The 21st century is a world of fickle ambiguity. Things that could be categorized as common sense to the previous generation are shocks and surprises to millennials and we never seem to have a truly sound, basic knowledge of the world happening around us, or where the line is between right and wrong.
It could be attributed to the hazy “50 Shades of Grey” area of the modern world. Everything from dating to sexuality to the version of a socially accepted life no longer follows a rigid pattern, where you are either this or that, or doing this to lead to that.
So now, we find ourselves in a place where we have to redefine everything and literally draw lines in places we knew existed, but cannot seem to acknowledge. Giving consent before sexual intercourse is the biggest place of argument today, especially as the number of sexual assaults on campuses across the nation (and at Stony Brook) increases every year.
California tried to rectify the situation with a new bill, a “say yes” policy instead of the generally accepted “no means no” idea when it comes to consent. According to former mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg, the state-funded schools are now required to “get a clear indication that both participants agree to the act.” It is the first time that a state is stepping in to directly address the sexual assault issues on college campuses, presenting the issue of consent and rape as a topic that requires more national attention.
It is startling that we, as educated adults in college, cannot seem to grasp the full extent of “no means no.” The word “no” begins at its formal definition: as a determiner, “used to indicate that something is quite the opposite of what is being specified,” and as an exclamation, “used to give a negative response,” as defined by Google Definitions.
The shaking of a head from the left to the right is a socially accepted form of conveying the same message.
Saying “stop,” “don’t,” and “go away” are all just synonyms.
Physically turning away, pushing someone away is a clear indication that the person at hand is uncomfortable, and so, another form of no.
A lack of consent from someone who is passed out on the couch after a party, drunk, drugged, or intoxicated enough to not be able to hold up their own body weight, is a no.
These situations are defined as “no” because in not one of these situations is “the victim” saying yes.
You see, “yes” has only one definition. It means freely giving consent, mindfully acknowledging that both parties wants and desires are matched and that everyone is on the same page.
California’s new law about saying yes seems improbable and almost over the top, as it is essentially micromanaging sex in the privacy of people’s lives. And it could potentially have disastrous effects. There are several cases where girls have “cried wolf” and her supposed perpetrator has suffered through the legal headaches, though being wrongly accused.
But it is not about that. If anything, this law sets the stage of redefining the way we see consent. “No means no” is the ambiguity. It is the fog that blinds us from seeing where we’re headed, because the defintion extends from the lightest to the darkest shade of grey. This law is forcing us to reevaluate. And like a smartphone, it is making our lives a bit easier.
Now, there is no need to sit and memorize and review all the different definitions of “no.” Because yes can only mean one thing.