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Op-Ed: Why California's 'yes means yes' law is a no-no

By Calvin Wolf     Aug 29, 2014 in Politics
Sacramento - California has passed anti-rape legislation known as the "yes means yes" act, requiring affirmative consent for sexual activity. Though some champion this legislation as helping curb sexual assault, others view it as an illogical and discriminatory law.
Few things in the world are as confusing and muddled as sex. Sex is an activity that often occurs in the dim and dark, sometimes blurred by passion, and sometimes fuzzed by alcohol. It often defies logic, planning, and convention. It is influenced by uncontrollable biology, perhaps unstable psychology, and the quirks of pharmacology. It is amazingly glorious and painfully awkward.
But when is it consensual and when is it not? How should consenting adults prove their consent? The state of California has received both praise and ire for passing anti-rape legislation dubbed "yes means yes" for requiring affirmative consent between sexual partners, reports TIME. While proponents praise the legislation for cracking down on rape that occurs when the victim is unconscious or otherwise unable to say "no," critics worry that the law is far too ambiguous and may unfairly punish men for sexual encounters where consent was not deemed sufficiently explicit.
Cathy Young opines on TIME that the law is unlikely to deter sexual predators and questions the law's use of "nonverbal cues" as currency of sexual consent.
"Yes means yes" is ultimately bad law. It attempts to put government oversight where it does not belong and unfairly targets men. It sets up the possibility for blackmail and "buyer's remorse" false reporting of rape. For example, a college woman hooks up with a male acquaintance one night when both are intoxicated. It turns out that she has a boyfriend and soon realizes that witnesses who saw her hooking up with said male acquaintance may soon tell said boyfriend. Eager to keep things under wraps, she can coerce her hookup partner into silence by threatening to report that she did not "overtly consent," thereby implying that he is a rapist.
Or she can report the male acquaintance to college administrators, beginning an investigation that is likely prejudiced against the young man. Now, if said boyfriend finds out about the hookup, she appears to be a victim rather than a cheater. The male acquaintance, who may not have even known that the woman was in a relationship, has been unfairly railroaded by bad law.
Though this may be an extreme example, the extreme examples are what reveal flaws in the system. "Yes means yes" swings the pendulum too far against young men and subjects them to excessive liability in stereotypical college hookups. In alcohol- and hormone-addled sexual fumblings, the man is set up to fail. Either he kills the mood by repetitively seeking verbal consent or he plunges ahead, risking breaking the law.
Rape on college campuses is a problem, but bad laws do not solve the crisis. Instead, "yes means yes" does not deter sexual predators and only serves to increase the liability of law-abiding men. At best, it merely increases the awkwardness of sexual encounters. At worst, it could be used as a tool by women to threaten men with whom they have hooked up. If your son is going off to college, hopefully it only makes things a bit more awkward.
Though comedy shows may joke about the foibles of active consent, showing the female protagonist turned off by the nervous bleatings of the nerd constantly asking "do I have your consent?" before later going all the way with the hunk who asks no questions, placing men in the legal crosshairs through awkward ambiguity is no laughing matter.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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