California’s Affirmative Consent Law, popularly known as “Yes means Yes,” was enacted by the California Legislature this past August. It threatens to withhold state funding from colleges that do not adopt a student sexual assault policy compliant with the Federal Government rules. I just saved you an hour’s worth of reading and translating lawyer talk.
If you really have trouble sleeping, you can view the bill yourself. If you don’t want to take my word for it, but also don’t want to wade too far into the realm of paper-based Unisom, here’s the important part:
“Affirmative consent” means affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity. It is the responsibility of each person involved in the sexual activity to ensure that he or she has the affirmative consent of the other or others to engage in the sexual activity. Lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent, nor does silence mean consent. Affirmative consent must be ongoing throughout a sexual activity and can be revoked at any time. The existence of a dating relationship between the persons involved, or the fact of past sexual relations between them, should never by itself be assumed to be an indicator of consent.”
OK. This all makes sense. It’s a pretty reasonable standard and seems like common sense except for the occasional knucklehead who thinks “yes” means “maybe,” “maybe” means “yes,” and “yes” means “anal.” There’s one in every crowd, and if you laughed at that joke, you’re not him. If you’re aghast at that joke, you’re likely some sort of feminist and might want to stop reading right here, call me a “jack-wagon,” and go about your day trying to prove Jack London was a closet homosexual.
It was wonderful of the State Legislators to include the phrase “the other or others to engage in the sexual activity.” The California State Legislature knows how wild and kinky a place college can be. Thank you, California for giving the nod to collegiate group sex. I can imagine the Public Service Announcement now. Suitably somber, serious, and sober celebrities shot slightly off center in black and white against a blank background. “What’s the difference between a gang-bang and a gang-rape?” each asks as the camera cuts among them every second and a half. At about the twenty-second mark, a slate flashes onto the screen that reads, “Regret.”
That would probably make a terrible PSA, but if I could find an organization that didn’t get the joke, I’d love to make it. I’ve made PSAs before, and I can tell you from experience the people and organizations involved in these projects are not the brightest group.
Let’s face it. If they had any brains at all, they would get jobs in the private sector instead of basing a career on spending other people’s money on nebulous concept campaigns to “raise awareness.” Please show me one statistically verifiable instance where bringing a problem to the attention of someone riding a public bus led to solving the problem?
There is not some undiscovered scientific genius riding past a bus stop on his bike who stops and says, “What the deuce? You mean to tell me that women get cancer in their tits? Oddly enough, I was running a hypothetical Monte Carlo algorithm yesterday that cured it every single time, but I didn’t think it would be useful. Who knew? I’d better call the breast cancer people and let them know.”
So, the next time you see a Public Service Announcement, watch it with a keen and subtle eye. Think of alternate meanings for words. Be especially watchful for arcane definitions that when substituted inject humor or change the meaning entirely. And if you pay very close attention, you may see a familiar (albeit much younger) face show up once in a while. I’m just sayin’.
All the verbiage about “continuing affirmative consent” sounded terribly familiar when I first read it. Something about the wording made my ass twitch, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on why. I dug out my text book and notes from when I took Criminal Law back in the Stone Age to do a little fact checking. As it turns out, my memory is not nearly as feeble as I feared. These legislators lifted the definition of consent straight from the California Penal Code.
Then the bill goes on to require a set of requirements colleges must implement. I suspect meeting these requirements will be massively expensive and employ lots of people who would otherwise have to venture outside the insular bubble of ivory towers to find work in the big, mean old real world.
Repeat after me, drones. “Competition is bad. Tenure is good. Down with the capitalist ruling class. Affordable healthcare is a human right. End the war.”
Lest you think I’m more of a Neanderthal than the anti-hunters would paint me, I’m not a fan of rape. At least, not real rape; the type outside of an agreed upon scenario where “no” really doesn’t mean “no” and having an established safe-word. Other than that narrowly defined situation, “no” carries the standard meaning found in any dictionary.
My complaint about the law is that it largely reinvents the wheel. Apparently, the California State Legislature feels the campus police they employ (who, by the way, are fully certified peace officers) and whichever local police force has jurisdiction are more or less incapable of dealing with a sexual assault investigation. That’s the only conclusion I can come to when a bunch of college administrators are tasked to identify the elements of a crime, interview victims, preserve evidence, and conduct an investigation. Hell, while they’re at it, why don’t they make the arrest and mount a prosecution, too?
Just what the world needs. Another layer of government with a largely redundant purpose.
I don’t say this from the perspective of a beneficiary of white male hegemonic privilege. I say it from the perspective of a victim.
My career has taken me to many shit-holes. The sorts of places that include “austere conditions” and “danger pay” in the job description. Oddly enough, neither my physical safety nor my virtue were ever in more danger than in Johnstown, Pennsylvania.
Johnstown is the sort of small town America a person escapes as soon as possible; whether sent there or born there. It’s a one-industry town brought by a Senator representing the district. No one in that industry lived within the city limits, and precious few of the business owners serving the town’s one industry lived there, either.
