Earlier this week, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill into law that makes his state the first in the nation to have a clear definition of sexual consent. SB-967, also known as the “Yes Means Yes” law, is groundbreaking for both its intention and its progressive definition of consent.
SB-967 defines consent as follows:
“Affirmative consent” means affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity. It is the responsibility of each person involved in the sexual activity to ensure that he or she has the affirmative consent of the other or others to engage in the sexual activity. Lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent, nor does silence mean consent. Affirmative consent must be ongoing throughout a sexual activity and can be revoked at any time. The existence of a dating relationship between the persons involved, or the fact of past sexual relations between them, should never by itself be assumed to be an indicator of consent.
Essentially, this definition reinforces what countless sexual justice and consent activists have been saying for years: The absence of no is not the presence of yes. Silence is not consent. Incapacitation is not consent. Yes and only yes signifies consent between sexual partners.
Currently, the law only extends to college campuses, environments that are notorious for the number of rapes and sexual assaults that occur there. SB-967 was designed to advocate for survivors of sexual crimes, to clearly define consent, and to prevent further sexual assaults from occurring. It has been applauded by many campus assault prevention groups, women’s centers, and other campaigns against sexual assault for its victim advocacy and proactive approach.
SB-967 is groundbreaking because of its intent to protect and advocate for victims of sexual assaults, the majority of which are women. Unlike progressive campaigns that enforce consent, the “Yes Means Yes” law offers a legally binding definition of consent; if not followed, there will be legal recourse on perpetrators.
The mishandling of campus sexual assaults is a perpetuation of rape culture. California has chosen to rally against sexual violence and advocate for its students, and hopefully more states will soon do the same.
Read the new law in full by visiting California Legislative Information.
Featured Image: Wolfram Burner via Flickr CC.