‘Yes Means Yes’ Standard for Sexual Encounters in California Schools

Boy, am I glad I’m not in college anymore

California has become the first state to adopt a “yes means yes” standard for sexual encounters. The law “would require ‘affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement’ by each party to engage in sexual activity.”

And not just at the outset of the tryst, as this article in the Washington Post explains:

Under the proposed standard, the fact that a person didn’t say “no” is no defense in a campus sexual assault investigation.

In addition to consenting up front, the bill requires affirmative consent to be “ongoing throughout the sexual activity,” meaning that sexual partners must agree to each step of a sexual encounter as it progresses and consent can be revoked at any time. The standard would apply to all sexual encounters regardless of whether the parties are having a one-night stand or are in a long-term relationship.

One thing the bill doesn’t say is that affirmative consent must be verbal. The bill’s original language warned “relying solely on nonverbal communication can lead to misunderstanding,” but that language was removed as was the requirement that consent be “unambiguous.” Nonetheless, as Slate’s Amanda Hess pointed out, this fact was lost on commentators, some who lamented the standard would redefine most sex as rape and would require students to agree to a verbal or written contract before sex.