It’s the 21st century. Stop pulling the “no sometimes means yes” card.
Greta Christina has posted the rewrite of that rape-y Christmas classic “Baby It’s Cold Outside”—particularly relevant after South Park used the song to mock Bill Cosby for the overwhelming rape accusations against him—that makes the lyrics about consent. At the bottom of her post, she addresses some of defenses of the song, which boils down to that dumb canard that sometimes women mean “yes” when they say “no”.
In response to the commonly-voiced objection that the woman in the song doesn’t really mean No, that she wants to say Yes but is worried about social disapproval (voiced here in these comments as well as many other places), I have this to say:….
It doesn’t make a damn bit of difference what the reasons for her objections are. No means no. If she were saying No because she thinks sex will make her nose turn blue or that space aliens will invade if she says Yes — she’s still saying No. Over and over and over again.
This. All of this. Most of the time when people say “sometimes no means yes” is actually something closer to, “She doesn’t want to have sex, but I think I can bully and badger her into it.” The bullying behavior is then defended by saying that the reasons a woman says no are not good enough, as if you have to earn your right to control who you have sex with, when that power should be yours by right.
This is one of the reasons the “pick-up artist” culture is so disgusting. (Obviously, caveat that some people who call themselves this are closer to dating coaches that focus on fun and consent, but talking about the general rule when it comes to PUAs here.) A common idea that goes around in PUA circles is the idea of “last minute objections”, which is a fancy way of saying that women are saying no. And it’s an item of faith in PUA circles that a woman’s no is not something to respect, but an obstacle to overcome, often by claiming her reasons for saying no don’t count or aren’t good enough. One of the popular examples is the “anti-slut defense”, where PUAs argue that because a woman is saying no out of deference to cultural norms about female sexuality, it isn’t a real no, and you don’t have to respect it. This justification allows them to excuse what often sounds like it’s outright rape, such as at PUA Lingo:
Post-sex ASD often involves justifications for the sex act: “It just happened,” “he wouldn’t give up,” “I was really drunk,” etc. PUAs should take this tendency of women into consideration, and make sex as easy for her as possible by taking the lead and responsibility for sex, and providing her with convenient excuses for sleeping with them.
Emphasis mine. What they say is taking “responsibility for sex” is what looks, in many cases, like letting a woman no she is not permitted to leave safely without giving him sex, whether she likes it or not. Which is assault.
But PUAs justify this boundary-crossing behavior—or even rape—by pointing out that the stigma against “sluts” is wrong. (Never mind that they often push that stigma hard, mocking and shaming women for having sex with them, even in cases where the PUA made it clear that “no” wasn’t an option.) This is a faux feminist argument, pretending that you’re fighting irrational stigma by bullying women into sex they don’t want.
But here’s the thing: Sex is supposed to be fun. I realize that PUAs get so obsessed with “scoring” that they forget this, but it’s true. And it’s not fun to feel ashamed and dirty, even if, abstractly, the social pressures that made you feel that way are illegitimate. There’s a time and place to work through the social stigma against having sex while female, but at the hands of a man who doesn’t respect women and therefore refuses to respect the word “no” is not that time. If you make someone who believes in the concept of “slut” feel like a slut, you’re a dick. And she’s definitely not having fun.
That’s why I scoff at the “sometimes no mean yes” argument. Most of the time, it’s utter bullshit. Sure, some women may say “no” while part of them feels the urge and wants to say yes, but the part of them that wants to say no is winning, and that deserves to be respected. In the rare case that a woman is playing around and saying “no” because she was taught that’s how to make men chase her, I say so the fuck what. For one, that’s far more rare than cases where women feel ambivalent and choose “no” because of that ambivalence. But also, if a woman does that and you take her at her word, that’ll teach her not to play games. Better for everyone in the long run. The only way this isn’t all total common sense is if you think men are entitled to sex and that women have to have “good” reasons to earn their way out of giving it. Which is monstrous.