State law makers in California approved a legislation on Thursday that would require colleges and universities to adopt and comply with a standard of consent among students engaging in sexual antics and activity. The legislation, aptly titled “Yes Means Yes,” addresses on-campus rape accusations and sexual assault. Officially called SB 967, the bill requires affirmative consent from both parties when engaging in sexual activity. The sexual consent will provide a “clear threshold that specifically could not include a person’s silence, a lack of resistance, or consent given while intoxicated.”
The bill is awaiting a signature from Governor Jerry Brown. If enacted, colleges and universities would receive funding for student aid, ensuring that they include detailed protocols for assisting sexual assault victims, including domestic violence and date violence.
Los Angeles Senator Kevin De Leon shared his thoughts on the bill.
“These are our daughters, they are our sisters, they are our nieces. It is incumbent on men, in particular, to step up and to stand up and to do everything possible to change that culture — a culture that’s quite pervasive on our college campus. That is a rape culture.”
Essentially, the bill is not meant to stop instances of sexual assault from occurring in the colleges and universities, but instead clarify what sexual assault is and prevent individuals from turning a regretful sexual encounter into a means of retaliation. The “Yes Means Yes” bill clarifies the difference between affirmative consent and a no.
“‘Affirmative consent’ means affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity…. Lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent, nor does silence mean consent.”
Despite the push to clarify the bases for sexual consent, there is still the issue of “he said, she said” when it comes to determining whether sexual consent was agreed upon. In the heat of the moment, the outcome may be assumed, causing the male or female to shy away from stopping the sexual act due to embarrassment or shyness. There is also the possibility that the male or female may say no after saying yes, only to be denied that right during the sexual act that has already started. It seems that the only real way to enforce the bill would be for colleges and universities to create a paper contract for both partners to sign, stating that they agree to the sexual consent, or to record their consent on video.
However, some feminists feel that this is about more than just gaining permission, according to Cathy Young at Time.
“Many feminists say that affirmative consent is not about getting permission but about making sure sexual encounters are based on mutual desire and enthusiasm. No one could oppose such a goal. But having the government dictate how people should behave in sexual encounters is hardly the way to go about it.”
“Yes Means Yes” is a great start to preventing accusations of sexual assault from either male or female. Sexual assault, rape, and couples abuse are tragic occurrences that are directed at both men and women, although women are typically the focus. There will undoubtedly be those for and against this bill. However, opening the conversation toward a legitimate conversation and resolution of the issue will provide the means for finally getting it under control.
[Photo Courtesy: Los Angeles Times]