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.

  • John Dunkelburg

    My concern is this: what happens if she gives her enthusiastic consent before hand, and then afterwards decides that she really didn’t like him and then takes back her consent? If the consent is given verbally beforehand, is the consent still given afterwards if there is nothing to prove that the consent was given beforehand other than his word versus hers?

  • dirtybird

    College rape policies MUST conform with the due process standards codified in the Constitution of the United States of America.

    The Constitution is the supreme law of the United States of America. No law may supersede the Constitution under any circumstances whatsoever.

    This means that a person accused of rape is (1) innocent until PROVEN guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, (2) entitled to a trial by a jury of his or her peers, (3) has the right to face his or her accuser in a court of law in order to cross examine him or her, and (4) has the right to legal counsel and representation during all steps of the due process.

    These are ABSOLUTES under our system of governance. Any public university that doesn’t obey and abide by the Constitution must be obliterated in a lawsuit. Even private universities that take action against a student accused of rape without there being sufficient evidence to prove such allegations may be taken to task (as in, if they expel a student for allegations rape without proof that will hold up in a court of law, then the university MUST provide a full refund+interest of ALL expenses incurred by the student during his attendance at that university…this means off-campus expenses, too).

    No one has a right to be taken at their word by institutions when accusing others of wrongdoing or criminal activity. In order for punishment to occur, allegations must be proven in a court of law and in accordance with the “guilty beyond a reasonable doubt” standard that has been practiced in this country since its foundation.

    Any attempt to reduce the “reasonable doubt” standard in order to deny an accused person his or her right to due process is ILLEGAL and UNCONSTITUTIONAL.