Yes Means Yes
Please refer to the very bottom of this post for an ***AUTHOR’S NOTE 15 May 2013*** as well as the one at the bottom of the “No Means No” post for further insight.
Original Post from 19 Oct 2011:
Five weeks ago I posted a very personal account of a sexually coercive event and the subsequent emotional fallout in a post called No Means No. Most everyone has been overwhelmingly supportive and kind. My tale caused strong reactions by professional therapists, friends, colleagues, and readers. From horrified solidarity to an assessment of predatory behavior all the way to borderline (some claim undeniable) sexual assault, people have validated that this situation was not in the least bit okay. While I don’t feel that it was sexual assault, as I never felt in danger nor was I drugged, I have accepted that it was at least coercion, which does border on sexual assault and can lead to sexual assault.
Jaymee Goh, a dear friend and colleague, pointed me to a blog called Yes Means Yes where I did a lot of reading on this issue of what is and is not sexual assault, and through this research, I learned about the term Enthusiastic Consent.
I love this.
I love the power Yes Means Yes gives as opposed to being forced to give a ‘No.’
Perhaps Tobias Fauntleroy of White Mischief and Kinky Salon UK put it best in an @reply via Twitter: “it seems he never sought a yes from you (yes means yes). He waited for you to say no, unfairly placing all responsibility on you.” This brief response to my blog post inspired a very extensive DM conversation about consent, one I thoroughly enjoyed and learned much from. Tobias is very active with Kinky Salon, where they strictly adhere to and actively promote enthusiastic consent. Special thanks to Tobias for taking the time to talk with me about this sensitive issue as well as point me in the direction of the very informative SkepChick blog.
Yes. Means. Yes.
There is not a single yes or no when it comes to sex. Sex is a series of unfolding events. Perhaps it starts with a look and progresses with a kiss, pulling each other closer, roaming hands, removal of clothes, breasts, genitals, oral, hand manipulation, intercourse, etc. It’s an series of events. One yes doesn’t give consent. Meeting a kiss enthusiastically does not give consent through the rest. Unless every step is met with enthusiastic consent, stop. For example, if your partner stops you from putting your hand down her panties or taking them off, you don’t proceed by pulling them to one side and doing what you want anyway. That is not consent. You have just taken the next step of events even though your partner clearly tried to stop you from doing that.
That is not consent. Have I mentioned?
If your partner is pulling your hand away from an area of her/his body, you don’t fight their removal. You remove your hand. Period. Fighting the removal is not consent.
This is where it borders on assault. You are moving forward without consent. Fighting the removal of a hand is coercion at best, sexual assault at worst.***
While looking for a picture to pilfer for this post, I searched Google images for “Yes Means Yes,” and I was quite appalled at what was there. Things like “No Means No. 50 NOs and a Yes Means Yes.” That’s disgusting, and I’m looking at that with a whole new set of eyes. Because that’s basically what has happened to me over and over in my life. Coercion and wearing one down to the point of why bother resisting anymore. That’s where I got to that night in NYC. Why resist anymore? And I realized that so many of my past sexual encounters in my life were results of coercion, some I “consented” because I was afraid of being raped back in my early 20s. A particularly offensive picture was one that says “No Really Means Yes,” and the image was a woman bound and gagged.
Really, really nothing funny about rape.
What about our society makes is okay to joke about sexual assault?
Legally, the definition of sexual assault varies between jurisdictions. The lines of what is and is not sexual assault or even coercion are quite blurred. It basically comes down to he said/she said in the more fuzzy areas, and this is where enthusiastic consent helps.
If you are moving forward without enthusiastic consent, you are toying with sexual assault.
Besides, nothing is hotter or more exciting than someone as enthusiastic to explore you as you are to explore them. Erase any doubt and wait for that yes.
***This post and discussion of enthusiastic consent is framed in nonBDSM play. Since I don’t participate in BDSM play, I often forget to make this distinction. Tobias graciously reminded me, and it is so very important to make the distinction:
“it is worth mentioning that some people, consensually, like to play kink and BDSM games which might involve fighting or apparent coercion or sometimes even continuing play despite hearing the word stop or the word no…there’s nothing wrong with this as long as it’s safe, sane and consensual. The boundaries need to be agreed in advance. A safeword can be used in place of “no,” or a system such as traffic lights or 1-10 numbering to indicate degrees of pleasure/pain, fast/slow, go/stop whatever. So even in situations where yes would be inappropriate, there are multiple means of negotiating and confirming consent.”
Still, the operative word here is “apparent” coercion. Consent is negotiated beforehand. And although they may use the word NO or play with boundaries and humiliation, all these things are negotiated first. A safeword is agreed upon in the place of “NO” or “Stop.” This is still respectful of boundaries, unless, of course, the safeword is ignored. Then it falls back into nonconsensual.
- Affirmative Consent As Legal Standard?
- The (Nonexistent) Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Consequences of Enthusiastic Consent
- On the Difficulty of “Saying No”
- Legal Consent, Morning-After Regret, and “Accidental Rape”
- Meet the Predators – A *MUST READ*
- The Privilege Delusion
- On Naming Names at the CFI Student Leadership Conference
- On the Critical Hotness of Enthusiastic Consent
- A Modest Proposal: The Thorny Issues of Sexual Consent
**** AUTHOR’S NOTE 15 MAY 2013 ****
It’s been nearly two years since I wrote this post as well. I was beginning to understand, but I was still too immersed in rape culture and in survival mode at this point. Two years and a lot of rape recovery therapy later, and I’m much more clear on this subject.
Some corrections in this post:
- It was sexual assault at best, and it even crossed into digital and oral rape.
- “For example, if your partner stops you from putting your hand down her panties or taking them off, you don’t proceed by pulling them to one side and doing what you want anyway. That is not consent.” - No, it’s rape. No consent = rape.
- “This is where it borders on assault. You are moving forward without consent. Fighting the removal of a hand is coercion at best, sexual assault at worst.***” It borders on nothing. It was sexual assault. I still had some line in my head that meant it took gratuitous violence and evidence-leaving force to categorize it as sexual assault or rape. That is incorrect. The amount of force is irrelevant. FORCE is enough.
- “Coercion and wearing one down to the point of why bother resisting anymore. That’s where I got to that night in NYC. Why resist anymore? And I realized that so many of my past sexual encounters in my life were results of coercion, some I “consented” because I was afraid of being raped back in my early 20s.” – turns out, coercion is one of the many ways rape is perpetrated. Those times in my 20s I “consented” after being worn down for hours were in actuality coercive, forcible rape.
- “If you are moving forward without enthusiastic consent, you are toying with sexual assault.” Actually, you’re likely committing sexual assault. Enthusiastic consent only.
For a more lengthy explanation of my continued clarity, please refer to the author’s note on the “No Means No” post.