College campuses across the U.S. have begun to redefine the terms of sexual consent from “no means no” to “yes means yes.”
Previously, schools generally upheld that sexual assault occurs when physical or verbal sexual coercion takes place after one party has verbally expressed their wish to not be involved.
“Yes means yes” defines consent as “an affirmative, unambiguous, and conscious decision by each participant to engage in mutually agreed-upon sexual activity.” Consent must also be ongoing.
This means that just because one partner does not verbally refuse sex, the other person is not automatically entitled to sexual pursuit. It also means that sexual activity which occurs while one partner is intoxicated, unconscious, or in any way unable to speak for himself or herself is not consensual.
Allison Korman, an executive director of Culture of Respect spoke about changing dialogue from “no means no” to “yes means yes.”
“The swiftly evolving conversation about defining sexual assault signaled to us that we needed to reframe our name as something more positive. It’s even possible that ‘No means no’ will be an outdated or irrelevant concept in 10 years. Students may not have even heard of the phrase by then,” said Korman.
The state of California passed the Affirmative Consent bill last month, which requires every school that receives money from the state to uphold the “yes means yes” consent terms in handling cases of sexual abuse.
“Yes means yes” legislation and campaigning are the result of the Obama administration earlier this year publishing a list of colleges and universities under investigation for the way they have handled cases of sexual violence. This list includes more than 70 schools, including Ivy League universities such as Harvard, Princeton, and Berkeley.
The Huffington Post surveyed data from 125 schools which showed that less than one-third of students found responsible for sexual assault faced expulsion.
Meghan Warner, leader of the Cal Consent Campaign at UC Berkeley, explained that the bill is an important step in sparking dialogue about how to handle sexual violence.
“Education and outreach measures will help create a culture of consent where survivors are supported instead of blamed, doubted, and ignored, as many of us are,” Warner said. “The affirmative consent standard will help change the re-victimizing, insensitive reporting procedures, instead allowing students to seek help and hold perpetrators accountable. This is a major victory for all California students, not just survivors.”