California’s new sexual consent law is giving college campuses extra legal backing to the phrase “No means no.”
The consent law is the first of its kind, but UF media law professor Clay Calvert said it remains to be seen whether the legislation will gain enough traction to be implemented in states like Florida or nationwide.
The law, passed Sunday, requires students to give expressive consent before and during sexual activity, including either a verbal “yes” or a nonverbal sign before engaging with partners. Not resisting does not equal consent.
“It certainly is well-meaning legislation designed to prevent sexual assault,” Calvert said. “But enforceability is also going to be an issue.”
The law also states students must give “ongoing” affirmative consent throughout any sexual activity, but it is unclear how often or how many times students will be expected to reassure their partners.
“I think that what that means, how often that is, and whether in reality people are going to do that when they get caught up in the heat of the moment is still to be seen,” he said.
Ultimately, Calvert said, the law aims to push the state’s universities to take action against sexual assault. In order to receive state funds for financial assistance, public institutions need to prove they are enforcing these rules somehow.
The law will also require universities to offer on-campus victims’ advocates, The New York Times reported. Victims who report sexual assault will not be penalized if underage drinking is a factor, and information on sexual assault and consent will be presented during each freshman orientation.
“It’s to get universities to be more proactive on how they report crimes and also educating their students,” he said.
The law will change the conversation about rape culture, said Diamond Delaney, president of UF’s Women’s Student Association.
“The bill shifts the blame from the victim by mandating that someone has to get definite signals from sexual partners before they engage in any activity,” the public relations junior said.
Despite questions of how to enforce the law, Delaney, 19, said she believes it will build additional protections for sexual assault victims.
“I do appreciate all of the resources that the bill brings in an attempt to educate the masses about consent, as well as provide support for the victims,” she said. “And I wish that we say more of that in Florida.”
[A version of this story ran on page 1 on 10/1/2014]