Writing in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Kathleen A. Bogle, director of women’s studies at La Salle University, points out a heretofore unremarked upon reason why California’s “yes means yes” law won’t cut down on campus rape:
Rapists do not care whether the victim is consenting or not. The California legislation implies that sexual assaults occur due to misunderstandings and that the word "yes" will clarify things and thereby prevent sexual assaults. Are we to believe the problem stems from perpetrators—usually men—who mistakenly think women are consenting when they are not?
In other words, California’s “yes means yes” law may cut down on ambiguous sexual encounters on campus (and Prudie here isn’t going to quibble with that!), but with regard to a genuinely violent and determined perpetrators, it is not likely to be a deterrence.
Bogle also points out that the “yes means yes” law doesn’t do anything to help adjudicate campus sexual assault accusations: it is still a matter of one person’s word against another’s. Bogle calls the “yes means yes” law “a distraction,” and argues that students should be better educated to protect themselves by making use of laws already on the books.
This criticism of the “yes means yes” law from a women’s studies guru (!) follows on the heels of a letter from 28 Harvard law professors to the effect that Harvard’s new Sexual Harassment Policy and Procedures threaten the accused person’s right to due process, a cornerstone of American jurisprudence.
Meanwhile an article by a guest columnist at the Yale Daily News just came across my desk. The column, written by a woman, concludes:
This ridiculous requirement of explicit, verbal consent lumps together the experiences of those who are forcibly raped with those who have drunk sex or those who simply have sex without awkwardly verbally consenting every couple minutes.
It trivializes the experiences of victims of rape and sexual assault. We need to address this epidemic, but yes-means-yes legislation isn’t the solution.
The “yes means yes” law was intended as a sop to feminists who like to see the American campus as a hotbed of men who, given half a chance, will rape women.
The Obama administration’s inflated stat that one in five women on campus is a victim of rape feeds into that worldview. Rape is a heinous crime, second only to murder in the hierarchy of evil, but using wrong numbers and stacking the deck against the accused are not the correct ways to go.
Nor is enacting a law that trivializes rape.
But there seems to be a ripple of reaction against the current crop of feminist-inspired laws–and some of the criticism is coming from smart feminists.