‘Yes means Yes’ Law

Is the law changing the cultural norms of the college hook-up?


During the month of September this year, the ‘Yes means Yes’ law, which defines sexual consent, has been passed in both in California and New York. The law that strives to improve how universities handle sexual assault cases seems to be stirring up controversy on how much is too much when it comes to consent during sexual encounters.

  The ‘Yes means Yes’ law, according to realclearpolitics.com, defines sexual consent as “between people as an affirmative, conscious, and voluntary understanding to engage in sexual activity.” To me, this is saying if you are engaging in a sexual act, you must a) be sober, b) be awake, and c) give verbal consent saying you are comfortable with moving forward with the sexual act. This law is basically saying if you don’t blatantly say, “yes”, to the other individual you are having sexual encounters with, it could be labeled as sexual assault.

   Because of this explicit need of verbal consent, it puts a lot of pressure on the individual looking to move forward with the sexual encounter. It also puts a lot of pressure on any sexual act in general. A touch of the leg, or the grabbing of a hand, could potentially be classified as being sexually assaulted, while those actions might be seen a the norm of having a sexual encounter.

   To me, this seems a tad twisted. When engaging in sexual encounters, the last thing most college students will think of is remembering to ask their partner if they want to move forward. I think it’s also a little ridiculous that the opposite partner must verbally reply.

    Have these lawmakers ever had a sexual encounter? Apparently not. Most people will tell you when engaging in sexual acts, they are not thinking about verbalizing consent. If the mood is right, and there is no resistance, an affirmative verbal ‘yes’ is not likely to happen.

   In addition, this law will likely lead to a number of debatable sexual assaults accusations. If an individual engages in a sexual act, does not give explicit verbal consent, they have the right to report it as sexual assault. Think about it–how many times have you verbally gave given consent to your partner? Now think about how many sexual assault accusations could be filed against you. I know exactly what you are thinking, you’re screwed. But you shouldn’t be.

   Sex is supposed to be a freeing, liberating, and enjoyable. It should not be something you worry about. There should not be a checklist–a list of criteria even–that individuals should have to follow before engaging in a sexual act. Sex should not be a structured task, it should not follow a set of directions. By insisting that there be rules of consent, in an essence, we are comparing the act of sex to signing a contract.

   While I understand and support the need of for consent, I don’t agree with the fact that consent can only be defined as an explicit ‘yes’. If there is no resistance, no discomfort from either parties  party, and both people feel content moving forward, there should not be a need for a verbal indication.

    In conclusion, while I comprehend the reasoning of the law, it seems as if it is creating very strange social norms of sex for college students. I guess only time will tell if the law is helping, rather than hurting.