In 2003, U.S. Census data showed that Johnstown was the least likely city in the United States to attract newcomers
Outside of office hours, the place was a ghost town. Friday and Saturday nights at the bar on the ground floor of the town’s only hotel and the Coney Island Hot Dog joint were the only exceptions. The Downtown Revitalization Commercial Business District of Future Growth, Prosperity, and Commerce Excellence consisted of an old Macy’s building anchoring one entire street and small restaurants and shops along the other three that bordered a public park, complete with a life-size statue of a Union soldier to represent the men who struck off to preserve the Republic in the War of Northern Aggression.
It’s quite a nice statue, except for the fact they were fighting for the wrong side.
Johnstown has a long history of surviving disasters; floods in particular. Lake Conemaugh, located on the grounds of the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club, was 450 feet above Johnstown. In 1889, the levy holding back Lake Conemaugh upstream of town burst from lack of maintenance after six to ten inches of rain in twenty-four hours sending a cliff of water down 450 feet of elevation. That’s a lot of water flowing very fast with a lot of energy behind it. After the initial rush of water, the wave hit the end of the valley and rebounded, flooding the town a second time in under twenty minutes.
Part of the initial wave diverted at the end of the valley toward the town’s steel plant. As the flood tide crested in Johnstown for the second time, flood water inundated the plant.
Stop for a moment to consider what happens when water is tossed onto a hot skillet. Now, scale that up to lots of water and molten metal. The water rushing into the vats of liquid steel was converted into steam with such force that solid metal vessels were torn apart and blobs of molten metal rained down on Johnstown, setting ablaze everything above the waterline. It took Clara Barton and her newly formed American Red Cross nearly a week to get to the scene due to the remoteness of the area and destruction of infrastructure leading into it. Not just Johnstown was destroyed. The entire area was a mess nearly to Pittsburg. Virtually every building in town was damaged beyond repair. None survived unscathed.
Not to be dissuaded, the surviving residents rebuild…and had major floods again in 1894…and 1907…and then again in 1924…and another in 1936…and finally the last in 1977. For the love of God, will you people take a hint and move to higher ground?
The town’s history of isolation and calamity bred a culture of proud self-reliance and hardscrabble survival. Or maybe they have always been dangerously stupid Hillbillies.
One night after work, ten of us classmates decided we just couldn’t take another night of sitting in our hotel rooms pretending to study. Our boss, who was also one of our instructors and deploying to the field with us, had been assigned to the Johnstown office for the previous decade, recommended the most popular and happening bar in town. Like idiots, we took his advice.
Our boss was right. It was the best bar within driving distance. However, “best” and “within driving distance” are both subjective and comparative measures.
After driving into the surrounding mountains for forty minutes (the same mountains that accelerated a reservoir worth of water to destroy Johnstown in 1889) and passing the well-hidden turnoff three different times, we pulled into a gravel driveway that led to a squat building with neon beer logo signs in the windows and Christmas light strung along the eves. It was April.
All ten of us piled out of two rental cars, took a quick look around to size up the caliber of trouble that awaited us, and made for the door. What we found was the least smoke-filled and best lit drinking establishment I have ever seen. The place was bereft of patrons at eight o’clock.
“Y’all open?” I called to the woman tending bar. At least, I think she was tending bar. From my quick survey, she was wiping the bar down with a rag and gossiping with what I presumed was a waitress leaning against the liquor rack while she masticated a mouthful of Hubba Bubba. For all I knew, we had walked in on a burglary, and this was an elaborate ruse to escape.
“We sure as shit are, sugar,” the bartender said, breaking off her girl gab session. “We got a mess of tables in the pool room downstairs, so you can sit together.”
“Downstairs” was accurate in only the most technical sense. The stairway was exactly three steps deep. I was beginning to believe words have different definitions in Pennsylvania.
It was a spacious room with elevated tables and tall bar chairs. The felt on the pool table was neither torn nor some God-awful color that wasn’t green. Also, the dart board was new enough that the darts didn’t fall out during a match.
Being responsible degenerates, we verified the Designated Driver, a Mormon kid named Greg who after jumping out of perfectly good airplanes for the Army took up instructing others how to jump out of perfectly good airplanes for fun, was in possession of both sets of car keys. Exactly how he would manage two carloads of drunken law enforcement types never entered my though process. I’m pretty sure it didn’t enter anyone else’s, either. All we knew was he wasn’t going to pay for anything that night in exchange for keeping us out of jail.
Three hours later, the place was packed. It was a smoke-choked swamp of hillbilly humanity. It had transformed into my kind of bar. Old-time, twangy Bluegrass played on the speaker system. Patrons dropped peanut shells on the floor. About every twenty minutes, someone let out a Rebel Yell. Young women snatched the hats off men they fancied and donned them (That’s a definite invitation where I come from, if you get my meaning).
When my turn to buy a round came up (please don’t ask how many rounds or how many turns. I lost track), I wobbled to the bar. The waitress hadn’t yet come to the realization that it would be safer for the hardwood floor and everyone involved to deliver the drinks herself.
