Most women have been there at least once. Staring at the ceiling, bored, while some dude pumps away. Thinking, but not saying aloud, “Ow, that’s my cervix.” Not bothering to redirect him toward the clitoris. Sort of getting a thrill from the overall encounter, but not getting off. Not even coming close. Faking it. There’s a long history of women — especially young, straight women — having sex that’s consensual but not really much fun. And an equally long history of their male partners walking home the next morning thinking, “Nailed it.”
These droves of sexually dissatisfied young women will be unwitting beneficiaries of a new law passed by the California legislature this week. At first blush, the law isn’t about them: It applies to women who didn’t consent, and who go to their universities with sexual-assault allegations. Thanks to the new statute, rather than ask a rape survivor how forcefully she said no, universities must ask whether both parties had “affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity.” It adds, “Lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent, nor does silence mean consent.”
Critics say this law is going to make consensual sex less sexy — that being 100 percent sure your partner is into it, or even stopping frequently to ask, “Is this okay?” is not hot. That university administrators will practically require written affidavits to prove sex was consensual, and the threat of a possible assault allegation will deflate boners on campuses from Humboldt State down to U.C., San Diego.
I beg to differ. Confirming consent leads to much hotter sex. “There are lots of ways to ask for a yes,” writes Thomas MacAulay Millar at the Yes Means Yes blog. “If you lean in to kiss someone and they lean in to kiss you back, that’s yes. If you ask someone if they want your cock and they say, ‘I want your cock,’ that’s yes, and if they put their mouth on it, that’s yes, too. If you’re fucking someone and holding them down and you’re both sweating and maybe bruised and you lean in and your hand is on their throat and you say, ‘can you still say no?’ and they say, ‘yes,’ that’s yes. We’re not kids here, right?”
Well, actually, incoming college freshmen are kids. Or rather, very newly minted adults. The thought of freshman welcome-week committees spelling out what MacAulay Millar just did? That makes me happy. The new law will force universities to talk to all students, female and male, about how enthusiastic consent is mandatory. Which means it will force universities to talk about what enthusiastic consent looks like. Which means, hopefully, those newly minted adults will do more talking about what turns them on and gets them off.
We’re still deprogramming the idea that nice girls don’t admit they like sex, let alone talk about how they like it. “We wanted to make the world safer for women to say no and yes to sex as we please,” write Jessica Valenti and Jaclyn Friedman in the introduction to their 2007 essay collection Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World Without Rape. “Women are not empty vessels to be fucked or not fucked; we’re sexual actors who should absolutely have the ability to say yes to sex when we want it, just like men, and should feel safe saying no.” This feeling of safety is not something that can be achieved by, say, using an app like Good2Go, which asks partners to indicate whether they’re sober enough and consent to sleeping with each other. It’s impossible to declare consent up front by checking a box, because hooking up or having sex usually involves a series of acts, not just one. A person who consents to one thing may not consent to another. Women (and men) have to feel safe indicating “yes” and “no” throughout a sexual encounter, rather than getting the conversation out of the way up front.
No matter what campus policies are put in place, there are probably still going to be some messy mornings-after. And sexual assault is still going to happen. Statistics show that most campus rapes are committed by a small group of repeat offenders who clearly don’t care about consent, be it verbal, nonverbal, or via an app. But most young men, it bears repeating, aren’t rapists. Even in the absence of a university policy, they are worried about inadvertently doing something in bed that their partner doesn’t welcome. And most men are actively thinking about whether their partner is enjoying herself. The new law makes life easier for both them and the women they sleep with, because it creates a compelling reason for both parties to speak up and talk about what they like. In essence, the new law forces universities — and the rest of us — to acknowledge that women like sex. Especially sex with a partner who wants to talk about what turns them on.
Most Viewed Stories
Mary-Kate Olsen Strains Every Muscle in Her Face in an Attempt to Smile
The Fashion Executive Who Doesn’t Wear Underwear on Dates
25 Famous Women on Being Alone
22 Intimate Lost Photos of Marilyn Monroe
Prince George Has No Time for Justin Trudeau’s High Fives
How Angelina Jolie Won the First Big Battle in Her Divorce
It’s Time to Get Over Your White Feelings and Start Taking Action for Black Lives
2009 Called — It Wants Its Vogue-Versus-Bloggers Fight Back.
Former Miss Universe Becomes U.S. Citizen So She Can Vote Against Trump
Madame Clairevoyant: Horoscopes for the Week of September 26
From Our Partners
powered by PubExchange
The Cut’s Latest Love and War FeaturesAva DuVernay on Hollywood Racism, Modern-Day Slavery, and Why She’s Still an Optimist
The director, whose new documentary The 13th chronicles America’s history of racial subjugation, talks to Rebecca Traister about Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, and the modern criminal-justice system.What No One Tells Couples Trying to Conceive
It helps to be rich.The Hidden Black Women Who Helped Win the Space Race
A segregated unit of mathematicians born of desperation during World War II became the secret to NASA’s success.Slut-Shaming Squids Are Everywhere
The “Bermuda Square” comic strip is back.Santigold’s New Video Is the Result of a Spontaneous Run-in With Kara Walker
The collaboration that dreams are made of.Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield Spotted Together Again, Love Might Be Real
They could be back together ahh!Teen, Forced to Go on Vacation With Her Family, Calls 911
The logical decision.Report: Hearst Fired Seventeen EIC Michelle Tan During Her Maternity Leave
Tan had been at the magazine for about two years.Good Morning America Host Amy Robach Apologizes for Saying ‘Colored People’ on Air
She quickly apologized.Unknown NFL Player Tries to Get Attention by Asking Aly Raisman Out in Video
That’s one way to do it.
Marissa Cooper is poised for a comeback ... maybe.California Votes to Remove Time Limit on Prosecuting Rape Cases
In light of the Bill Cosby case.Beyoncé’s Behind-the-Scenes Lemonade Photos Belong in a Museum
She had the "Boycott Beyoncé" sign already in formation on set.The Rise of the Male Celebrity Full-Frontal
An ex-publicist explains.Gabby Douglas Will Be a Miss America Judge
The gold-medal gymnast will help choose the 2017 pageant winner.Camille Becerra’s Photo Diary of Rockaway Beach
An ideal trip to add and cross off your summer bucket list.Sorry Nerds, Ian McKellen Won’t Officiate Your Expensive Lord of the Rings–Themed Wedding
Not even for $1.5 million.Miles Teller Is Still Upset About Being Called a Dick
He wants to set the record straight.Why Parents Shouldn’t Talk About Weight With Their Teens
New guidelines seek to banish weight talk.UVA Student Assaulted at Knifepoint During Orientation Weekend
But some students weren't notified until 24 hours later.