The difference between ‘no means no’ and Affirmative Consent


California and Colorado have affirmative consent laws (the only two I’m aware of). Other states are presenting similar bills. What is the difference between “no means no” and affirmative consent?

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“No means no” isn’t a law, it’s just a concept. If someone tells you “no” then you take it as as a firm “no.” You don’t treat it as “maybe” or that they want to do it but just need convincing.

“Affirmative consent” means unless they have explicitly consented to the act then you don’t have consent.

If I ask you if you would like some soup, you could say yes, no, or something noncommittal. If you say no, then it’s clear that you don’t want the soup I’m offering. If you say yes, then it becomes clear that you want the soup. The last situation, the one where you don’t make it clear whether you want the soup or not, is what the Affirmative Consent option is trying to address. Under the Affirmative Consent idea, when I ask if you want soup, no means no AND a noncommittal means no too. The only time I should give you soup is when you say yes. Affirmative Consent is also sometimes known as “yes means yes”. Hope this helps!

I’ve never really understood the usefulness of these laws, in concept the idea is solid. When you sign a contract you are giving affirmative consent, a company can’t take money out of your bank account just because they asked you and you didn’t say no, they have to have proof that you said yes. But in terms of actual usefulness it relies on the contract, which we don’t have in sex. A person can just as easily say ‘she/he said yes’ as they can say ‘she/he didn’t say no’, and it’s still the same problem of one word against another, with no witnesses.

No is no and consent is Yes. There are no similarities between them and are essentially polar opposites to each other.

No means no – the idea that if someone says “no”, you should take that as final and not as “they need convincing let’s keep trying and pushing”.

Affirmative Consent – the idea that ONLY “yes” means yes. If they say “maybe”, or “I guess”, you don’t have consent. Even if they don’t say anything, they aren’t “letting it happen”, they are not consenting with a definite “yes” therefore you don’t have consent.