Jessica Valenti and Jaclyn Friedman's collection of essays in Yes Means Yes!: Visions of Female Sexual Power & A World Without Rape is an engaging, fast-paced exploration of sexual assault in contemporary North America. The work contains twenty-seven essays written by various authors which seek to understand issues central to sexual assault such as consent, virginity, the media, stereotypes, race, and sexual orientation. Yes Means Yes! echoes the personal tales of many different lifestyles.
Two themes jumped out at me during my read of this book:
1. The authors behind Yes Means Yes! seek to counter myths concerning sexual assault, and namely one rather large one: that what a woman wears or how she acts can be used to justify her sexual assault (ie: 'she was dressed like a *%^#, soooo she was asking for it'). I found it refreshing that so many contributions in this work pointed out the flaws in blaming the victims of sexual assault and instead focused on perpetrators.
2. The essays within this anthology examine male stereotypes and experiences of sexual assault as perpetrator, victim, and wrongly-accused perpetrator. Men seem to believe that nice guys do, truly and honestly, finish last when it comes to relationships. Many men, as attested within Yes Means Yes! and results garnered from questioning males in my own life, claim that they have to act like jerks to get a girl. And ladies, we know we have all fallen (either hard or hardly-at-all) for that bad boy at one time or another. Why does this happen?!
Overall, I highly enjoyed Yes Means Yes!. It is an entertaining and fast read which can be read in any order and in any time frame... just flip through the table of contents and find a title that leaps out at you. I am sure you will with contributions such as "A Love Letter from an Anti-Rape Activist to Her Feminist Sex-Toy Store" (by Lee Jacobs Riggs), "Who're You Calling a Whore?: A Conversation with Three Sex Workers on Sexuality, Empowerment, and the Industry" (by Susan Lopez, Mariko Passion, and Saundra), and "In Defence of Going Wild or: How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love Pleasure (and How You Can, Too) (by Jaclyn Friedman).
Friedman, J. & Valenti, J. (2008). Yes means yes!: Visions of female sexual power & a world without rape. Berkeley: Seal Press.