Yes Means Yes Means Shifting Blame


A new app called Good2Go will make sure that sex is between consenting parties

Yes Means Yes – affirmative consent – is an unrealistically high standard for how people talk about sex in relationships. I’d go so far as to say it is a flagrant denial of reality in that people almost never have a straight-forward conversation about sex, not to mention anything else.  This sham of a law will shift blame, not solve problems.

The insanity of this position is obvious if you consider the impossibility of uttering the phrase “Do you consent to having sex with me?” Without having any feelings about saying it.  Would you feel bold?  Would you fear rejection?  Does it feel, somehow too direct and matter of fact?  Would you resent having to ask like some panhandler?  Would you rather just tell your partner “I want you” and see how they react?  Or would you be afraid they would feel objectified?  Maybe you don’t even realize whether or not you really want to do something until you start doing it.  These feelings are what constitute our lived experience of the meaning of the situation, not the narrative used.

And how about the recipient of that question?  What if he answered:

“Well, I did feel like having sex with you before you asked.  But now I’m kind of self conscious and not really feeling turned on.”

“Does that mean you do or do not want me to try and help you feel turned on, or less self conscious?”

“Yes.  I mean both, but I feel kind of like I shouldn’t need your help.”

“Huh.  So you’re not turned on, but you want to be.  Does that mean you don’t want to have sex with me but feel like you’re supposed to be enjoying this, or that you do want to have sex with me but don’t feel like you can say so?”

If people only have sex when they wanted to, they would have a lot less of it. Having sex to avoid confrontation, rejection, conflict, embarrassment or shame are among the many reasons people have sex.  After that you could list performing, meeting expectations, anxiety, self loathing, revenge, and insecurity.

To this admirable list add all the things people do to avoid having sex and to avoid being direct add:  Getting drunk, working late – or even pretending to be drunk, busy, stressed, headache, sick, tired, etc.

We must understand that the same psychology that makes it impossible for some women to adequately say “no” is what will prevent Yes Means Yes from working.  People do not yet feel as free as they are and I think we all deserve a little more sympathy and a little less blame.  (a Nietzschean second innocence). As always, where hearts fail us we substitute with omniscient ritualistic bureaucracy.  

Not to mention, the only possible way a college student could remember to have this conversation is if instead of enjoying the moment they were preoccupied with worrying about punishment from the government.  I wonder why you would be thinking such things at a time like this?  Perhaps your existential guilt can no longer be laid at the feet of dead gods so now you need a living one.

Masters and Johnson (1979, pp. 64-81) studied 307 heterosexual couples chosen specifically because they functioned well sexually.  These were the “healthy” ones.  Women in the study almost universally complained about uncomfortable breast and clitoral touching.  Men constantly complained about uncomfortable or dissatisfying penile stroking.  The key is they claimed this to the researchers.  Out of thousands of observed encounters only three women ever mentioned this to their partners and no men ever said anything.

It’s nice when people can be direct, open or vulnerable.  But the assumption that people should be able to talk this way will be more damaging than the alternative.  All that will happen is that men can be more effectively blamed and punished and actual raping will continue unabated.  This will happen because people rape on purpose to overcome feelings of powerlessness and disrespect.  You know, like the kind of powerlessness you feel when you’re supposed to be able to stand up for yourself in difficult conversations, fail, and wind up feeling resentment and the desire to punish others in an effort to avoid hard to dispel self hatred.

People used to do rely on roles to live a predictable life.  With the collapse of socially defined behavior, interpersonal anxiety abounds and one solution is to find another way to make people predictable.  Unfortunately, there is some evidence that we are using the government to make people more predictable.

In a fit of insanity I have tried to ask partners in the past if they wanted to have sex with me.  The universal response has been “Why would you ask me that?”

Another part of who we are as humans has slipped away into the ausland.  

*Note:  Much closer to reality is Swann’s courtship of Odette (Proust, 1913).  Proust’s portrayal of the interlocuteurs illuminates how we mutually use behavior to convey meaning about that which we can’t communicate directly.  The reason for this, I would say, is that much of the meaning of what we do exists in mutually constructed illusion.  In the vignette of Swann’s courtship, he conveys both his interest and the permission for his advances through the subterfuge of adjusting flowers on the bodice of Odette.  I would further my claim by saying that the attempt to be direct (yes means yes) will itself become a new metaphor.  The question again:  Why are you asking?  Are you asking because you don’t know, to convey respect or to avoid blame?

8 thoughts on “Yes Means Yes Means Shifting Blame”

  1. Hey, I have nothing specific to add here except to say I’m really enjoying your work so far. Keep it up!

    1. Thanks for the question. Freud’s metaphor (Civilization and Its Discontents) compares the conscious mind to a tiny garrison surrounded by a besieging army (the unconscious, sometimes society). He likened the process of insight to expanding the garrison (ego) to occupy (be aware of) more of the ausland (outside, or uncivilized area, the unconscious). So I am making the case that this law is suppression and will create psychological repression, reversing the path of insight into the reality of human motives and behavior. Hope that helps!

  2. Rawr, very scary, Mr. Beast. I enjoy your writing, but I’m confused by your blog’s title. This, and the rest of your posts, don’t read like they’re written by a member of Nietzsche’s “pack of blond beasts of prey, a race of conquerors and lords.” Your main call is for more sympathy for others, suffering from what Nietzsche would consider slave morality and ressentiment.

    Or is the beast the subject of the blog, and not its author?

    1. Thanks for contributing and taking the time to comment. I can tell you know your Nietzsche and understand why you said you are confused by the title. The title probably implies more of an homage to Nietzsche than I actually intend. I particularly enjoyed The Three Metamorphoses (Zarathustra) and the transition from the aspect of the Lion to that of the Child. If you wanted to consider this blog from that framework you might say it’s playing in the space between the Lion and the Child. I would also add that it is the resentiment of the “slaves” itself which is a barrier to sympathy, identification and thus empathy and more harmonious relationships, if you enjoy that sort of thing.

      However, it is after all just a catchy name with a bit of swagger and polemical appeal.

      1. Gotcha. It certainly is a good title.

        Since you mentioned the blog being between the Lion and the Child, I think you might find Alexander Grothendieck’s “Recoltes et Semailles” (Reaping and Sowing) interesting. Grothendieck was, in my opinion, the greatest mathematician of the 20th century, rewriting almost single-handedly entire fields of mathematics from the ground up. “Recoltes et Semailles” is part autobiography, part reflection on mathematics and creativity in general — and the metaphor of the child figures prominently. For example,

        If, in Récoltes et Semailles I’m addressing anyone besides myself, it isn’t what’s called a “public”. Rather I’m addressing that someone who is prepared to read me as a person , and as a solitary person. It’s to that being inside of you who knows how to be alone, it is to this infant that I wish to speak, and no-one else. I’m well aware that this infant has been considerably estranged. It’s been through some hard times, and more than once over a long period. It’s been dropped off Lord knows where, and it can be very difficult to reach. One swears that it died ages ago, or that it never existed – and yet I am certain it’s always there, and very much alive.

        You can find a partial English translation (through Promenade 18) here

        Beyond that, I’m not sure how good your French is. I’m still learning myself.

        1. My French is non-existant, so I will add this one to my reading list for when the translation is complete. Sounds like a good autobiography.

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