25 Nov 2014 at 09:58 ET
gh, the discussion of affirmative consent rules and laws will never get any better if the news reporting on them isn’t so distorting. Take, for instance, this lead from the usually excellent TPM:
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — You think the attractive woman at the party who has been chatting you up all night is ready to take things to the next level. She seems to be throwing all the right signals.
But if things turn sexual, are you sure that will hold up under legal scrutiny?
So many flaws. It perpetuates the myth that there’s a legal debriefing after every sexual encounter, a myth you would think simple experience would show is false. It perpetuates the myth that men rape by accident, and that it’s a woman’s fault for sending “mixed signals”. (Research shows that men are fully aware that “mixed signals” means “no”.) It removes the importance of female autonomy with passive language—”things turn sexual” as opposed to “she expressed desire”. It perpetuates the myth that consent to one activity, such as making out, is commonly understood as consent to all sexual activities. (No one actually thinks this. Men are perfectly aware that women might be up for kissing but decide intercourse is off the menu tonight.) It stokes hysteria over the issue of whether or not the law is trying to rewrite how humans communicate, when these laws reflect empirical research showing how humans communicate.