This Video Brilliantly Defines What "Yes Means Yes" Means...

October 27th 2014

California Governor Jerry Brown just signed a new law that would require all state universities receiving public funds to adhere to a strict "affirmative consent standard" for sexual assault cases.

Dubbed the "yes means yes" standard, this new measure stipulates that sex is only consensual when both involved parties voice "an affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement." Thus, silence, lack of protest, or being impaired by drugs or alcohol does not equal consent. 

The women's advocacy group, UltraViolet, just released a new video to define what consent looks like so that more colleges and states can ideally follow the lead of California. 

According to the organization's press release, the ads will air online for students on campuses being investigated for allegedly mishandling sexual assault cases -- including Dartmouth, Brandeis, U. of Kansas, Florida State University, Harvard, University of Colorado – Boulder, University of California – Berkeley, U.of Indiana, Southern Methodist University, Vanderbilt, Brown, U. of Alaska, Arizona State University, Washington State University, Stanford, and Catholic University of America.

“As we all now know--Universities across the country have failed students on campus rape,” said Shaunna Thomas, co-founder of UltraViolet. “Together these ads highlight that consent isn’t just sexy--it’s mandatory. We will no longer allow rape on campus to be swept under the rug--even if the rapist is a star athlete or an honors student. It’s time for universities across America to protect the right of women to get an education without risking rape and the subsequent backlash that too many experience when we report-- that means pushing for an expansion of ‘yes means yes’ and stopping rape culture on campus.”

Many have raised questions about the feasibility of this new effort. For instance, how would consent be defined when both students are under the influence of drugs or alcohol? And how often throughout the process of sexual engagement would both parties have to voice consent or revoke consent?

"Yes means yes", to be sure, will dramatically shift the way colleges teach students to interact with and pursue one another. It will force a higher standard onto students to always be clear about their intentions and their partner’s wishes. Under the current sexual assault standard, the burden lies upon the victim to prove they resisted the attacker’s advances. This new law would place the responsibility on both parties to ensure that each individual actively consents to the act. By giving zero leeway to potential sex offenders, this law lends a voice to sexual assault victims who have kept silent due to fear that their experiences wouldn't "qualify" as rape.

This standard shatters the illusion that rape is only "valid" if it involves force or is enacted by a stranger. In reality, 9 in 10 victims of campus rape and sexual assault know their attacker, according to the National Sexual Assault Resource CenterIn addition, a 2007 Campus Sexual Assault (CSA) Study found that out of the 5,446 undergraduate women they interviewed, 11% were sexually assaulted while incapacitated, while only 5% experienced physically forced sexual assault.

Currently, 67 colleges and universities are under investigation for their questionable handling of sexual assault complaints. The White House has also created a task force to look into the matter, and many advocates are now questioning whether colleges should be in the business of adjudicating serious felony accusations in the first place (given their misaligned interests in maintaining positive public relations).


By focusing on the importance of unambiguous consent, the "yes means yes" standard is a bold step toward redefining how society views sexual assault.

On the federal level, the bipartisan Campus Safety and Accountability Act, sponsored by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Marco Rubio, would also require colleges to publish their sexual assault statistics online so that parents and students can make an informed choice when comparing universities. To add your name in support of the legislation, click here.