Sunday, January 18, 2015

"Yes" Means What?

Governor Jerry Brown signed into law on Sunday a bill known as the “yes means yes” bill that the legislature claims will significantly reduce rapes on the campuses of our state. Because if you have a social problem, you definitely heed a new law.

The law requires "an affirmative, unambiguous and conscious decision" by each party to engage in sexual activity, which is about the silliest thing I’ve ever heard. Imagine, if you can, two college students, both of them intoxicated, trying to arrive at an “affirmative, unambiguous and conscious mutual decision" about anything.

Respect for others, men for women, or for that matter respect regardless of gender, is disappearing from our culture, so we pass laws trying to cure that illness. It won’t work any more than an ice-water bath will work to cure pneumonia. The fever is not what kills a pneumonia patient, it is but a symptom, and passing a law that requires that he has to get a woman to audibly say “yes” does not teach a man to respect women.

Nor does such a silly law protect the woman if she is herself intoxicated, since an intoxicated person is by definition unable to give an “unambiguous and conscious decision,” and why should women in college be any less free to imbibe alcohol than are men?

And don’t give me the “he should have known that she was drunk” nonsense. Not if he was drunk himself, and it is perfectly possible for a person to be sufficiently intoxicated to be incapable of informed consent and to show no outward sign of it whatever. It is not, in fact, even a particularly rare condition

I’m not sure how pervasive the problem actually is in any case. I’m not questioning its seriousness, but Twitter blows things out of proportion. For a while the world was afire with passion about the girls kidnapped by Boko Haram. They were never rescued and that crisis continued unabated, but it disappeared when the Ebola virus erupted and the world set out to cure that dread disease and succor people affected by it. Ebola is not cured and people are still suffering, but then Ray Rice slugged his girlfriend in front of an elevator camera and so now we are all about violence against women. Until the next sensational event occurs. Twitter rules to a degree that we pass laws based on its current trends.

1 comment:

  1. The law was proposed, passed and signed because there was ambiguity as to what "consent' was - some took silence or a lack of a "no" however forceful to mean consent. This is of course not the proper way to go about having any kind of sexual encounter, be it casual or committed. There is also the legal aspect of consent - if there is any ambiguity, it can be difficult to prosecute such cases.

    California does have a tendency to propose and pass some pretty silly laws, and some stupid ones as well, al in the name of social engineering, or protecting people form themselves, or whatever you want to call it. Ideally, would people police and control themselves? and have the smarts to not be in situations that lend themselves to stupidity? Of course. But then there are the miscreants that push the envelope of acceptable behaviour, and maybe this is aimed at them. And overkill for 90% of the rest.

    It is too bad about how the media driven, issue of the day /week /month seem to drive society. And that those issues are still around and have not been solved. Most will take a long time. Some may never be. Some may not even be our place to do so. But often there is good in the publicity that comes from that. Better that than hidden in the dark.