California is poised to make legislative history with the “Yes Means Yes” bill, which would insist that on college and university campuses that accept federal funding (that’s a LOT of Cali colleges), sexual assault cases will be judged on the basis of whether or not both partners either physically or verbally made their consent clear. The reason “No Means No,” the accepted rule for many years, doesn’t work is because a rape victim might not be able to make their “No” clear or even heard, if the victim is drunk, drugged, unconscious, or in any way, shape, or form incapacitated. “Yes Means Yes” means that all parties involved have made their consent clear to one another.
“Yes Means Yes” became particularly relevant this week when CeeLo Green tweeted (and then deleted) some disturbing messages that reminded us that not everyone is clear on the definition of rape.
Screengrabbed tweets show the singer stating, “When someone brakes [sic] on a home there is broken glass where is your plausible proof anyone was raped” and “If someone is passed out they are not even WITH you consciously. so WITH implies consent” and “People who have been really raped REMEMBER!!!!” That last tweet sounds a lot like Green is saying that a rape is only a rape if the other person is conscious—at least that is how it’s been widely being interpreted. This is a “No Means No” mentality and this is exactly where “No Means No” fails miserably when we look at cases of sexual assault.
The tweets came two days after Green pleaded no contest to supplying ecstasy to a woman who claimed she had no memory of how she later ended up in bed with the singer. Green’s representation advocated that the sexual encounter was consensual and due to a lack of evidence, sexual assault charges were not pressed.
Back on Twitter, Green later apologized for his comments, taking to the social media site to tell the world, “I sincerely apologize for my comments being taken out of context. . .I’d never condone the harm of any women. . .”
I don’t doubt the legitimacy of his apology, but it’s clear that there’s a real confusion when it comes to the definition of sexual assault. What’s really scary is that Green’s original tweets suggest he doesn’t understand how all women are harmed when men (in particular men with worldwide followings) spread the gospel of “No Means No” when what we need to be doing is teaching that sex is only consensual when both parties make their “Yes” loud and clear.