Students on both public and private college campuses must get “affirmative consent” before engaging in sexual activity, according to a bill passed unanimously the California legislature. The bill awaits Governor Jerry Brown’s signature.
California Senate Bill 967, also known as the “yes means yes” law, makes clear that all colleges taking student financial aid funding from the state must agree that in the course of conducting investigations of campus sexual assaults, silence or a lack of resistance or consent given under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs does not equal consent to sexual activity. The bill states that “‘affirmative consent’ must be affirmative, conscious, voluntary and ongoing throughout a sexual activity and can be revoked at any time.” The proposed law also states that the existence of a dating relationship between the persons involved, or the fact of a past sexual relationship, should never by itself be assumed to be an indicator of consent.
The bill’s sponsor, Senator Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, called the proposed new law a paradigm shift and stated, “It is very difficult to say no when you’re inebriated or someone slips something into your drink. If the Governor signs it, this will lead the entire country, the nation.” The “affirmative consent” standard established by the bill makes both parties responsible for ensuring in advance that a sexual act is desired. The bill shifts the burden away from requiring alleged victims to prove that they had clearly conveyed that they did not want to engage in sexual activity. Lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent, nor does silence.
“With this measure, we will lead the nation in bringing standards and protocols across the board so we can create an environment that’s healthy, that’s conducive for all students, not just for women, but for young men as well too, so young men can develop healthy patterns and boundaries as they age with the opposite sex,” de Leon said before the legislative vote.
While the proponents of the bill have convinced the California state legislature to support the measure, several critics of the proposed legislation have expressed strong opposition. National Coalition for Men spokesman Gordon Finley stated that the proposal will lead to “too many punitive situations for young men.” Finley asserts that Governor Brown should not sign SB-967, saying, “This is nice for the accusers — false accusers as well as true accusers — but what about the due process rights of the accused.”