For the second year, a legislative committee is considering an “Affirmative Consent” bill that purportedly changes the standard for what constitutes sexual assault on college campuses, from “no means no” to “yes means yes.” If students aren’t vocally approving every step of the way, they may fall under suspicion of a heinous crime.
One can sympathize with the intentions of the sponsors; in the midst of the disintegration of traditional moral norms and face-to-face social interaction, they are left fumbling for something (others have responded with “Yes, there’s an app for that“). But is this bill destined to cause less woe and confusion, or more?
We smell a skunk in the neighborhood; these policies are promoted by Planned Parenthood — which got caught teaching torture play as a normal part of healthy teen relationships and produced this hookup-glorifying, softcore porn-esque “educational” video on consent (fair warning: since I’m not a pervy voyeur, I had to bail halfway through and go detox my mind) — and the same administration that thought an ad comparing voting to losing one’s virginity was a good idea and can’t even rein in notoriously touchy-feely Joe Biden. The Veep might just be a friendly, avuncular guy brimming with affection, but he would likely fail the “affirmative consent” standard. Senator Joe Markley, who stood alone against this bill last year, found it “peculiar” that there would be different standards for students versus the whole community. Indeed. Where are the protestations of Planned Parenthood, NOW, and the usual suspects, or do pro-abortion liberal men get a pass?
Rape is a felony that should be criminally prosecuted. Affirmative consent bills may actually trivialize rape charges by handing them off to campus tribunals that are better equipped to handle plagiarism cases. These tribunals are essentially kangaroo courts, where the accused is guilty until proven innocent, inverting the basic standards of American jurisprudence. The result is often the Nifonging of innocent students. Right here in Connecticut, wacky Wesleyan — surprise, surprise — was cited by Reason for thoroughly railroading a student over an allegation of unwanted kissing from four years prior. Worst of all, it at least appeared that it could have been retaliation against him for opposing the decision to force fraternities to go co-ed (a plan that, by the way, liberal Trinity College dropped months ago).
Affirmative consent policies could also fall afoul of federal law when disabled people are stereotyped as unable to consent; a missed social cue could lead to sexual assault charges, like when this autistic student in Texas mistakenly kissed a stranger on the head. All punchlines about legions of smartphone zombies aside, this is no joke; we might appreciate how heavily we rely on social cues if we unwittingly transgressed a code that everyone except us seemed to have cracked.
We have concerns about these policies, but even the most well-intentioned legislation can only do so much without addressing the toxic sexual environment on many campuses today — which Planned Parenthood and its ilk helped spawn, and which is chewing up and spitting out young hearts daily. The harsh reality is that in places where casual promiscuity is “no big deal,” yes is the default setting and the one who won’t say it is rocking the boat. Women in particular feel tremendous social pressure to do things they really would rather not, either hoping for a lasting relationship that doesn’t materialize, or having given up on that idea.
Watching lawmakers try to define universal standards post-Sexual Revolution is like watching the protagonists in a nuclear apocalypse movie trying to rebuild civilization. That’s not a condemnation, but it’s more than a little sad. Returning to the general presumption that an unmarried woman hasn’t consented wouldn’t make things perfect, but it would be much simpler for everyone than navigating all this complicated, unspoken fine print outside the comparatively safe haven of marriage. To paraphrase the philosopher Beyoncé, “If you like it, put a ring on it.” We know the norms that have been dismantled over decades won’t be revived overnight, but that doesn’t mean it is impossible — just don’t count on Planned Parenthood and its cronies leading the charge.