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Maybe We Should Start on “Yes Means Yes,” No?

April 18, 2013

Some (okay, all) of my exes may be surprised to hear this, but I am not opposed to the concept of consensual sweaty happy fun times. Those times aren’t any interest of mine at the moment, but suffice to say that I would be a terrible hypocrite if I said I personally agree with True Love Waits, abstinence-only “sex” “education”, or nothing but all-lights-off, missionary-style procreation without recreation. Condoms and prescription birth control are your friends, ladies and germs (that aren’t STDs)!

But boy howdy, does most of the world have continuing hang-ups when it comes to sex, some more so than others. While I fully admit that I can’t even imagine the sort of shit young women and men have to put up with in, say, parts of the Middle East and Catholic-controlled Latin American nations, being sexually curious in the U.S. is not completely devoid of its share of shame and social stigma.

Take, for instance, the plight of being female and enjoying sex, or wanting to enjoy sex with someone who has not expressed some form of commitment to you. Have a one-night stand, and you’re invariably doomed to a life of disappointment, broken dreams, and unrequited love. Have several one-night stands…hoo, boy. There’s a four-letter word for that that starts with S, ends with T, and has nothing to do with anuses (unless you got really kinky, you lowly trollop).

So you can see why women in America don’t want to be too candid about their desires. One need only look at the rash of horrifying news articles about teenagers who are publicly disgraced for being raped and/or sharing too much information by Facebook or text message to get a sickening understanding of the sort of emotional trauma that being, or being perceived as, promiscuous may all too easily inflict on the bearer of that reputation.

With all that to worry about, who wouldn’t give, at best, a coy, “I’ll have to think about it,” to a handsome stranger flirting without abandon at the bar? Or, at worst, say, “No, I don’t think so (tee-hee!)”? with the hopes that the handsome stranger will understand that this is the very definition of verbal irony and persist away?

And whether the woman was speaking ironically or not, the guy feels obligated to persist. After all, he probably knows about The Game, a book I picked up while looking for something else entirely at the library and read partly because I like to look at different perspectives from mine and mostly because I’m a masochist (but not in the fun way, in case you were wondering).

And I really hated myself afterwards because I had to completely agree with one of Strauss’s most obnoxious points (I paraphrase, not hating myself enough to read through it again): A straight man who really wants to get laid has to keep giving the woman chances to back out, then convince her to keep going in such a way that she make him responsible for being too irresistible. But letting her pull away is key, because if she says “yes” too readily, she’s a loose woman of low character. Shame, shame, shame.

Which is stupid. We’ve worked so hard to get “no means no” ingrained into people’s heads that we’ve ignored what should be the corollary: yes means yes. By focusing solely on “no,” men and women of varying sexual orientations only have that one word in their vocabulary, and no matter how it’s said (or even implied), interpreting that word is not sexy.

So it’s my humble opinion that we, as a society, need to back up and start focusing on that word that starts with Y, ends with S, and isn’t less a word than an acronym for Your Life Sucks (which it won’t, if people in the dating game can be permitted to give clear signals). Throw caution to the wind. Say yes. You can even add one of the Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television in front of it for added emphasis.

Think of all the benefits. You and that attractive stranger can cut the chatter and go straight to the heart (or other organs) of the matter. And people like me who really mean “no means no” can make like D.A.R.E. wanted me to all those years ago and Just Say No, with no further explanation or risk of physical assault required. Hell, getting used to a definitive “yes” right off the bat might even prevent jackass delivery drivers from making uninvited phone calls after their attempted pick-up was met with a slack-jawed stare and a, “Did that really just happen?”

So maybe, possibly, perhaps reintroducing the word “yes” into our dating and mating vocabulary would be a good idea, no? Because if I could spend less time getting rid of unwanted male attention, I could devote more time to important matters like coming up with five-years-too-late retorts for all the men who called me some variation of “frigid bitch” to chill the sting of, “Hell fucking no!”

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27 Comments
  1. I wonder if after too many post yes sex romps if the extremely attractive among us who get a lot of yesses wouldn’t develop a Pavlovian response wherein men develop erections and women would become flush at inappropriate times upon getting yes answers to nonsexual questions?

  2. Fact! I like this — consent is not only sexy, it should be something that’s embraced and enjoyed for what it is without the healthy dose of shame or coyness that’s the current unspoken (but ironclad) requirement.

    • I hate the shame and coyness, if only because I can pretty oblivious to social cues myself. If I were a guy approaching a woman (or even the other way around, but it’s totally okay for guys to say, “Sure! Let’s do it!” right off), I’d take the coyness or aversion at face value and miss out on what could be a good time. Sucks for everyone involved.

      • As someone who does approach women I *do* take it at face value… and I have missed out.

        I’m a fan of people being upfront. While actions can speak louder than words, there is no guarantee. And in this area I prefer guarantees.

      • I hate surprises, and unless actions are accompanied by a flashing neon sign (words, in short), I tend to miss their underlying meaning. I can’t speak to same-sex approaches from personal experience, but it sure seems like more straightforwardness would be of benefit to everyone looking to meet people.

  3. I LOVE this post! And I totally agree with you. The world will be a better place when women can celebrate their sexuality. Keep talking. You’re awesome.

