I stumbled on a recent piece by Ezra Klein at Vox titled “Yes Means Yes” is a terrible law, and I completely support it. It is a remarkably frank discussion of California’s new law defining how universities which receive state funds are to handle allegations of rape. My initial reaction on the whole “Yes Means Yes” question was one of limited interest. As I’ve explained before, I’m not interested in creating rules of the road for fornication. It isn’t that I don’t care about injustice, but that I don’t see a way to make fornication safe.
My own initial response is I’m quite certain the standard response for most conservatives. To their credit, feminists have done a brilliant job of maneuvering conservatives as a blocking force around the battlefield of the culture wars. The problem however is not that conservatives aren’t interested in creating rules of the road for fornication, it is that they are all too eager to assist feminists in doing this. The greatest precedent for this is in the area of child support. Feminists complained that it wasn’t fair for the fornicating woman to be responsible for any resulting pregnancies while fornicating men get off scott-free. The idea of a cad not being responsible for supporting his children understandably enrages conservatives, and you will be hard pressed to find a conservative who objects to child support in theory or in practice.
The problem with child support however is that in trying to make fornication fair, conservatives have unwittingly given their approval for the replacement of marriage as the fundamental family structure in the Western world. Making fornication “fair” (for women) turned out to come at a profound cost, something we haven’t begun to process.
What we see in the Yes Means Yes law is the next level of legislation attempting to make fornication as pleasant and rewarding an experience for women as possible. As Klein explains in the opening of the piece, it is in fact a ridiculous law:
It tries to change, through brute legislative force, the most private and intimate of adult acts. It is sweeping in its redefinition of acceptable consent; two college seniors who’ve been in a loving relationship since they met during the first week of their freshman years, and who, with the ease of the committed, slip naturally from cuddling to sex, could fail its test.
Yet while he is very open about the absurdity of the law, he goes on to explain that it is needed in order to create a culture of promiscuity where men are afraid and women are not:
If the Yes Means Yes law is taken even remotely seriously it will settle like a cold winter on college campuses, throwing everyday sexual practice into doubt and creating a haze of fear and confusion over what counts as consent. This is the case against it, and also the case for it…
…”No Means No” has created a world where women are afraid. To work, “Yes Means Yes” needs to create a world where men are afraid.
Klein explains that this other piece by Amanda Taub was largely responsible for bringing him to support this view. Taub’s piece is even more eye opening, explaining that women’s fear of doing risky things is “a tax on women”.
That status quo puts women in the position of having to constantly police their own behavior to make sure that they are not giving the appearance of passive consent. That’s not only exhausting; it’s limiting. It reinforces power imbalances that keep women out of positions of success and authority.
This is the core idea behind the slogan “Teach men not to rape”. Feminists are pushing for a world where female promiscuity is encouraged and defended with the full force of society. The danger is, conservatives could be baited into backing this as they were baited into backing child support. Those who don’t formally approve of the new order are likely to want to stay out of it, out of a reluctance to being perceived as going to bat for promiscuous men. Ironically the standard argument against the law, that it will create a chilling effect on the hookup culture, only confirms to conservatives that this is in fact a good law. But the law isn’t designed to put a damper on the hookup culture, it is designed to grease the skids for women to participate more fully in the hookup culture.
Taub describes the problem of the status quo in greater detail:
As a result, certain opportunities are left unavailable to women, while still others are subject to expensive safety precautions, such as not traveling for professional networking unless you can afford your own hotel room. It amounts, essentially, to a tax that is levied exclusively on women. And it sucks.
The example she is referring to here is a woman named Sophia Katz who by her own account traveled to New York City to take a man she had never met up on his offer to share his bed. The first night she spent in his bed she rebuffed his sexual advances with “Hey, I’m really tired. Could we not do this right now?” On the second night she first argued that his roommates would hear before giving in.
Katz is the poster child for the Yes Means Yes law, because while neither she nor the man she slept with were involved with California universities, the intent is to make it safe for women to do exactly what Katz did without fear of feeling pressured to have sex. Likewise, the intent is to make it safe for women to go home with random hook up partners and not risk feeling regret later. In order to accomplish this, the law must as Klein explains create a world where men are afraid so women will feel comfortable in doing foolish, risky things.
Right now this law only impacts students at California universities. However, the push is clearly to modify the criminal code across the West in similar fashion. Nothing short of this will make women and girls feel safe pursuing promiscuity with wild abandon, even though making something dangerous feel safe will only put women at far greater risk.
The question is how will non feminists react to this latest gambit. Will they actively support it, or at least not protest as it is pushed through, out of a sense of disgust at cads like the one who shared his bed with Katz expecting sex in return? Or will non feminists recognize the folly in yet further laws attempting to make promiscuity and foolishness as fun and rewarding for women as possible?
Related: We are trapped on Slut Island and Traditional Conservatives are our Gilligan