What is consent? It seems like a dated question, considering how progressed our society has become in regards to defining sexual assault and consent. However, apparently it’s a question that still needs answering. California legislature is trying to provide an answer with SB-967, a proposed bill intended to finally put a black-and-white definition on what constitutes consent.
This is supposedly in response to a recent audit that revealed San Diego State University’s negligence towards sexual assault claims and education. By defining what consent is for college students, the bill is proposed to push towards an end to sexual assault and victim silence.
The bill defines consent as “affirmative consent,” meaning both parties involved must make an “affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity.” This entails confirming your “yes” continuously and consciously.
SB-967 is a crucial step forward. It sets precautionary measures that acknowledge the complicated politics of power and control involved with sexual assault.
The assumption on college campuses is that it occurs when people are out drinking. While this is true on some level, the truth is more often than not, sexual assaults occur under the blanket of personal relationships.
According to a report by Dartmouth College, 64 percent of sexual assaults happen within an intimate relationship with a spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, or cohabitating partner. Sexual assault is a defining factor in most domestic violence cases, and it often appears alongside physical abuse and emotional abuse.
While is has been previously ambiguous whether or not being in an ongoing relationship constitutes a sort of unspoken consent, SB-967 states that being part of a continuous relationship does not on its own count as consent to sexual activity.
SB-967 is important is because it specifically supports this idea of “continuous consent” alongside “affirmative consent,” ensuring both partners share a mutual understanding of their relationship the whole way through.
Consent also requires that actual communication occur, meaning silence does not constitute consent. As SB-967 states, “Lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent, nor does silence … ”
Opponents ridicule the bill, saying it paints an absurd picture of partners drafting quasi-legal documents before their sexual activity. They also state that under these standards any sexual encounter can be considered as sexual assault. What they don’t realize is that “affirmative consent” isn’t just about sexual assault; rather, it should be a defining moral rule that permeates every aspect of our lives.
SB-967 defines what consent is, and it’s not a revolutionary thought by any means. It’s just a reflection of moral and human decency in writing. We need to stop making people do things they don’t want to do, in and out of the bedroom.