I was wearing what I call “San Diego Camouflage.” Somewhere during the approach to middle age, men in San Diego begin to wear Hawaiian shirts. I’m pretty sure it’s a city ordinance. Some are pastel and subtle. Some are fluorescent and loud enough to drown out conversation. However, all are short sleeved, baggy, and possessed of a top button that falls somewhere in the vicinity of the wearer’s sternum. There isn’t even a button where the collar would meet should the wearer be modest enough to try.
Being most recently from San Diego and rapidly approaching the middle of my life (assuming I die, as expected, prior to collecting my first Social Security check), I proudly sported my geographic identifier. The problem was that I am between 6’2″ and 6’4″ (depending on the security camera), clock in at 265 pounds, and can literally lift a compact car by the bumper until the wheels clear the ground. Combine that with the magnificent facial hair of Grizzly Adams, extensive tattooing, and the swagger of a gladiator. Yeah. People notice me when I walk into a room.
Typically that means when I go to a bar, some little drunk fucker decides I’m the guy he wants to pick a fight with. That’s why I prefer to drink at home. If I feel like fighting, I am perfectly capable of finding one myself.
While waiting for the four pitchers of draft beer to be…drafted, I wondered whether I was stable enough on my feet to make the beer delivery in one trip holding two full pitchers in each hand while doing my best impression of the St. Pauli Girl logo. Deep in thought pondering my dilemma, I hear a creaky voice I identify as likely female and definitely a minimum of two packs a day belt out, “Mabel, will you look at that.” I turned around as a boney pair of hands begins to paw up and down my forearm.
“Oh, my God. He’s got ’em all over his chest, too,” Mable wheezed from where she stood looking over the shoulder of my new fondling friend. Her voice sounded like a chimney flue. Mable stepped forward, reached out a hand as gnarled as a ginger root, and stopped herself. “It is ok if I touch them?”
“Touch them”? Aren’t you already touching me? Then again, I would have used the same phrasing had the bartender popped her boobs out from her shirt, so I guess fair is fair.
“Knock yourself out, honey,” I slurred. “Just don’t start fighting with your girlfriend.”
“June there’s my sister,” Mabel said, as she inched closer and traced her fingers over the design on my chest. Mable sneaked her hand around the small of my back and smiled as he pulled me toward her. “We learned to share a long time ago.” On cue, June slid one hand from my forearm, ducked it under the front hem of my shirt, and laid her palm just north of my belt buckle.
One thing that hunting and listening to Kenny Rogers over the years has taught me; know when it is appropriate to run and when to stand your ground.
I’m not one to turn down feminine attention, but I know enough to do so when not in the presence of my wife. Had she been there, my wife would have been giggling herself into a coughing fit while these two threesome-prone sisters felt me up.
Hopefully, my wife would have stopped the geriatric live sex show before I wound up laying on a pinball machine reenacting Jodie Foster’s roles in “The Accused.”
Knowing this situation fell squarely in the “no go” category due to lack of spousal supervision, my beer besot brain began to search for a polite way to escape the clutches of these succubi with my virtue and drink order intact.
Just as I was about to flail about shrieking, “Off, damn harpies! Back to Hades with you,” my Designated Driver Greg swooped in to my rescue.
“Hey, Battle Buddy. Need help carrying those?”
Sometime during my molestation, the bartender had brought the four pitchers of beer I ordered. Greg had been tracking the situation from afar and decided it was time for an extraction because I was in over my head. Even three sheets to the wind, I recognized “Battle Buddy” as being out of context for a direct address and understood Greg was there to get me out of a sticky situation. Kind of like when POWs slip in covert communications when filmed or photographed.
“I could use an extra set of hands,” I mumbled, as I stepped backward out of the hooks of Grendel’s Aunts and picked up a pitcher in each hand. Greg picked up the other two and led the way to safety.
“Excuse me, ladies. Mr. Popular’s presence is required elsewhere,” he said, breezing past them. I followed as closely as I could without appearing to run. However, I did not escape unscathed.
Mabel purred and made kissing faces at me as I passed. June took advantage of my occupied hands to grab my ass hard enough to make me slosh beer out of the pitchers I carried.
This chick may have been old enough to have been Andrew Carnegie’s nanny, but she still had the grip of a steel worker. Considering she lived in Johnstown, she probably was at one time.
As I made good my retreat, I could hear June and Mabel cackle. They called out “Send him back for the next round. Well pay for it” and “Get back here. I haven’t seen all the tattoos, yet.”
I felt embarrassed and unclean. I had been objectified and manhandled. All I wanted to do was go back to the hotel and scrub every inch of my body until the skin was raw. These dirty old women had taken advantage of my intoxicated state and assumed my lack of struggle was consent. Had an Affirmative Consent law such as passed by the State Legislature of California been in place for Pennsylvania, I would have had some recourse to this blatant sexual assault.
Oh, who am I kidding? I had a blast. Greg and I immediately recounted the incident in all manner of exaggerated and glorious detail, complete with live-action demonstrations, to the rest of the party. They even made wagers as to whether I could “seal the deal” with the Eriksson Twins before they decided to change their hunting grounds. One of the women in the group asked how I liked experiencing what women have to deal with on a regular basis.
Honestly, I kind of liked all the attention and offers of free stuff. It struck me as a fair trade. Does that make me a gold digger?