Review: Yes Means Yes

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

Author:  various authors, edited by Jaclyn Friedman and Jessica Valenti

Published:  December 1, 2008

Page Count:  256

Genres:  Nonfiction, Feminism, Essays

My Rating:  5/5

In this groundbreaking new look at rape edited by writer and activist Jaclyn Friedman and Full Frontal Feminism and He’s A Stud, She’s A Slut author Jessica Valenti, the way we view rape in our culture is finally dismantled and replaced with a genuine understanding and respect for female sexual pleasure. Feminist, political, and activist writers alike will present their ideas for a paradigm shift from the “No Means No” model—an approach that while necessary for where we were in 1974, needs an overhaul today.

Yes Means Yes will bring to the table a dazzling variety of perspectives and experiences focused on the theory that educating all people to value female sexuality and pleasure leads to viewing women differently, and ending rape. Yes Means Yes aims to have radical and far-reaching effects: from teaching men to treat women as collaborators and not conquests, encouraging men and women that women can enjoy sex instead of being shamed for it, and ultimately, that our children can inherit a world where rape is rare and swiftly punished. With commentary on public sex education, pornography, mass media, Yes Means Yes is a powerful and revolutionary anthology.

First let me just state that I found this anthology simply amazing.  And I haven’t seen too many reviews of this book, so I’m thrilled to be able to present it to all of you today.  Especially because this topic is SO very important.  Way too many girls and women are sexually assaulted or raped in their lifetimes.  And way too many people don’t understand the severity of this crime, the toll it takes on a woman’s psyche, how the horrific act of having your body autonomy stolen from you can wreak havoc on your soul for years afterwords.  I know this because I am one of these women.

Yes, I did just share something extremely personal on this blog (shocker, right?).  I was raped on multiple occasions by my now ex-boyfriend.  At the time I didn’t fully understand that what was happening to me was rape.  I was never beaten, I was never shoved up against a wall or woke up the next morning with bruises and black eyes.  But I did find myself trapped under him, sobbing uncontrollably while things were being done to my body that I had no control over whatsoever.  I did say “no” eight or nine times before comprehending that I didn’t have a choice in the matter, and because allowing it to happen was so much easier than dealing with the consequences of actually following through with my “no”.  And at the time, I truly believed that what was happening to me was my fault.  I thought I was a terrible girlfriend, I wasn’t “meeting his needs”, I wasn’t emotionally strong enough and I didn’t demand enough respect from him for him to believe me when I said no.  I honestly did not categorize what happened to me, night after night, as rape.  But it was, and that’s why a book like this is so important.

If someone had put the revolutionary idea into my head that the only thing that should allow someone else access to my body was an enthusiastic “yes”, maybe I could have seen my ex for what he was sooner.  Maybe if I thought I deserved to make my own decisions regarding what happened to my body, maybe if I understood that anyone who can have sex with someone who is crying and saying “please don’t do this” is so obviously a rapist, maybe then I would have ended that relationship a lot sooner than I did.  I don’t know.  But I do know that we don’t talk about this stuff nearly enough in our culture.  We encourage girls to avoid rape, we teach girls to not dress slutty, to not walk alone at night, to always stay in groups at parties, to be careful not to drink too much; we teach them that if they take these precautions they will not be raped.  What we don’t teach them is that the only thing that is the same in all rapes is that the woman is simply in the presence of a rapist.  We don’t teach girls and women that no matter how we dress, how we act, how much we drink, and how few friends we have with us  it cannot possibly be our own faults we are raped.  I could go on and on.

But instead I’ll just say this:  Yes Means Yes is awesome.  It is groundbreaking.  It is courageous.  It is a collection of some of the best, well-written, thorough, most intelligent essays I have ever read.  It is a collection that needed to be put together, and it’s a collection that needs to be read.  Instead of highly recommending it (which I obviously do) I’m just going to ask you – please read this one.  You won’t regret it.