Video Highlights Lack of Understanding of ‘Yes Means Yes’ Laws

November 2, 2015

By Ashe Schow at Washington Examiner 

In a new video, New York college students demonstrate the difficulty of living under a “yes means yes” or “affirmative consent” policy. Shelby Emmett of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education asked students what they thought of the policy, and their responses were telling.

College students in New York have to live by the government-mandated consent policy known as “yes means yes,” or “affirmative consent.” The policy states that students must get ongoing consent before and throughout each stage of sexual activity. Under these policies, sex basically becomes a question-and-answer session rather than a passionate activity, because participants must verbally ask each other (nonverbal cues are considered too ambiguous, even though the law doesn’t explicitly forbid them) for permission at every step.

So a sexual encounter would begin with one person asking, “May I kiss you now?” with the other person saying “yes” and then asking if they may touch the other person in a particular place. Advocates insist it doesn’t have to be this way, but with false accusations being regarded as acceptable, college students need to protect themselves.

Upon reading portions of the law, the students seemed to question what constitutes a sexual act, with some saying kissing counted and others insisting it didn’t. Some students said they used nonverbal cues (body language) to show their consent and suggested the new policies discouraged that.

Students were most confused by a question about how one would prove that he had obtained affirmative consent. It’s one thing to say that if one or both parties don’t obtain such consent (even though, as we’ve seen from cases that the only person required to obtain consent is the person being accused, putting a retroactive burden on them), it’s another to prove it.

“Oh my gosh,” said one student when asked how she would prove she obtained affirmative consent. “Well, I think that’s really difficult because it ends up being your word against the other person’s.”

“I don’t know, actually,” said another student.

Yet another student said he would have anyone he sleeps with sign a contract just to be safe (that wouldn’t help him with an accusation, however, since the law states that consent can be revoked at any time).

I urge you to watch the full video.

FIRE’s video highlights the impracticality of these policies. The students who have to live by them don’t understand them (when sober, mind you) and the administrators who design classes on how to teach them don’t understand them. Even Vice President Joe Biden, who has been advocating for them, doesn’t understand them.

Yet colleges are forcing students (especially drunk students) to know the intricacies of a law its own advocates don’t understand.