California colleges could define consensual sex

Lawmakers debate 'yes means yes' sex assault law

SAN DIEGO - California lawmakers are considering a first-in-the-nation measure that would require universities that receive public funds for student financial assistance to set a standard defining consensual sex.


Legislation passed by California's state senate in May and coming before the assembly this month would require schools to set a so-called "affirmative consent standard" that could be used in investigating sexual assault allegations.

"What this means is both parties need to have consent. They both have to agree to want to engage in sexual activity," said Jessica Pride, a civil attorney who works with sexual assault victims. "Consent would mean students are conscious and clearly agree, either verbally or non-verbally. These are stronger standards intended to keep college students safe."

Several state legislatures, including Texas, have introduced bills to push colleges to do more after a White House task force reported that one in five female college students is a victim of sexual assault. No state legislation has gone as far as California's bill in requiring a consent standard.

Critics say the state is overstepping its bounds, and some fear navigating the murky waters of consent spells trouble for universities.

Some students question whether it is enforceable.

"It's a good idea, but I feel like everyone interprets non-verbal cues and actions differently," said student Donna Huynh.

If the bill passes, it could be up to colleges to weigh those cues in disciplining offenders.

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