Yes Means Yes!: Visions of Female Sexual Power and A World Without Rape Paperback – Dec 2 2008
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Of all the arguments out there that propose how to end rape, embracing women's sexual pleasure may not sound like a likely solution. But Yes Means Yes argues otherwise. By investigating the myriad ways the sexual choices of women can take shape, this anthology argues, not only should women know what they don't want, but they also should seize their freedom to explore what they do want. By challenging blanket claims, like that all males are sexual aggressors, and taking the shame away from females who are bona fide sexual submissives, Yes Means Yes says the conscious decisions we make about sex in its many forms are the best medicine for the illness that is rape culture."
— Bust Magazine
"Utopian novels have grappled with the idea of a world without rape, but what would the path to that world look like? The controversial essays that make up Yes Means Yes! light the way along this very rough road and, not surprisingly, offer no easy solutions…The authors in this collection speak with authority and, unfortunately for some, from personal experience."
— Ms. Magazine
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The authors of these essays look at the different ways in which the traditionalist approach supports and enables rape and sexual assault. The conservative gender roles that present a woman as a secondary being actually promote the culture of rape: "While right-wing groups certainly don't come out in support of rape, they do promote an extremist ideology that enables rape and promotes a culture where sexual assault is tacitly accepted. The supposedly 'pro-family' marital structure, in which sex is exchanged for support and the woman's identity is absorbed into her husband's, reinforces the idea of women as property and as simple accoutrements to a man's more fully realized existence." So when we rush to declare ourself as male property by giving up our names, careers, interests and preferences for the huge honor of belonging to a man, let us remember where this ideology comes from and where it often leads us.
The very structure of our patriarchal vision of sexuality is informed by gender stereotypes. Men are expected to want sex more than women and employ a variety of "courting" tactics in order to get sex from presumably unwilling women. Every woman knows how annoying the rhetoric of female affections that have to be 'conquered' through male effort is. From early childhood, men are taught that female 'no' doesn't really mean a final and unquestionable rejection. They are told that 'no' means maybe and that effort and perseverance can eventually turn a 'no' into a 'yes.' And this myth is precisely what leads to so many stalkings, sexuall assaults, and rapes.
I have had the misfortune of experiencing the attitude inspired by the women-need-to-be-conquered myth more times that I care to remember. It's annoying and humiliating to be the object of male attempts at winning your affections once you have indicated that you are not interested. This state of things will not change unless we revise our understanding of gender roles. Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and A World Without Rape also points out how this vision of gender roles victimizes men: "When society equates maleness with a constant desire for sex, men are socialized out of genuine sexual decision making, and are less likely to be able to know how to say no or be comfortable refusing sex when they don't want it."
The authors of the book analyze brilliantly how rape is used as a tool of social control. Women have to feel constantly fearful of placing themselves in the public realm and abandoning the mythical safety of their home, even though that home turns into the scene of violence, assault, and rape a lot more often than the streets.
I enjoyed the book's use of tags on each essay like a blog instead of grouping them in sections of similar themes as per usual in books. It makes reading the book feel more engaging because you have a say in where you go next. Under the tags at the end of each essay are other essays working with the same theme(s). I would have liked page numbers alongside these listed essays, but this is a minor quibble because I don't mind flipping a few pages. Plus, in heading back to the table of contents, you may find an essay you wish to read that shares none of the tags of the essay you just read. Dynamic reading, indeed!
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