Shifting from "No means No" to "Yes means Yes!"
The slogan "no means no" has penetrated the mainstream where it has been embraced by many but become "white noise" to many others. And for those who have embraced it, it problematically implies that absence of "no" is akin to consent. This is not the case.
To be clear: not saying "no" is not the same as saying "yes."
Further, if "no" is not an option, "yes" is meaningless.
Healthy sexual expression can occur only when "yes" and "no" are equally valued. In order to support healthy sexual expression, the Anti-Rape Movement must shift to a sex-positive framework.
A sex-positive framework can take various forms. However, in the context of the Anti-Rape Movement, the following should be applied:
- Consensual sex is the opposite of rape. As rape is a negative force both personally and in society, sex can be a positive force both in personal development and in society at large.
- Communication, consent and pleasure are necessary components of sexual health.
- Sexual health includes engaging in sexual acts that are safe, sane and consensual.
- Consensual sexual expression is a basic human right, regardless of the form that expression takes.
- Sexual assault, pregnancy & STI transmission prevention are necessary components of healthy sexuality education.
- People have the right to accurate and straightforward sexual health information.
- It is inappropriate to judge others’ consensual choices regarding how they have sex, who to have sex with or how they define their sexual orientation and identity.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and the sex-positive incarnation of the Anti-Rape Movement won’t be either.
But luckily, the foundation has already been laid. Jaclyn Friedman & Jessica Valenti’s 2008 anthology: Yes Means Yes! Visions of Female Sexual Power & A World Without Rape reflects the emergent dialogue about sex-positivity in the Anti-Rape Movement. In its 300+ pages Yes Means Yes! addresses many of the issues that will be addressed in this blog and does so with respect to the racial, economic and social diversity that was too-often absent from the 1970s Feminist Movement in America.
So what's holding us back?
Shifting to a sex-positive framework means addressing difficult questions that the movement has avoided answering in the past. For instance - since a person cannot legally consent to sexual activity while under the influence of alcohol: is all drunk sex actually rape? This author argues that it is not. But these are the types of questions that the movement has to struggle with in order to make this necessary shift to a sex-positive framework.
But struggle is not a bad thing. "Struggle" implies movement. And the Anti-Rape Movement needs just that: To Move. American culture looks vastly different that it did in the 1970s when the movement emerged. It's time to adapt. It's time grow. It's time to move and take action.
I propose we begin taking action with something every reader can do: start thinking about sex. Start thinking about how sex is represented in the music you listen to. Start thinking about how sex is represented in advertisements you see throughout the day. Think about conversations you've had or overheard about sex. What are the messages you've received?
Then think about this: rape is about power and manipulation. Sex is about pleasure at the expense of no one and to the benefit of you and your partner(s). Have you ever confused these things in your life? It's likely that you have. After all, we only know what we're taught. And we're taught to confuse rape with sex (see "Welcome" post). So this isn't about beating yourself up. This is about deciding how you want to proceed.
The first step is to imagine what you want. So lets get moving!
 Adapted by SHEER: Sexuality Health Education to End Rape, from Cory Silverberg, AASECT- Certified Sexuality Educator, http://sexuality.about.com/od/glossary/g/sex_positive.htm