Saturday, April 16, 2016

Revisiting "Affirmative Consent" at California Colleges

            In his commentary on the recent anti-anti-Semitism resolution of the University of California Board of Regents (Ventura County Star 10 April 2016), Tom Elias suggests watching the implementation of the resolution by University officials.
            There's a principle here to apply to California Senate Bill 967, the 2014 law requiring California's post-secondary schools to develop rules on sexual assault and related offenses, with a requirement for "An affirmative consent standard" to determine "whether consent was given" and the provision that "Affirmative consent must be ongoing throughout a sexual activity and can be revoked at any time."
            In some discussions of "affirmative consent," such provisions have been interpreted as requiring "'affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement […]' every step of the way," so I recommend reviewing how the law has been implemented, especially for cases other than vanilla sex between unmarried heterosexual undergraduates hooking up.
            Marital rape can and does occur, but what rules, if any, have officials written for the sex lives of married "students, faculty, and staff"?
            As a quick surf on the web can indicate, people play all sorts of sex games, and in the submission/domination set, the point sometimes is precisely lack of expressed permission. If affirmative consent rules primarily protect women from male predators, will gays and lesbians be allowed to play hardcore S&M games, but not heterosexuals with a male dominant? Such "protection" of women would be problematic.
            As with most regulation of sexual activity, the nitty-gritty, sexually explicit portions of SB-967 and its implementation will have relatively small practical effects. The writing of such laws and regulations, however, is crucial for the worthy effort to protect members of college communities and for the often less worthy extension of the claimed powers of the State over individual lives. 
              A sincere desire to protect "the virtue of our women" was part of the motivation for many of the "parietal regulations" of universities before the student activism of the 1960s. The activism of the 1960s had its problems in terms of gender — male macho and sexism — but we should not go back to the times when undergraduates were subject to what Michael Moffatt called "The Long, Hairy Arm of the Dean." And we definitely should not go to where married undergraduates, graduate students, faculty, and staff have the sexual part of their sex lives micromanaged by college and university administrators and other agents of the State. 
              Effective enforcement of the laws against violence and violation is a better way than getting out a "Vade Mecum: Your Student Guide to Legally Safe Sex While in College," and young Americans, males especially, can be taught that "Yes means yes; no means no," and "Maybe" means back off for a good while. 

ADDITIONAL REFERENCES: Tom Elias, "UC anti-Semitism fight not over" and California Senate Bill 967, "Student safety: sexual assault," approved by the Governor 28 Sept. 2014 Section 67386 of California's Education Code


  1. Men should be required to be aware of, and to obtain Informed Consent during courtship and foreplay......And women should be required to understand the concept Point of No Return.

    1. That's sensible, but least one interpretation of an affirmative consent requirement has it "every step of the way," which could mean from "What's your major?" — or "Are the kids asleep?" — to orgasm and post-sex compliments and/or complaints.

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.