Yes Means Yes
So, as with many of these articles, this one got started from a conversation I was having with some friends about consent, rape, and sexual assault (we also occasionally eat free cake and twirl about on spinny chairs). And it struck me that, while I’ve written quite a bit about sexual assault and rape in fictional media (see: Fifty Shades of Grey), I’ve not actually said much on the subject of real-life rape. Trigger warning, obviously, for discussions of rape and sexual assault.
I unequivocally support the notion of Yes Means Yes- that is, that consent does not constitute the lack of a no, but rather the presence of a yes (or of another kind of affirmative consent- you can read more about that here). And I’d like to talk about why. Because I’m tired of explaining to people why supporting affirmative consent is not a radical act.
Look, I’ll get straight to it: if I find out that one more of my female friends being raped and having it shoved aside as a “consequence” for “reckless” behaviour, if I hear one more story about a guy being raped that ends with “but he still got laid though”, if I step out of my house one more time and have to face someone grabbing my body in the street, if I hear one more person asking “Well, what was she wearing?”, if I hear one more punchline ending with a joke about prisoners getting raped, if I hear one more story like this one, or this one, or this one, I’m going to fucking scream. It blows my mind how fucking mixed-up our society’s view of what consent constitutes is. It fucking terrifies me, because I, along with millions of people in this country and across the world, have to face the repercussions of what happens when we don’t teach people to actively seek consent for sexual activity from someone who is of age, concious, and not under the influence of drugs or alcohol. All the above scenarios, while not entirely preventable with yes means yes in action, would at least be seriously different if people took the acquisition of affirmative consent seriously.
And yes, I’ve heard the ridiculous arguments against yes means yes. Yes, I know that some people are concerned that having to acquire consent of the people they’re having sex with will ruin their sex lives. And to those people, I’d like to say this: if you’re genuinely concerned that asking the person you’re having sex with whether or not they’d actually like to be doing it with you will get in the way of you getting laid, you need to take a serious look at your sexual encounters. Why does the thought of asking for consent bother you? Seriously, why? If you’re having consensual sex anyway, the only thing that will change is the occasional “Hey, is it okay if I do X?”. If you’re not sure, then I can see why actually asking that question might freak you out so much.
So, that’s why I support affirmative consent, and I always will. Until we get to a place where we can trust that people recognise what consent is or isn’t, I’m quite happy encouraging people to wait for a “yes” before doing any manner of filthy, disgusting, and utterly consensual stuff they want to get down to.