New California Bill Will Require Consent Before Sex on College Campuses

Consent Underwear

You know the “consent is sexy/enthusiastic consent” campaigns omnipresent on college campuses? Heretofore reserved to your campus feminist org meetings, the effort to promote clearly defined, enthusiastically given consent to sex may finally be gaining traction. In a landmark legislation decision, the California State Senate passed SB 967, or the “Affirmative Consent” bill. In order to obtain state funding and financial assistance, California colleges will have to implement a thorough definition of consent and comply with victim-based policies and protocols when handling rape cases, as well as introduce prevention and outreach programming. The bill awaits Governor Jerry Brown’s signature to become law.

Consent Before Sex on College Campuses

The bill defines consent as “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,” it continues.

While in many ways a reinforcement of California sexual assault laws already on the books (laws that could seriously use such reinforcement), the bill also provides further protection for victims, ensures adequate prevention measures, and targets one of the most important demographics in the battle against rape culture: college students. Lest we forget, one in five women are victims of sexual assault during their college career, and college campuses are notoriously shoddy in their handling of rape cases. We currently have 76 U.S. schools under investigation for such mishandling. The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) has noted the unfortunate correlation between campuses and sexual assault. The University of California has already begun the process of creating a task force to combat system-wide sexual violence. The bill is a promising step toward dismantling egregious fuck-ups in how colleges perceive, discuss and handle rape.

California College Consensual Sex Bill Recap

In short, this bill is good stuff. But, as Laura Mandanas has pointed out over at Autostraddle, there are a gaggle of naysayers distorting the impact and intentions of the bill, with Joe Cohn, the legislative policy director at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, asking the inane question “How does a person prove they receive consent ‘shy of having it videotaped?’”

While we’re all for two (or more!) consenting adults videotaping their sexy shenanigans, no camera is necessary, John. A clearly communicated “yes” will do.



Courtney Hamilton

An avid writer, reader, feminist and french fry fanatic.