Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and A World Without Rape

Table of Contents
 
FOREWORD
 
BY MARGARET CHO
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
YES MEANS YES
is the kind of book that all women should read. For too long we’ve been shamed for being sexual, and we’ve been denied the language to describe our experiences.
 
I am a very sexual person. I really, really, really enjoy sex and have had quite a lot of extraordinary sex in my life, and hopefully I will continue to until the end of my days (but I don’t want to count my dick before it’s hatched!).
 
The beginning of my sex life was not so great. I was fourteen and although it was the first time I technically had sex, I am conflicted about whether I consider it losing my virginity, because I didn’t say yes to it. He was a much older man, extremely handsome, in his twenties, and dating a vivacious and pretty blond senior cheerleader from my high school. He was grown up and had an apartment, and my friend was dead drunk and we were getting kicked out of a party. We had no place to go because I’d told my parents I was staying at her house, and she’d told her parents she was staying at my house. He said we could go with him and he would let her sleep it off at his place. He was so good looking, I was scared to talk to him. His girlfriend was very popular at school, so it made me a little starstruck to be around him.
 
Before I knew it, he was on top of me. Then he was inside me. No ceremony, no foreplay, no warning, no consent. It never came up. He was the kind of guy who thought he had some kind of “YES” carte blanche. Entitled by his physical beauty and status in the upper classes of high school society, he thought he didn’t need to ask for consent, especially from a nobody like me. Who was I to turn him down? It hurt and hurt and did not stop hurting, and it still hurts now when I think about the fact that I didn’t say anything because I was too scared.
 
I didn’t say no, because I thought he was beautiful and popular and grown up, and I was none of these things. I didn’t say no, because I didn’t think I had the right to say no. He rescued us from the sinking ship of the party. His girlfriend was a popular cheerleader. He was gorgeous, and I was a fat, gothy nerd. I thought I should have been grateful. He finally came inside me in a globby mess, pushed me off the bed, and was soon asleep. I sat on the floor, my striped tights around my ankles, sick to my stomach, too scared to move. The next day, all the kids at school heard about it. They told me, “The only way you would get sex is if you got raped, because you are so fat and ugly.”
 
You never forget your first time. After that awful start, I thought I’d managed to make a full recovery. My first boyfriend was younger than I was; he had long hair and looked pretty like a girl, and he sometimes got me so wet it would be running down my leg (seriously). He made me feel so beautiful that I could start to see it, too. I learned to love sex and love myself and I grew up and became exactly what I wanted to become and I don’t go to high school reunions. Ever.
 
My past haunted me still, but it came to me in strange ways. I am surprised by how much sex I have had in my life that I didn’t want to have. Not exactly what’s considered “real” rape, or “date” rape, like my first time, although it is a kind of rape of the spirit—a dishonest portrayal or distortion of my own desire in order to appease another person—so it wasn’t rape at gunpoint, but rape as the alternative to having to explain my reasons for not wanting to have sex. You do it out of love sometimes, to save another’s feelings. And you do it out of hate sometimes, because you don’t want to hear your partner complain—like you hate their voice so much that whenever you aren’t made to hear it, it is a blessing. This is all sex I have said yes to, and sometimes even initiated—that I didn’t want to have. Often I would initiate the encounter just to get it over with, so it would be behind me, so it would be done. It is the worst feeling; it is like unpaid prostitution, emotional whoring. You don’t get paid in dollars, you get paid in averted arguments; you get paid by being able to avoid the truth another day. You hold your breath and you don’t feel your body, and you just let go of yourself. Your body responds just enough to make them think that you are into it, that you want it, that this is really sex. But it isn’t. I hate it, but I have done it, and I really don’t ever want to do it again because it is dehumanizing and demoralizing.
 
I said yes because I felt it was too much trouble to say no. I said yes because I didn’t want to have to defend my “no,” qualify it, justify it—deserve it. I said yes because I thought I was so ugly and fat that I should just take sex every time it was offered, because who knew when it would be offered again. I said yes because I believed what the kids at school told me—that the only way I could get laid was to be raped. I said yes to partners I never wanted in the first place, because to say no at any point after saying yes for so long would make our entire relationship a lie, so I had to keep saying yes in order to keep the “no” I felt a secret. This is such a messed-up way to live, such an awful way to love.
 
So these days, I say yes only when I mean yes. It does require some vigilance on my part to make sure I don’t just go on sexual automatic pilot and let people do whatever. It forces me to be really honest with myself and others. It makes me remember that loving myself is also about protecting myself and defending my own borders. I say yes to me.
 
And that’s what the essays in this book do. They encourage you to say yes to yourself, yes to your desires, and yes to the idea that you have a right to a joyful sex life, free from violence and shame. So, to each essay you read, say
yes.
 
INTRODUCTION
 
IN EARLY 2007, the feminist blogosphere was in an uproar. An article about rape, published by Women’s eNews, was being decried as victim-blaming and regressive.
 
In “Underage Women Sidle Up to Barroom Risks,” reporter Liz Funk wrote that “scantily clad” young women who frequented bars were more likely to be raped. The piece relied on quotes from known anti-feminists, and statistics about drinking and rape were featured alongside stories of women being raped and murdered after a night on the town. The message was clear, and one that women have heard many times before: It’s
our
responsibility not to get raped. If we go out, drink, or wear something “revealing,” we are putting ourselves at risk. What’s missing from this equation (and the article) is the rapist.

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