Monday, October 31, 2011

Yes Means Yes

One of the most important books I have ever read is Yes Means Yes described by its authors and editors as "a groundbreaking new look at rape, edited by writer and activist Jaclyn Friedman and founder Jessica Valenti. Through the anthology — and now this blog — we’re trying to move beyond “no means no” to connect the dots between the shaming and co-option of female sexuality in our culture(s) and some of the ways rape is allowed and encouraged to function." From

I have passed this book around to my friends, male and female, and have had some of the most important conversations around sexuality, rape, and enthusiastic 'yes' because of it. Author Jaclyn Friedman recently did an interview at Salon about her new book ,“What You Really, Really Want: The Smart Girl’s Shame-Free Guide to Sex and Safety.” A description of the book from Salon is included below: 

Too many books in this genre promise certain drive-your-man-wild tricks, or they take a side in the politicized debate over hookup culture. Friedman instead has one thing on her agenda: Getting girls to explore and embrace their own authentic sexual identities without shame, fear or guilt. Instead of arguing for empowerment through one-night stands or, conversely, abstinence, she leaves it up to young women to decide what it is that’s best for them. But she also offers guidance along the way, urging them to critically examine the social pressures and media messages that have shaped their understandings of sexiness, sexual fulfillment and love.
The book is filled with writing exercises that prompt readers to reflect on everything from body image to sexual assault. It’s essentially a guide to writing one’s own personal sexual manifesto. This is a rare thing in a culture filled with generic, passive models of female sexuality – from pop offerings like the Pussycat Dolls to hardcore porn stars. 

(Emphasis mine)

Below I've included a few of my favorite excerpts from the interview: 

It’s awfully hard to know where the cultural messaging starts and where the “real you” begins.Well, like I said in the book, it’s actually impossible to know that. There is no real you that’s separate from all the ways that we as individuals have been influenced as we’ve grown up and gone through the world. The idea of some sort of sexual blank slate that you can get back down to and start from is a really harmful idea, because it’s impossible to achieve.
The idea is to figure out what are the ways you have been influenced, which one of those influences are bringing you pleasure and happiness, and which one of those are hurting you or keeping you from experiencing pleasure and connection.

I know so many young women who identify as feminist and feel very conflicted about some of what really does do it for them because they feel like it’s politically incorrect.
That makes me so sad! No one speaks for feminism writ large, but myfeminism says that any one sex act is no more empowering than the next. There’s nothing inherently degrading about any sex act. It’s all about how both people involved are approaching it. On the flip side, there’s nothing inherently empowering about any sex act. I think people sometimes misunderstand my work and think I’m advocating that everyone go out and have casual sex, as though that would be empowering for everyone. What I want is to help women create a sexuality for themselves that is centered around what works for them.

My sister bought me my copy of 'Yes Means Yes' and I've been sharing it ever since. Friedman asks and answers important questions about how our culture influences our sexual lives and what it means to be a feminist. I recommend her writings to anyone! I swear she'll change the way you think about approaching sexual relationships with your partner(s).