"Is California's new "Affirmative Consent" law really that bad?"
That was my initial reaction to California's new law requiring all colleges that receive state funds to adopt an "affirmative consent" standard for all student disciplinary cases involving sexual assault charges.
After reading a slew of conservative concerns about the policy over the past week, I'm still not worked about it.
For starters, I still haven't read about a single actual case that makes me sympathize with the accused. Heather Mac Donald's John Doe comes the closest here, but that case doesn't even involve affirmative consent (the college found that the victim was drunk and therefore unable to give any consent, affirmative or otherwise). More importantly, I am just unable to shed any tears for those who runs afoul of campus authorities over their drunken hook up shenanigans. Colleges should have every right to punish boorish behavior, and John Doe's definitely was.
Ross Douthat advances a subtler critique, worrying that while the law will do nothing to encourage better male behavior it will somehow "lock in" a "kind of toxic misogyny" that conservatives should be more concerned about.
As I admitted earlier, I am highly skeptical of the law's ability to change how males on college campuses behave, but unlike Douthat, I believe that door swings both ways. To the extent their is a "twisted macho transgressiveness that exists in permanent symbiosis" with politically correct attempts to manage it, I doubt this law will change much of anything, much less "lock in" any particular culture.
So how should conservatives respond to the campus hook up culture? I think Douthat already identified the ideal conservative policy response in his earlier post on the liberal case for affirmative consent laws: lower the drinking age from 21 to 18. Douthat writes:
The key problem in college sexual culture right now isn’t drinking per se; it’s blackout drinking, which follows from binge drinking, which is more likely to happen when a drinking culture is driven underground.
Undoing the federal government’s Reagan-era imposition of a higher drinking age is probably too counterintuitive for lawmakers to contemplate. And obviously it wouldn’t eliminate the lure of the keg stand or tame the recklessness of youth. But it would create an opportunity for a healthier approach to alcohol consumption — more social and relaxed, less frantic and performative — to take root in collegiate culture once again.
Just to add some purely anecdotal evidence to Douthat's case, I rushed a fraternity my sophomore year on campus for the explicit purpose of gaining access to alcohol and I disaffiliated from the same fraternity shortly after I turned 21. On a related note, my weekly alcohol consumption actually fell after I was legally allowed to buy a drink.
Perhaps, instead of freaking out about government invading our bedrooms, we could work with liberals to shrink government, lower alcohol abuse, and fight sexual assault.