Bad news for certain types who have been suggesting that there are “real” rapes and the obligatory non-real rapes, you know, the kind where the girl/woman asks for it because she was asleep or unconscious or drunk. Not anymore. At least not in California.
Democratic Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill into law Sunday night that can best be summed up as “Yes Means Yes”. The bill, SB967, was championed by state Senator Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) and applies to college campuses in California.
“With one in five women on college campuses experiencing sexual assault, it is high time the conversation regarding sexual assault be shifted to one of prevention, justice, and healing,” the Democratic Senator said to Governor Brown while lobbying him to sign the bill, according to CBS News.
Upsetting the National Coalition for Men (this group doesn’t represent the majority of men, and furthermore, rapes and sexual assaults are committed by a small number of repeat offenders not the general population of men), the bill says silence isn’t consent. It moves the onus away from the woman saying “no” enough times and with enough force and into a new paradigm where the woman must be able to give a willing consent.
The bill reads in part:
An affirmative consent standard in the determination of whether consent was given by both parties to sexual activity. “Affirmative consent” means affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity. It is the responsibility of each person involved in the sexual activity to ensure that he or she has the affirmative consent of the other or others to engage in the sexual activity. Lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent, nor does silence mean consent. Affirmative consent must be ongoing throughout a sexual activity and can be revoked at any time. The existence of a dating relationship between the persons involved, or the fact of past sexual relations between them, should never by itself be assumed to be an indicator of consent.
Affirmative consent can be revoked at any time. This means, for example, that no longer can the accused claim that she had sex with him two hours ago so he had sex with her while she was sleeping (sans protection, unlike the first time — just tossing out examples from recent media mishaps) because he presumed consent.
It’s also not okay to assume drunk/drugged means yes:
(2) A policy that, in the evaluation of complaints in any disciplinary process, it shall not be a valid excuse to alleged lack of affirmative consent that the accused believed that the complainant consented to the sexual activity under either of the following circumstances:
(A) The accused’s belief in affirmative consent arose from the intoxication or recklessness of the accused.
(B) The accused did not take reasonable steps, in the circumstances known to the accused at the time, to ascertain whether the complainant affirmatively consented.
(4) A policy that, in the evaluation of complaints in the disciplinary process, it shall not be a valid excuse that the accused believed that the complainant affirmatively consented to the sexual activity if the accused knew or reasonably should have known that the complainant was unable to consent to the sexual activity under any of the following circumstances:
(A) The complainant was asleep or unconscious.
(B) The complainant was incapacitated due to the influence of drugs, alcohol, or medication, so that the complainant could not understand the fact, nature, or extent of the sexual activity.
(C) The complainant was unable to communicate due to a mental or physical condition.
The usual suspects objected to this bill — some Republicans and the National Coalition for Men, per CBS, with Republicans in the Assembly arguing that legislation isn’t the “appropriate venue to define sexual consent between two people.” In other words, they don’t think law should come into play, because apparently sexual violence isn’t a crime and doesn’t need to be defined by legislation.
The National Coalition for Men endorsed the Republican version of the Violence Against Women Act, which was dubbed the PRO-Violence Against Women Act. They claimed, according to Think Progress, that it protected the “true victims” of domestic violence, heterosexual men. They also got outraged over self defense classes for women, arguing that they were being discriminated against. It appears that they don’t understand the concept of being a majority class versus a minority class. At any rate, they joined some Republicans in objecting to Yes Means Yes, saying it presumes the guilt of the accused. Obviously, they prefer to assume the guilt of the victim.
This law is a huge step forward in ending the rape culture. This law affords women the right to their body, and makes it clear that our bodies aren’t community property to be used and taken by whoever wants something. Just like one wouldn’t take money out of someone’s wallet without asking, one should not engage in sexual activity without knowing that the other party wants to do so at that time and continues to want to do so.
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.