Our View: The Affirtmative Consent bill is confusing, impractical
June 18, 2014
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You never know until you try, and when it comes to reducing sexual assault numbers on college campuses, we are willing to try anything — even if we are confused.
Senate Bill 967 is one of the latest attempts in California to reduce sexual assault numbers on state-run college campuses. The bill is being called the Affirmative Consent bill, and, as the name indicates, it would require affirmative consent in all student participation in sexual activity.
We applaud every effort to combat sexual assault of any kind, in any place, but we worry that this bill may prove to be an ineffective and confusing policy.
State Senator Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles), a co-author on the bill, said, “one out of five young women on a college campus will be sexually assaulted,” according to CBS Los Angeles. Leon argued that it is critical to “create a culture that’s respectful of women,” and that transparent protocols are implemented.
Our concern is that this bill, though well intentioned, has almost made a mockery of what it means to say “yes” or “no” to sex. The Long Beach Press Telegram recently published an article in which “students question ‘affirmative consent’ bill.”
In it, two Cal State Long Beach students agreed that the bill seems impractical. They even joked that the policy seems to imply that there will be guidelines for sexual activity, and that students will “need to check [for consent] every five minutes,” which would “definitely kill the vibe.”
Though we tend to err on the side of caution when questioning such a well-intended policy, our fellow 49ers raised a valid point.
Do we need to sign a contract before getting into bed with a significant other? Does this policy mean that we have to take a break every so often to renew our partner’s consent? Can’t the government just stay out of our bedrooms?
The bill was amended on March 27, which helped to clarify the intended meaning of the bill; however, we feel that the only piece of the policy that students understand is the part that legally requires sexually active students to explicitly consent to sex before and throughout sexual encounters.
The bigger picture is that this bill aims to clean up the legal side of sexual assault. The policy requires an “affirmative consent standard in the determination of whether consent was given by a complainant.”
The bill seeks to clarify the steps for individuals to consent to sexual activity, which means that, when a victim complains of sexual assault, he or she can very clearly demonstrate why they feel they have been violated.
Although this may not result in decreased instances of sexual assault, we appreciate the clarity that it may provide. The bill also goes into detail about the kinds of protections and state-run services that will be required under the policy on behalf of sexual assault victims.
We feel that there is no clear means for us to determine whether this policy will help reduce sexual assault across California college campuses, we are willing to try it, regardless of the awkward conversations it may require of us between the sheets.