Whenever I am asked if I like Vox.com’s awful Ezra Klein, I reply, “No—and no means no.”
Still, Klein’s commentary on California’s new “yes means yes” law deserves special notice. In it, as James Taranto points out in the Wall Street Journal this morning, Klein manages “to strike a contrarian pose while toeing the politically correct line.”
“Yes means yes” is of course shorthand for California’s new law requiring that kids on campus who decide to do what we used to jokingly refer to as the dastardly deed must give “affirmative consent” at every stage of the act.
Klein’s take on the law is this: “‘Yes means Yes’ is a terrible law, and I completely support it.” In affirming the terrible law, Klein cites the currently much bruited about (by the Obama administration, for example) figure that one in five young women on campus is the victim of sexual assault. The problem is that this number is vastly inflated, based on one flawed study, and the result of advocacy research. But other than that…
Relying on this highly questionable figure, however, Mr. Klein finds value in the draconian, new “yes means yes” regime:
If the Yes Means Yes law is taken even remotely seriously it will settle like a cold winter on college campuses, throwing everyday sexual practice into doubt and creating a haze of fear and confusion over what counts as consent. This is the case against it, and also the case for it. Because for one in five women to report an attempted or completed sexual assault means that everyday sexual practices on college campuses need to be upended, and men need to feel a cold spike of fear when they begin a sexual encounter.
The Yes Means Yes law could also be called the You Better Be Pretty Damn Sure law. You Better Be Pretty Damn Sure she said yes. You Better Be Pretty Damn Sure she meant to say yes, and wasn't consenting because she was scared, or high, or too tired of fighting. If you're one half of a loving, committed relationship, then you probably can Be Pretty Damn Sure. If you're not, then you better f—-ing ask.
While reserving judgment on “yes means yes,” Taranto notes that for Klein “the affirmative-consent law serves as a synecdoche of the whole rotten system, which he endorses despite (or maybe because) he acknowledges its injustice.”
False accusations against male students? Not to worry. As Taranto noties, “Klein makes clear that he regards unfairness to defendants as, on balance, a benefit.” Here is what Klein writes:
Critics worry that colleges will fill with cases in which campus boards convict young men (and, occasionally, young women) of sexual assault for genuinely ambiguous situations. Sadly, that’s necessary for the law’s success. It’s those cases—particularly the ones that feel genuinely unclear and maybe even unfair, the ones that become lore in frats and cautionary tales that fathers e-mail to their sons—that will convince men that they better Be Pretty Damn Sure.
Taranto, by the way, provides ample debunking on the one-in-five stat on which Klein bases his support for “yes means yes,” noting that Klein dismisses the idea that there will be false accusations. (Taranto cites an article by Cathy Young—“Crying Rape”—who spoke on IWF’s panel on the campus “rape culture.”)
Now, while I am amused at so many of us conservatives getting hot and bothered over a law that throws up hurdles to engaging in sexual activity on campus, unlike Klein, I find it hard to take a blasé attitude toward young men whose college careers are ruined by false accusations. “Yes means yes” is the apotheosis of bad law based on bad information.
It is Victorianism (do admit: good) but with a virulent, radical feminist, anti-male twist (bad).