By Jenna Perlman, Staff Writer
The state of California is making history by kicking butt and showing the country who’s boss. On Sunday, the state unanimously passed the “Yes Means Yes” law, which defines sexual consent as a verbal agreement as well as clarifying what sexual consent really is.
“Yes Means Yes” was geared towards college campuses when the state realized that campus sexual assault and investigations of them were a huge problem. They also recognized the problem with the “No Means No” standard, and agreed that proper steps needed to be taken to make the problem with sexual consent a legitimate and punishable one.
But what exactly was “No Means No” and why did it need to flip to “yes?” Basically, “No Means No” said that consent is always given, unless a verbal “no” was stated. The problem with it was that if the victim purely couldn’t or didn’t make a verbal sound, it was assumed that sexual activity was agreed to. Even if the person physically struggled and even if the person was too afraid to react, sexual activity was “consented.”
This assumption still persists in all states outside of California, and reflects the state of “rape culture” in this country, one where pushing sexual activity on someone simply because they don’t verbally dissent is considered okay.
In prosecuting sexual assault cases, victims are often asked if they said “no” or not. Does their assault become illegitimate if they were too afraid to say no? Are they unable to prosecute if they could not speak verbally? This is the importance of the “Yes Means Yes” law. Consent has to happen before activity – not during, and certainty not after.
“Yes Means Yes” is a progressive law that’s beneficial to our society, right? The National Coalition for Men doesn’t think so. The coalition claims that “Yes Means Yes” presumes the guilt of the perpetrator, which are commonly presented in the media as heterosexual men. So what? If there is no verbal yes, consent is not there. And obviously, the National Coalition for Men would rather push the guilt onto the victim of the assault, and not the accused, which is just wrong and messed up.
Nevertheless, this law is freaking fantastic. It’s the first law of its kind and really takes the first steps to define sexual consent, protect the rights of the victim and attempt to end rape culture in our country. Just like you wouldn’t take something from your roommate without receiving verbal approval, you wouldn’t participate in sexual activity from someone without receiving a “yes” too.
I hope that more states in our country will take this monumental step in defining sexual consent, and that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts will be among one of the next to do so as well.