No and "No" The

October 14, 2003



No and "No"

The folks in thepress and on the law blogs have been talking about "No means no." The problem with that is, as a practical matter, a meaningful percentage of women regularly us the word "no" when what they mean is "I want to have sex but I want you to do more to convince me that you want me." One study (unlinked because I read it yesterday and don't remember which blog had it) suggested that about a fifth of university women occasionaly use the word "no" this way.

As a practical matter, any time one person has sexual contect with another without the consent of the other, it is rape. They can use force, or noice, or a power relationship, or shame, or celebrity, but if there is no consent there is no go. (A couple who want to play rape fantasy and have a safe word, have consent so long as the aggressor obeys the safe word.)

So, what should we do? Should we expect women to say "this is rape" when a man goes too far? Should we draw a distinction between saying no and screaming NO? Certainly if we are teaching self defense classes to women to prepare them for future action it is a very good idea to train them to use words and noise to shock a drunken, horny date-rapist into realizing exactly what he is about to do. But these are not useful criteria to bring to a courtroom.

In a trial situation, such as the Kobe Bryant trial that is setting off these speculations, as long as she clearly and firmly says no, she has indicated her lack of consent.

As a man, these discussions lead to a sort of self-searching. Have I, in the past, ever put a date in a situation where I was pressuring for sex, where I disregarded her intentions? I don't think that I have, in part because I tended to mention that I knew the difference between "no," "not yet," and "not tonight" and would abide by them. I did. I am not particularly forceful or dominant in intimate situations. Luckily J does not play word games. That is one of the reasons I like her and one of the reasons why we stick together. If she is tired or not interested or not yet warmed up, she will say so in clear language. She does not play games with words, she does not do the "yes/no/maybe/dangle them on a string" thing. I do not and did not like those games myself. I tended to drop a person like a wet glove if they started to say one thing and mean another, or expect me to guess their thoughts. J and I are both awkward geeks, and we get along well.

That works for us, I still do not know what to say for "he said/she said" situations like the Kobe Bryant trial. I do know that if Macadamia turns out to be a dafter we will do our best to make sure she knows how to scream if she has to.
(Edit 1, added links. Might come back again.)

Posted by Red Ted at October 14, 2003 09:38 AM | TrackBack