June 24 2014
Big Sisterism in the Bedroom?
I don’t think anybody can accuse the legislature of California of being uninterested in the details of sexual activity.
Both house of the state’s legislature have approved a bill that sets forth the right way to go about having sex. So far it only applies to college students. So far…
Cathy Young, who is going to be on IWF’s Thursday panel on the “rape culture,” calls the new law an example of “creeping Big-Sisterism that seeks to legislate ‘correct’ sex.” Cathy writes:
[The law] requires schools that receive any state funds through student aid to use "affirmative consent" as the standard in evaluating sexual assault complaints in the campus disciplinary system. According to the bill:
Affirmative consent" is an affirmative, unambiguous, and conscious decision by each participant to engage in mutually agreed-upon sexual activity. Consent is informed, freely given, and voluntary. It is the responsibility of the person initiating the sexual activity to ensure that he or she has the consent of the other person to engage in the sexual activity. Lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent, nor does silence mean consent. Consent must be ongoing throughout a sexual encounter 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.
We at IWF absolutely condemn sex without consent (and in fact, we have been in the forefront of highlighting the damage that the hook-up culture, which consists of casual sex with the girl or woman’s consent, can do to young women and young men). So, if anything, this particularly stuffy blogger would be for society to take an even dimmer view (not excluding legal sanctions when they apply) to men who, as the old parlance went, take advantage of women.
But I am appalled by the obviously prurient-minded legislators of California. (C’mon, this stuff is prurient.)
And I also agree with Cathy--who makes so many good points in this short piece--that “affirmative consent” sees the woman far more of a cipher than she was even in the bad old days of patriarchy.
It is trendy to refer to “agency” and, as Cathy points out, the affirmative consent rules actually erode rather than enhancing the woman's agency:
The feminism of "affirmative consent" is equally dubious. Indeed, this standard arguably strips women of agency in a way that traditional sexual norms never did. In the traditional script, the man initiates while the woman decides where (or whether) to set the limits. Under explicit consent rules, the person taking the lead must also assume much of the responsibility for setting the limits by making sure his partner wants to proceed—while the more passive party cannot be responsible even for making her wishes known without being asked.
While these rules are technically gender-neutral, the general assumption in campus activism is that the victim of nonconsensual heterosexual sex is female. Indeed, if there was a sudden rush of male students filing such charges against women who had failed to "ask first," it's likely that the activists would respond the same way battered women's advocates did in the 1990s when their push for mandatory arrest in domestic violence cases led to more arrests of women: by crying backlash and claiming that male abusers are manipulating the system to punish their female victims.
Don’t miss hearing Cathy at IWF’s Thursday panel!