The ambiguity of many laws protecting against sexual assault make rape a complicated matter for lawmakers and victims alike. It’s been proven absolutely necessary to define what sexual assault is in a way that protects victims even if what happened to them doesn’t look like the kind of rape we see in movies. Some people believe that sexual assault only exists if the victim puts up an adequate fight, failing to realize that when fearing for our lives it is often our natural inclination to submit to our attackers, and that submission is not the same as consent. Where in the past it was not unusual for victims to lose their case against their rapists based on the fact that they did not actively resist, even if it was obvious that they were not actively consenting. Thanks to California’s new Affirmative Consent laws, rape has been redefined legally to include any sex act committed on an unwilling party, regardless if their instinct is to fight or freeze.
The law has often been misconstrued and taken to mean that consensual sex must now become a very formal affair, and even that we must check in with our partner several times during the act of sex just to make sure we’re not suddenly raping them, and the laws opposition argues that that’s just not sexy, but the truth is, the law changes nothing for those of us who have been partaking in consensual sex.
The law only affects the parties involved in rape and sexual assault cases, as it simply means that we can not dismiss the cases of alleged rape victims based on lack of evidence that they put up a fight or actively said “no.” The law simply makes official the moral code that we all should be following anyway: that we only have sex with people if we really know that they want to have sex with us.
Victims of sexual assault are not only protected, but validated by this kind of law. Sexual assault is obviously an emotionally damaging experience, but what only adds to the turmoil is the way society seems to believe that rape has not occurred unless you follow a specific set of guidelines to prevent your attacker from having sex with you. This is a ridiculous and damaging thought, as we should not have to go to any length to avoid having sex against our will, and the simple act of not consenting should be enough to protect us. Reassuring survivors that the violation they’ve felt is valid and reasonable is a way to support them and help them in their recovery. If nothing else, the law certainly does a good job of defining rape in a much more effective way.