Earlier today a post from the Patheos family channel, came across my facebook feed. It was titled “Men: The Sexual Revolution Is Over.” Curious, I clicked on it and found myself on a blog titled “Church for Men,” run by a man named David Murrow. The purpose of the blog appears to be finding ways to combat the feminized nature of American evangelical Christianity. But that was not the topic of this particular post. Not in the least. The topic of this post was far different. Let’s have a look, shall we? Here is how the post begins:
For decades, various secularists and leftists have blasted Christians for trying to control people’s private lives by supporting policies that curb sexuality and protect women. “Get the government out of my bedroom!” is their familiar rallying cry.
But now from the political left comes a new law that will give government the power to regulate sex on campus. The proposed statute passed the California Assembly unanimously. The bill now goes to Gov. Jerry Brown.
My curiosity was piqued. I had no idea what Murrow could possibly be talking about.
SB967, the so called “yes-means-yes” bill would make sex illegal, unless there is “an affirmative, unambiguous and conscious decision” by each person to engage in sexual activity. While the legislation applies only to colleges, some observers believe it’s only a matter of time before California expands the law to govern all relationships.
Yes, you read that right. What does SB 967 actually say? Let’s have a look:
“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.
[SB 967] further outlines that consent cannot be assumed if “the complainant was asleep or unconscious” or “the complainant was incapacitated due to the influence of drugs, alcohol, or medication, so that the complainant could not understand the fact, nature, or extent of the sexual activity.”
But isn’t rape already against the law in California? What would this law actually change? CBS News explains the change well, through the words of a senior at UCLA:
University of California, Los Angeles senior Savanah Badalich is an advocate for the proposed law. She says she learned “no” is not enough when she was raped by a fellow student.
“I had said ‘no’ numerous times. But after a while, I just stopped saying anything at all,” said Badalich. “I don’t think had I said no nine times versus the eight times that I did, it would have made a difference, so I just stopped talking. And that could technically be used against me without this affirmative consent bill.”
The California bill is unique because it requires “an affirmative, conscious and voluntary agreement” before students have sex. The legislation also says a “lack of resistance or silence cannot be interpreted as a yes.”
In other words, under current law, a woman who is raped but does not verbally say “no” or struggle may have no case in court, because her rapist could argue that, because she did not say “no” or struggle, there was consent. This change would eliminate that defense, because a lack of a struggle or the word “no” would no longer imply consent. But let’s be clear about what this law would not do. Savanah Badalich explains:
Ultimately, whether it’s “yes means yes” or “no means no,” it’s still going to be a he said-she said. Badalich said that’s always going to be a concern, “but what I can say is, if a survivor goes into a hearing committee and says ‘I was so scared I didn’t say anything at all,’ before affirmative consent, that means that you could have been consenting.”
In a sense, the law simply moves the onus. Instead of a victim having to say “no” or otherwise communicate that they do not want to have sex, the party wishing to initiate sex must obtain affirmative consent from the other part. It doesn’t change what each party’s testimony is worth. It doesn’t change how rape is prosecuted. It simply moves the onus to where it should be. Sex should be opt-in, not opt-out.
Now that we know what’s actually in this law, let’s return to Murrow’s post:
Beginning in the 1960s, colleges began to abandon their “en loco parentis” role. Universities no longer tried to protect student virtue. Instead, the philosophy became, “They’re adults – let them govern themselves.”
But now the pendulum is swinging back. The public is demanding greater protection for young adults (particularly young women). So universities are re-implementing many of the policies they abandoned decades ago. Colleges are unwittingly turning back in a Biblical direction – for purely secular reasons.
Hang on a sec. Under “en loco parentis” rules, universities sought to keep their students from having sex. In contrast, this law would do nothing to ban or limit consensual sex—and it’s not trying to. So no, Murrow, sorry, but universities are not “re-implementing many of the policies they abandoned decades ago.”
For millennia, casual sex has been discouraged by societies and religions because of the potential for disease and unplanned pregnancy. Traditional sexual morals are protective of women, since women bear most of the consequences that result from extramarital sex.
But with SB 967, the consequences fall squarely on men.
The law’s noble purpose is to eliminate campus rape, but its greatest impact will be to throw cold water on the campus “hookup” culture. We can expect to see less promiscuity among men – and that’s a good thing. The Bible has been warning men about this for thousands of years. (Read Proverbs 7:6-27)
Guys will think twice before hooking up with someone they barely know, especially when they can be charged with rape weeks or even months after the fact. Is 20 minutes of pleasure worth 20 years in the penitentiary? No condom will protect a man if his partner decides to press charges. After all it’s her word against his – and these days, whose testimony is more believable? Especially on campus?
First of all, men can already be accused of rape after a hookup. This does not change this. This law does not affect false rape accusations (which, I should point out, are very rare). Do you really think someone falsely accusing someone of rape would stop short of saying she had said “no”? The only time someone would have extra need to worry about “hooking up” after this new law is if they’re planning to “hook up” with someone who is unconscious or too drunk to consent—and those are exactly the times they should not be “hooking up” with someone in the first place, because sex without consent is rape.
