Less than a dozen states included the topic of “consent” when teaching sex education, as of last school year. But starting this year, Maryland schools will, thanks to a mother-daughter duo, who helped get consent legislation passed.
Maeve Sanford-Kelly says it all started after watching a 2005 Access Hollywood clip that featured now-President Donald Trump, which was posted by The Washington Post in 2016.
“I was 12, but I was old enough to watch it and react to it,” says Sanford-Kelly. “And so was my little brother, and he was 8 or 9. You don’t have to be that old to understand how wrong it is.”
The girl’s mother, Maryland state delegate Ariana Kelly, says it made no sense her daughter and other students weren’t taught the issue of consent in their public school’s sex education classes. So, together, they drafted a bill.
“We wanted the conversation to start with, ‘Sex is something two people who mutually agree to it are doing,’” Kelly says.
“It was less a fixing and more being proactive,” says Sanford-Kelly. “I don’t want the people who are in my generation to act the same as how I’ve seen people in my mother’s generation and grandmother’s generation acting.”
The concept was simple.
“Don’t do something that involves another party if the other party doesn’t also want to do it,” says the young teen. “Pretty straightforward.”
The mother and daughter’s first attempt at passing a bill last year wasn’t successful. However, Sanford-Kelly didn’t give up. This year, they were able to get it through. And with the new year, also brought the #MeToo movement.
“And the scales tipped, right?” says Kelly. “These rhetorical ideas about how terrible sex-ed is sort of became less important than the practical implications of ‘let’s teach our kids about consent so that they don’t accidentally not understand it.’”
Kelly admits that she’s become more cynical over the years, but seeing her daughter’s idealism has reignited her own.
“And with Maeve’s perspective being hopeful and fresh and young, it reminds me that we have to succeed.”