The Blue & Gray Press

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Yes means yes, or no? Affirmative consent put into question

3 min read
By Elizabeth Brantley Knowing the difference between right and wrong is something that humanity should take pride in understanding. Most of us seem to know a red light means stop, stealing is wrong and punching a beehive is a one-way ticket to a bad time. Despite this, one concept seems to continue to elude humanity's grasp: consent.


By Elizabeth Brantley

Knowing the difference between right and wrong is something that humanity should take pride in understanding. Most of us seem to know a red light means stop, stealing is wrong and punching a beehive is a one-way ticket to a bad time. Despite this, one concept seems to continue to elude humanity’s grasp: consent.

For whatever reason, people still have issues in recognizing whether or not they’ve been given consent to engage in sexual activities with another person. This dilemma has plagued humanity for centuries, but the state of California has given us an answer.

Back in 2014, a piece of legislation was passed which enforces something called “affirmative consent” on college campuses. Under this new law, consent is specifically defined as being an “affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity,” that “can be revoked at any time.” It reads easily and clearly, letting both students and law enforcement know what is and isn’t legal sexual conduct. If all participants voluntarily agree to sex the whole time through and are capable of making such decisions, then everything’s on the up and up.

Some, however, have found affirmative consent to be an overwhelmingly negative law. It has beenargued that the bill was ambiguously worded and has unrealistic expectations. Robert Carle at the Federalist writes that this law generalizes to the extreme, “turning nearly everyone who has ever dated into a sexual offender.” The claim is that affirmative consent takes everyday romantic gestures and turns them into something illegal unless the other party gives verbal consent before every single interaction. This can not only ruin the mood of sexual encounters, some argue, but also put innocent lovers at risk of being unfairly put on trial.

Such arguments fail to bear a few key points in mind. First, being safe is always more important than feeling stupid so “ruining the mood” is hardly a convincing argument. Secondly, sexual assault is already a fairly commonplace and severely traumatizing event on college campuses and needs to be recognized as such.

In a study released by the Association of American Universities last September, an average of 23 percent of undergraduate women reported having been victims of sexual assault or misconduct along with 5 percent of undergraduate men. This means that in a class of 20, four women and one man will have, on average, been victims of sexual assault. According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, 68 percent of all sexual assaults are never reported to law enforcement.

So many victims already feel alone and silenced in a world which asks endless questions about what is a horrible and often confusing event. Under affirmative consent, every victim can be empowered to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they were wronged and that they are owed a chance at justice under the law. This way, it is no longer be a question of, “What was she wearing?” or “Was he leading them on?”

All that matters is whether or not everyone said “yes.” While this singular law will definitely not end the trouble of sexual assault on American college campuses, it’s certainly a step in the right direction.

As of now, only three universities in Virginia have affirmative consent policies: UVA, VCU, and the University of Virginia College at Wise. Almost all the rest, including UMW, are listed by the Affirmative Consent Project as having strong consent policies with no state mandate requiring it.

2 thoughts on “Yes means yes, or no? Affirmative consent put into question

  1. Affirmative consent problems:

    The problem with affirmative concert is threefold. First, sex doesn’t happen that way in the real world, especially among couples. As couples become closer over time they develop non-verbal cues and permission to engage in sex becomes implied. For example, how can my girlfriend wake me up “in that special way” (i.e., BJ) on my birthday, if she first has to wake me to obtain my permission? That ruins both her lovely intent and my mood.

    Second, how does one prove he/she obtained affirmative consent? California Assembly Member Bonnie Lowenthal (D-Long Beach) co-authored California’s college affirmative consent bill (SB 967). When asked how an innocent person is to prove he or she received consent, Lowenthal said, “Your guess is as good as mine. I think it’s a legal issue. Like any legal issue, that goes to court.” How freakin’ callous is this state representative who authors and pushes a bill knowing that it will entrap innocents with no way to prove their innocence?!?

    Finally, the recent case-outcome against the captain of Yale’s basketball team (Jack Montague) reveals the true purpose behind feminists pushing affirmative consent or the “yes means yes” standard for consensual sex. This was a classic he-said/she-said case yet he was found guilty. Why? Because the true purpose of affirmative consent isn’t to reduce the number of sexual assaults. Its true purpose is to shift the burden of proof to the accused. In other words, Montague was presumed guilty unless he could prove that he obtained affirmative consent. Short of recording every sexual tryst, that’s an impossibility.

    Frankly, if a woman feels uncomfortable telling a dude what she does or doesn’t want, she’s too immature to hookup. But under today’s paternalistic brand of feminism, sending that message to college women is “misogynistic”, so instead they bring college bureaucrats into the bedroom to referee, under supremely biased rules, what used to be normal sexual misunderstandings that were part of growing into adulthood.

    Next time you ask why men reject feminism…

  2. Affirmative consent includes nonverbal cues. “Affirmative consent is a knowing, voluntary, and mutual decision among all participants to engage in sexual activity. Consent can be given by words or actions, as long as those words or actions create clear permission regarding willingness to engage in the sexual activity.”

    As long as you and your partner are active and interested there may not be a need for them to “ruin your mood.” Although your mood is very fragile if all it takes to ruin it is three little words. I think it’s sexy when someone asks “is this okay?” It makes me feel respected and like an equal. Which is how sex should be, respectful and considerate.

    “Its true purpose is to shift the burden of proof to the accused.”

    Welp, maybe this is the way it should be in rape cases considering under 2% of reports are false. People so very rarely lie about rape, and why would they?

    “Frankly, if a woman feels uncomfortable telling a dude what she does or doesn’t want, she’s too immature to hookup.”

    If a man is pressuring a woman to have sex so much so that she feels uncomfortable or even unsafe saying no, that’s coercion and rape. If a man can’t be bothered to ask a woman if what he is doing is okay, not only is he lazy and inconsiderate, but he shouldn’t be having sex.

    Men reject feminism because female advancement and equality threatens their comfy positions. Because they aren’t willing to put in minimal effort to make women feel like equals. Men who can’t handle feminism are the individuals who are immature. Grow up, it isn’t that hard to ask one question or check in on how your partner is doing during sex, it’s really a simple thing to do.

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