And again? It’s “her word against his” with or without this law. That is a completely separate issue. What’s at issue here is whether sex is opt-out or opt-in. It’s about definitions, not legal procedures.
The law demands a definitive yes at each step. This alone will “kill the mood” and prevent many casual sexual encounters.
Let’s be clear here. The law does not require a affirmative consent to be verbal. Instead it defines “affirmative consent” as “affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity.” In other words, if your partner is as into you as you are into them, you’re good. If they’re just laying there, or not conscious, or sort of frozen up, that is when you may lack affirmative consent. But honestly, I don’t see anything mood-killing about obtaining verbal affirmation, I really don’t. It doesn’t have to be formal. This is about making sure your party wants to have sex—opt-in rather than opt-out, remember?—not about filling out some sort of contract.
SB 967 also seems to indicate that any sexual encounter that takes place while a woman is intoxicated is by definition rape, since she is unable to give informed consent. So once a woman has had a couple of drinks she’s off limits.
Let’s take a look at the actual law on this one too, shall we?
. . . it shall not be a valid excuse to alleged lack of affirmative consent that the accused believed that the complainant consented to the sexual activity under either of the following circumstances: (A) The accused’s belief in affirmative consent arose from the intoxication or recklessness of the accused.
. . .
. . . it shall not be a valid excuse that the accused believed that the complainant affirmatively consented to the sexual activity if the accused knew or reasonably should have known that the complainant was unable to consent to the sexual activity under any of the following circumstances:
(B) The complainant was incapacitated due to the influence of drugs, alcohol, or medication, so that the complainant could not understand the fact, nature, or extent of the sexual activity.
In other words, no, the law absolutely does not say that “once a woman has had a couple of drinks she’s off limits.” Murrow would know this if he’d actually read the law, but I get the feeling he has only read misleading accounts of what the law says.
And finally, this:
I see three potential winners from this bill:
1. Feminists. Women can now exercise total power over the men they sleep with. Think about it: a vindictive woman can send her lover to jail (or at least get him suspended from college) any time she wants. Women have been given a powerful tool they can use to keep their men in line.
2. Pornographers and prostitutes. They should see an increase in demand for their wares and services as young men forgo hookups.
3. Campus ministry. There’s going to be a lot of college men in California looking for help in curbing their sexual desires.
Seriously? Requiring young men to make sure they have the affirmative consent of their sex partners is going to make them stop having sex? Does Murrow realize how bad he’s making these young men sound here? Is making sure you have your sexual partner’s enthusiastic consent really that hard?
And let me reiterate, again: This law does not give women “total power over the men they sleep with.” Women can already make false rape accusations. It’s rare, but it does happen. This law does not change that. Under this law, women’s word also does not count any more in court than it already does. All the law does is make it clear that sex is opt-in, not opt-out. That’s it.
Now remember, Murrow is an evangelical Christian. He actually states several times throughout his post that he is in favor of this law, because he is in favor of any law that will cut down on premarital sexual activity. He states several times that the obvious solution for men here is to just get married (never mind that this whole “affirmative consent” thing should apply in marriage too). He brings in liberals and leftists and “en loco parentis” laws simply to point out what he believes is a sort of about face on the part of the left from encouraging unrestricted sexual activity to making efforts to limit and regulate sexual activity.
I’m surprised that more Christian leaders haven’t spoken out in favor of this bill. Admittedly, it’s weird to be on the same side of an issue as Gloria Steinem. But anything that makes men think twice before engaging in a casual hookup is a step in the right direction. SB 967 is the greatest threat to promiscuity since the scarlet letter.
So what do you think? Is SB 967 a good thing or a bad thing? What about young men who are falsely accused under this measure? Should we be concerned for them, or are they simply reaping what they’ve sown?
I believe this is a huge opportunity for campus ministry to men. Do you agree? How can the church help guys deal with the end of the sexual revolution?
If the sexual revolution was all about sex, sex, sex, completely regardless of consent, then I suppose Murrow would be right about this being its end. And perhaps for some it was, but that’s never what it was about for feminists. If Murrow honestly thinks requiring affirmative consent will end the sexual revolution, he has a terrible opinion of both men and women. Most women like sex. Most women will engage in sex with full affirmative consent at some point in their lives, and many will do it quite frequently. As for men, they are more than capable of understanding affirmative consent. And you know what else? Most men naturally want their partner’s affirmative consent—and know how to recognize it.
And now we come to the post where I’m supposed to pull all the threads together and say something profound or memorable. And yet instead I simply feel done. I am tired of people—especially men—acting as though affirmative consent is this horribly confusing thing. I am tired of people spending more time talking about false rape accusations than about ways to prevent sexual assault. I am fed up with people who think so little of men accusing us feminists of being the ones who are man-haters. I’m tired of seeing people belittle the importance of consent and completely misunderstand what consent is, often at the same time. I’m so, so tired.