‘Yes means Yes’

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Words By Billie Jenkins Image courtesy of Kate Bailey-Neale

This Sunday a small but powerful change was made to Californian law. The U.S state adopted a ’yes means yes’ policy for campus college college students, the first of its kind, deeming sexual activity consensual only in the instance explicit consent is given. The reality of imposing this new law might be problematic, but as an idea it is wholeheartedly a victory for the voice of the vulnerable, and the safety of women and men alike. The recent scandal of retiring Judge Mary Jane Mowat’s statement that rape convictions would not improve ’until women stopped getting so drunk’ was a beacon of old values, in which the victim bears a responsibility for their assault due to their self-induced state of greater vulnerability. In contrast California’s new law signals a turning point, a move away from the troublesome grey area, and a step towards a clear message about the individual’s social responsibility towards those they wish to engage in sexual activity with. In a state where one in five women who attend college are sexually assualted, it couldn’t come soon enough, yet something leaves me hoping this is a sign of greater changes in the way we talk about rape and sexual assault as a whole. The man who pushed through the bill, Senator Kevin de Leon stated that with the bill his government had ’shifted the conversation’ on the acceptable parameters of responsibility, and it’s a conversation that can’t come sooner.

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