    • Ha ha, thank you! Hopefully people will start spreading the word about how awesome it is to be upfront with their desires!

      • Well, I’ll spread the word as hard as I can, but in the epicenter of the Bible Belt, trust that I’ll be outnumbered. In other news, iPhone recognized Bible Belt and capitalized it. Twice. Terrifying.

      • The iPhone’s attention to detail terrifies sometimes. I’m pretty sure my autocorrect knows more about geography and current events than I do. And sadly, I can see how any message besides, “God has a plan and a spouse in mind for you, so you’d better wait until marriage!” would be greeted with a steely, “I’ll pray for you,” at best. I’m sending you all the mental strength I can muster.

      • Hahaha – I’m pretty sure mine knows more in those categories than I do as well. I especially love when Siri blows it. I said some explicit words to her that I wanted her to relay to someone else, and it showed up on the screen as “Cindy 30.” There is no one named Cindy in this scenario in any way. Maybe that’s like a 900text suggestion? I think she was openly mocking me.

      • Siri and her bizarre modesty. I’ve sent voice-texts to friends that made no sense after she cleaned them up, but I didn’t realize that until I’d get texts back asking me when I’d developed such an interest in ducks and ducking, whatever that was. Cindy 30, though…yeah, I’d say she was smirking at you there!

  4. Fuck yeah! Preach, sistah! You’ve put into words what I’ve been thinking!

  5. Yes agreed! Great post.

  6. Agreed! Even worse is how much of this is perpetuated by WOMEN! We really need to reclaim ourselves in this department.

    • It is truly horrible how much slut-shaming comes from other women. It’d be damned nice if we could all stick up for each other…

  7. bbeaty permalink

    I have been thinking the same thing. For “No” to mean anything, we need to start using “Yes.” You do a good job of highlighting the impossible place we have put both men and women with our prudish and sexist attitudes toward sex.

    Even as a life long feminist and someone who has been around the block more than a few times, I have to admit I fell into some of that “Oh, no, I shouldn’t.” behavior when I met my current boy friend three years ago. He recently told me he had been ready to walk away if I had turned his offer to dance a second time the night we met. That was his rule. Ask twice, then leave. Felt a flash of retroactive disappointment. Didn’t he know he was supposed to pursue me until . . . .when . . ..?

    Thanks!

    • It is pretty terrible on both sides of the equation, no matter how much of a feminist either party happens to be. Good on you for saying yes, though, and on your boyfriend for having that rule–maybe more guys saying, “Okay,” and walking away in response to a quasi-rejection would help spur the movement toward just saying yes.

  8. Mariette permalink

    So true! It’s said every way but bluntly that the Woman is the ‘Keeper of Sex’ & she must fend men off until at last she gives in to her own desires; i.e. he keeps on & keeps on until you’re tired of telling yourself no – or you’ve had just enough drinks that you’re getting a little rash with your decision making, so what the hell. Unfortunately, it seems that guys like the chase and they enjoy having to work for it, so women play just the right amount of coy to keep his attention.

    I’m all in for changing this & Yes means Yes! and there’s nothing wrong with that!

    • There are so many other areas to play games and make pursuits. I’ve never understood why dating had to be one of them. It also seems unfair to both men and women that women are perceived to be these mighty moral Keepers of Virtue and men are perceived to be little better than dogs humping anything that will sit still long enough. Seems like upending the game a bit would be of benefit to both!

  9. As someone who was sexually assaulted in college I find this an incredibly refreshing post.My perpetrator was found “not guilty” despite the fact that I clearly expressed NO multiple times. Instead the judge told me that I didn’t have enough experience with men (at age 22?) to know what to do and I should have raised hell to defend myself. Believe me, if I’d wanted it my mouth would have put a W at the end of that word.

    I digress. I think its an excellent concept that should be embraced. No means no. Yes means yes. If more people bothered to ask yes maybe they’d get stay out of situations ending with a girl sobbing her eyes out reliving what happens when No is ignored or accepted as an invitation. A lot of guys at bars now wonder why I am that frigid bitch. It really is largely because of exactly what you express in your post. It makes me feel a hell of a lot better to know I’m not the only one who thinks yes should be the standard, not no.

    • Holy hell. There are no words in the English language adequate enough to express how sorry I am to hear what happened to you, both with the asshole who assaulted you and the judge who thought “no” wasn’t enough of a defense. What the hell is wrong with our court system–actually, the whole entire system we call society?!

      I know embracing “yes” as a new standard isn’t going to stop people who are sociopaths and genuinely do not care. But at least maybe it’d stop them from prodding until there are tears (again, WTH?!) or feeling like they need to resort to calling someone a “frigid bitch” because she honestly means no, and they felt that they needed to salvage their egos.

      Thank you for sharing this.

  10. Hey! I think your blog is awesome! I randomly found it the other day when I was hanging out at my boyfriend/not boyfriend’s house. I loved the name of your blog… not taken, not available. I was surprised to see that you live in Denver! I’m new to both Colorado blogging and was wondering if you’d like to get together sometime? I think I’m going to a poetry slam in Denver tonight.

    • Haha, my last boyfriend/not boyfriend soon fell solidly into the former camp! And I love meeting new people who live close to me…pity I’m going to my grandmother’s house for dinner tonight. Send me an email, though: bkk9@georgetown.edu!

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