Wednesday, October 1, 2014

California Conflict

California SB-967, the Student Safety: Sexual Assault bill recently signed by the Governor of CA (full text here) withholds public funding for universities unless administrations develop comprehensive sexual assault policies that conform to the several conditions described in the bill. Much of the criticism of the bill I've seen involves clause (1):
An affirmative consent standard in the determination of whether consent was given by both parties to sexual activity. “Affirmative consent” means affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity. It is the responsibility of each person involved in the sexual activity to ensure that he or she has the affirmative consent of the other or others to engage in the sexual activity. Lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent, nor does silence mean consent. Affirmative consent must be ongoing throughout a sexual activity and can be revoked at any time. The existence of a dating relationship between the persons involved, or the fact of past sexual relations between them, should never by itself be assumed to be an indicator of consent.
The trope invoked here is "if it ain't euvoluntary, it ain't voluntary." Sexual encounters that provoke ex post regret are not euvoluntary, hence the "affirmative consent" criterion. There's even an app for that.

"Get the government out of my uterus" this is not. But the purpose of this post is not to fret about the possible downsides of a database of sexual liaisons accessible by university personnel, law enforcement officials, or (given the frequency with which sensitive information is compromised by enterprising black hat crackers) pretty much anyone. Instead, I ask you whether or not SB-967 isn't just a natural consequence of zero-tolerance primary education.

Typical college students in 2014 have spent their entire school careers in a post-Columbine (1999, how tempus doth fugit) environment. Every hallway scuffle, every playground bout of fisticuffs, every swirlie, every noogie, every wedgie has been first subject to administrative oversight and then carefully excised. The very purpose of intolerant policy is to sanitize child development of the unfortunate ills of conflict, particularly violent conflict. It welds training wheels to the bicycle of social development. A natural consequence of this is that 19 year old adult children are (relatively) incapable of negotiating grown-up relationships. They're sent into the deep end still wearing their water wings. It should come as no surprise when the legislature mandates a new squadron of lifeguards.

Is there a Great Stagnation? Perhaps. But if SB-967 is a bellwether, then it seems likely that there may also be a Great Ossification. Amid the disruptions of the sharing economy, the public is also facing greater command and control from political elites. What a relief those elites are wise, beneficent, civic-minded servants of the public interest with no motives of their own other than to see the flower of humanity blossom.

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Do you have suggestions on where we could find more examples of this phenomenon?