California Says Yes Means Yes
California is arguably one of the coolest states. From the Bay to L.A., Californians are known for being on a different (and possibly cooler) wavelength than the rest of us. The passing of the “yes means yes” law shows us once again that our friends to the West are actually pretty smart, and know a thing two more than just how to cultivate everyone’s favorite crop.
Officially named SB-967, the “yes means yes” law provides a new definition of consent on California college campuses. Thinking about the logistics is slightly cringe-worthy, but the law has an awesome idea behind it. The law is designed to help survivors of assault get justice in court and sets new standards for how sexual assault cases are handled by the universities.
The law is similar to the typical “no means no” policy, but goes farther to define consent as “affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity.” According to the New York Times, the original draft of the bill said that consent had to be given “by words or clear, unambiguous actions” and that nonverbal signs could create misunderstanding. Fortunately, the part about consent having to be verbal was taken out, as it might be hard to verbally ask your nice new friend from Chuck’s for a solid spoken yes while simultaneously trying to remember if they ever actually told you their name. The current law allows for nonverbal queues (haha) to count as consent.
It seems like it would be hard to argue against something that is attempting to correct one of our nations largest problems, but the law does have its critics. One specific group, the National Coalition for Men is having a particularly hard time with it. The NCFM put an article on their website saying the law will “initiate harmful changes with disastrous consequences for California’s sons.” These concerned manly men are afraid that the new law places too much burden on those accused of assault. They do have a point in that there will be a lot of "he said, she said," but the same article that argues against the law also says “rape on college campuses has declined precipitously from 1995 to a historic low today.” These guys might have spent a little too much smoking cigars and being “manly” to have any type of qualified opinion.
Luckily for us on the east coast, the Huffington Post reported that the smarties at Harvard are pushing for a similar thing to be included in their schools sexual assault policies. This is a good sign that the forward thinking vibes of our west coast friends might be floating our direction, and that our universities will take a serious look at adopting policies similar to California’s.