Washington Post's Parker Dismisses Legislation Requiring “Persistent” Consent During Sex

Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker dismissed sexual assault legislation requiring that consent be present at all times during a sexual encounter.

In her February 21 column, Parker weighed in on the firestorm surrounding Wall Street Journal editor James Taranto's suggestion that both parties are equally to blame in sexual assault cases where both the victim and attacker are intoxicated. Parker wrote that Taranto's argument was “inartful,” and concluded that because of their stronger “physicality,” “it is for men to not take advantage of women who are bereft of their faculties, no matter the state of their own.”

Despite her conclusion, Parker nonetheless lamented “one of the problems with gender issues,” wherein “someone always takes things too far, making ridiculous what should be treated with scientific precision.” As if to prove her own point, Parker made that observation after seemingly dismissing legislation requiring that “yes needs to be persistent throughout” a sexual encounter:

What got Taranto going was a New York Times article about bystander intervention in campus rape. Basically, if a drunk guy is getting aggressive with a girl, you're supposed to stop him. What was once simple citizenship is now innovative behavior modification. Elsewhere the zeitgeist was buzzing about proposed legislation in California that would codify the terms of consent in sexual relations among college students. Saying “yes” apparently isn't good enough. Now yes needs to be persistent throughout the act.

The comic possibilities are nearly irresistible, but my survival instinct prompts me to exercise restraint. Herein lies one of the problems with gender issues. Someone always takes things too far, making ridiculous what should be treated with scientific precision.

The California legislation in question was introduced earlier this month. According to The Sacramento Bee, it would put “the responsibility on a person who wants to engage in sexual activity to ensure that he or she has explicit consent from a partner.” Despite the “comic possibilities” Parker sees, the language of the legislation seems non-controversial:

Consent must be present throughout sexual activity, and at any time, a participant can communicate that he or she no longer consents to continuing the sexual activity. If there is confusion as to whether a person has consented or continues to consent to sexual activity, it is essential that the participants stop the activity until the confusion can be clearly resolved.

Slate's Amanda Marcotte has explained why affirmative consent standards are important:

Women should not be assumed to be consenting to sex unless they say otherwise in blunt language, especially since research shows that most people tend to refuse to go along with activities, sexual or otherwise, with demurring language instead of blunt refusals.


That doesn't mean that the law would require partners to draft a contract before having sex, but it would mean that a rapist would have a harder time pretending that he didn't understand what it meant when a woman repeatedly asked to go home and refused to kiss him back and wiggled away when he tried to take off her clothes, all because she broadcast her refusals politely instead of yelling “no” at him.