You kids are getting screwed — and not in the good way By Andrea Peyser
There is to be no more joyful sex on college and university campuses in New York City. No more furtive gropes or copped feels.
Two words were tucked into a bill intended to curb sexual assault on public and private campuses introduced to the City Council Wednesday by Public Advocate Letitia James. These words have haunted randy, red-blooded students of higher education from California to the New York state university system: affirmative consent. Scary.
Affirmative consent takes the old sexual warning, “no means no,’’ to the next level. If the bill passes through the council and becomes law, as it’s almost certain to do, students — of both or no genders — will be on notice that they’d better get enthusiastic consent every step of the way when engaging in an ancient pastime.
This can take the form of shouting “Yes, yes, yes!’’ as a would-be suitor touches a forearm. It can also be a vigorous and unambiguous head nod as he or she (or both sexes or no sex) reaches for the zipper of one’s trousers. Failing to do so puts a lover at risk of being branded a rapist.
What a buzzkill.
“I feel bad for the kids today,’’ criminal-defense lawyer and radio personality Ron Kuby, 58, told me. “In my day it was ‘Let’s get home and get high and listen to the Moody Blues and Bob Dylan and screw.’ Now you can’t get high, no one has made a decent album in a generation and the times they are a-changing.’’
But Kuby suggested that young people videotape encounters to cut down on false rape accusations. “I can see ways the kids can make it sort of hot,’’ he said.
Then he loudly blew me a kiss goodbye over the phone.
“I guess I should have asked first, ‘May I blow you a kiss?’ and waited for you to say ‘yes,’ ’’ Kuby said. Too late.
Last month, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a so-called “yes means yes’’ law, the first of its kind in the nation. It requires post-secondary schools, that get state money for student financial aid, to adopt strict policies for investigating complaints of sexual assault. This means that a student must get a “yes’’ before going at it, or risk being accused of forcing a partner into sex. Someone who is drunk, drugged, unconscious or asleep cannot grant consent.
Drunken hookups are so 20th century.
Earlier this month in New York, Gov. Cuomo ordered trustees of all 64 schools in the state university system to adopt requirements for affirmative consent. “Silence, in and of itself, cannot be interpreted as consent,’’ Cuomo said.
Among other things, the proposed NYC Campus Safety Act calls for supplying students with lists of rape-crisis centers and sex-assault helplines.
But then, the proposal calls for required “affirmative consent education,’’ a kind of indoctrination that will only guarantee that more males (and the rule is aimed mainly at males), guilty or not, will be accused of sexual violence.
“We’re trying to encourage healthy relationships,’’ Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson, the bill’s co-sponsor, told me. “We have boyfriends and girlfriends, same-sex couples, transgender, married couples. We want them to understand that you have to give consent.’’
In April, President Obama’s administration declared that nearly 1-in-5 women attending American colleges and universities is the victim of unwanted sex acts. Never mind that the bogus 1-in-5 statistic was based, in part, on a 2007 online survey of students at two universities, some of whom equated getting sloshed and getting it on to being raped, according to Christian Hoff Sommers, resident scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. She believes a better statistic is in a 2003 Bureau of Justice report putting the campus sexual assault rate at 1-in-40 students.
Campuses, under pressure to fight sexual assault — their government funding may depend on it — hold tribunals (some men call them “kangaroo courts’’) that are unfairly weighted against the accused. Being convicted can lead to penalties including expulsion.
I guess using protection has taken on a whole new meaning. Students, if you plan to do it, be prepared. Bring your smartphones.