YES means YES
California recently passed a law called the Affirmative Consent Bill, which pertains to individuals engaging in sexual activity. This new bill applies to all colleges receiving state funding and means that in order for sex to be classified as consensual, all participating people must give affirmative consent – a clear indication that they want to engage sexually with the other. This changes from the previous law of “no means no”, where only an explicit no meant the sex was considered not consensual.
Before, a person who was silent when asked if they wanted sex – whether from fear, influence of a substance, or any other reason- would still be considered consenting, because they didn’t “technically” say no. Now, silence officially does not qualify as consent. Neither does being drugged, drunk, passed out.
There has been a lot of criticism of the bill, which is also going to be implemented on all college campuses in New York. Many critics are saying that this is going to open up the floodgates for rape accusations in situations where they wouldn’t normally.
If anything, though, this bill will help victims of sexual assault be able to get a peace of mind. Plenty of women and men who have been assaulted don’t bring their cases to authorities because they had a few drinks or didn’t explicitly say the word no. In a court, their cases could have been lost or they would have bore some of the blame for being assaulted.
Now, their cases will be seen for what they are: sexual assault and rape cases. This bill is worth it if it helps even one victim get a peace of mind knowing their abuser has been punished for their actions.
This bill might also encourage more discussions across college campuses. People may start to reevaluate what they consider consensual and nonconsensual to actually be. The girl passed out at a party isn’t consenting just because she can’t say no. The guy you were dancing with at the club isn’t consenting if he suddenly stops talking when you get back to your apartment.
It isn’t hard to tell when someone is consenting. If a person isn’t responding to your actions, that doesn’t mean they’re just letting you do all the work. If they seem uncomfortable or unsure, they’re not just a little nervous. If they were totally into it before, but now seem to not be responding as much, their feelings may have changed.
Unless your partner isn’t continually encouraging you to continue, whether by words or actions, it’s time to pause and reevaluate the situation, and communicate. If you don’t know whether or not your partner is still consenting, just ask them. Having sex with them is going to be a whole lot more personal and invasive than a quick question to make sure you’re both still saying yes. Sex with an enthusiastically consenting person is always going to be more enjoyable, physically and mentally, than having sex with a person who doesn’t want it.
Many Suffolk students are on board with this new movement. In particular, female students, the most common victims of sexual abuse, are saying they feel it will make them feel better knowing they will not be blamed for anything that happens to them. Students also feel that it will help victims of sexual assault be less afraid to speak out and get help.
Male students we spoke to are also encouraging the bill, hoping it will make girls more comfortable about speaking up if they are uncomfortable with a situation.
A female sophomore at Suffolk told us that while she doesn’t think it will stop rape and sexual assaults on campus, “it could help make people feel more comfortable about stopping their partner or getting help after an assault.”
Most female-identifying students asked agreed with this sentiment.
A male junior at Suffolk said that he was not aware it could still be considered assault if the person wasn’t explicitly saying yes. He is in support of this bill and hopes that other people will also learn what counts as consent. He and other male-identifying students also made comments about wanting their partner to be totally consenting, and think this bill is a great way of starting the conversation to ensure that happens.
Yes Means Yes will encourage people who are not consenting to be able to say something. You never owe a partner anything, regardless of the situation. Even if you’ve been in a long-term relationship with someone, you are not required to say yes. Your relationship does not mean that there is ever a situation when you are required to have sex, even if you and your partner have had sex before. Having a drink at a party, wearing a revealing outfit, or going out does not mean you are “asking for it” or consenting to sexual activity. The only true measure of consent is an clear “yes” from all parties involved.
Yes means yes. It is always your decision.