So, the California legislature passed—and I fully expect the governor to sign—a bill requiring that universities employ an “affirmative consent” standard when defining what constitutes sexual assault for the purposes of school disciplinary hearings. Reuters description:
The measure, passed unanimously by the California State Senate, has been called the “yes-means-yes” bill. It defines sexual consent between people as “an affirmative, conscious and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity”.
The bill states that silence and a lack of resistance do not signify consent and that drugs or alcohol do not excuse unwanted sexual activity.
There’s been a lot of fussing and crying from anti-feminists over this, because they believe strongly that men cannot be expected to know if a partner is into it before having sex with her, an argument that demonstrates that anti-feminists may hate women but they think men are imbeciles. (Why they think people who are too stupid or sociopathic to care about something as basic about your partner’s interest in sexing you back should be the people who control the world, I have no idea.) This is a very good thing, because it adds clarity to the process. Instead of debating whether or not the victim said “no” loudly or frequently enough to count, the burden will be on not just men, but everyone to only have sex with people who want to have sex with you.
This will bring the sexual assault definition in line with other kinds of crimes that can get you kicked out of school. For instance, if you steal another student’s bike, you cannot argue that because there was only one lock on it—or even that it was laying there unlocked—you assumed it was a gift to you personally and took it. As far as I know, both men and women are expected to understand that unlocked bikes are not gifts, and so should we all be expected to know that just because we can physically force ourselves on another person doesn’t mean that it’s cool to do so. Don’t take stuff unless it’s offered to you, including sex. Simple. Easy. A standard we can all live by and be held accountable for.
While it’s easier to get such a thing passed into the school system, because the penalty (potential expulsion) is lower than in the criminal courts (potential imprisonment), I do think that since this is such a straightforward standard—and because it’s the standard for lesser crimes like theft—I hope to see this “affirmative consent” standard expanded to the criminal definitions of sexual assault.
It’s time to shift the discussion away from the “why didn’t you lock yourself up if you didn’t want to be raped” towards “why did you rape someone just because they weren’t locked up”. Simply applying the same standard for bicycles, but to people’s actual bodies.