbal, and no resistance behaviors are all components of the composite skill sexual consent. That is, if each of the components is taught to mastery levels it may facilitate a more efficient and comprehensive understanding of sexual consent in general. Thus being said, one way ABA can contribute to furthering consent competence is through fluency training. Fluency training may be useful for teaching the first aforementioned component, nonverbal sexual consent. “Behavioral fluency refers to the attainment of a performance standard or fluency aim and the subsequent associated critical learning outcomes” (Kubina and Yurich, 2012, p. 318). A SAFMEDS (Say All Fast Minute Each Day Shuffled) procedure would be one way to promote accuracy and speed with identifying forms of nonverbal consent, non-consent, and ambiguous consent, that may also facilitate additional learning outcomes when programmed for.
Following the completion of a SAFMEDS procedure, meaning mastery criteria of all components for sexual consent via fluency training are met, appropriate follow-up questions should be taught and assessed for all examples since consent is a continual paradigm, not a one and done deal. Learners should then be assessed based on the appropriateness of their follow-up questions or responses to nonverbal consent, non-consent, and ambiguous consent. If more and more educational institutions begin to accept and teach sexual consent as an antecedent-based intervention, we can at least say that our learners have been trained to competent levels that may potentially reduce any future abstruseness when discriminating forms of sexual consent.
Beres, M., Herold, E., & Maitland, S. Sexual Consent Behaviors in Same-Sex Relationships.
Archives of Sexual Behavior, 475-486.
Defining Sexual Assault and Consent. (n.d.). Retrieved April 11, 2015, from
Florsheim, L. (n.d.). If College Students Can’t Say What Consent Is, Then We Should Teach It
Sooner. Retrieved April 11, 2015, from http://www.newrepublic.com/article/115506/
Kubina, R. M., & Yurich, K. K. L. (2012). Precision teaching book. S.l.: Greatness Achieved
Statistics | RAINN| Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. (n.d.) Retrieved April 11, 2015,
This piece was originally published as a part of the Summer 2015 SBRP SIG Newsletter.