June 10, 2009

Why "No Means No"

There are things that I can't do regarding Silence Is the Enemy. I can't donate my blog revenue, since I don't make any. I can't entice you to click to raise cash with weird science (much of it involving sex that is hugely more comfortable to read about than anything I've been saying), the way Scicurious is, or with delightfully and fearfully made shoes, the way Isis is. I can't dig into the political problems that make war and wartime rape more likely, or incite people who were going to troll anyway to do it for a good cause, the way Greg can (at least not on my blog).

What I can do is write about the peripheral issues that come up in the discussions, the misinformation and misunderstandings that make the general topic of rape harder to discuss. I've already done some of that, and I'll continue to do more.

One of the tangential issues that came up in the thread that would not die is the statement "no means no."

I really hate to have to point this out, believe me... but sometimes a simple "I'd rather not," "I shouldn't," or even "no" isn't clear enough. I won't try to guess at numbers, I'm not qualified, but there are most certainly women who enjoy that particular game. Keep in mind that we're talking about college kids here. Boys and girls in their late teens and early twenties for the most part, and clear communication about sex and relationships is going to be fairly uncommon. Again, I'm not even going to pretend to put numbers on it, but I'm absolutely certain that sometimes it is honest miscommunication.

"No means no" is a simple slogan, but it just doesn't reflect reality. Imagine stopping only to be yelled at because your partner was getting into it and you ruined the mood. Imagine it happening when you're young and still inexperienced and emotionally fragile. How many times do you think that has to happen before a person is capable of mistaking a sincere "no" for a repeat of the previous situation, if only for a short time?

I'm not trying to say it's common... I'm just saying I'd be amazed if it never happened, and that I'd be amazed if there aren't piles of similar ways a misunderstanding could happen in a moment of passion. If the "victim" says that it was a misunderstanding, I'm inclined to believe her unless there's some other information to imply otherwise.

I'm going to assume that this is an honest statement of confusion, not an attempt at rape denialism or some kind of justification. It is worth noting, however, that I wasn't sure when I read it or much of the conversation that followed from it. But it's not useful to think of this as anything but a misconception that can be corrected, so I'm sticking with that.

The big problem with this statement is that "no means no" is not a slogan, meant to tell us what people are saying. It's an instruction.

The way that our culture talks about sex--or, more importantly, doesn't--is fundamentally screwed up. We're not really talking, most of us. We're role playing. We're taking the things that we're supposed to think and feel about sex and repeating them to one another in the place of figuring out and talking about our own feelings.

Religion hasn't helped, of course. The inequality between the sexes and mistrust of pleasure that the dominant religions of our society have promoted place particular pressure on women to deny enjoyment of sex, to deny desire. That means that "no" has frequently meant something other than "no." This is not a new concept.

However, it is a concept that came to be used by men as a justification for rape. As a means of excusing nonconsensuality, it came to be accepted and enshrined in a not insignificant portion of our media and our cultural mythos. That acceptance had to change.

"No means no" doesn't mean that everyone will always tell you the truth. It means "The only way to be sure that you do not victimize someone is to believe that they are saying what they mean. Do that." That part of it is true, and using counterexamples of when someone has not been entirely forthcoming doesn't change that truth at all. All it does is provide fodder for the people who don't want to follow the instructions.

In case it needs to be said, "no means no" goes for both men and women, and men were not the only people who needed to change their behavior. Communication never involves just one party. Men needed to act as though they believed something that often wasn't true, but women needed to learn how to tell the truth. "No means no" means that women had to learn to speak about their own desire. They had to take responsibility for their own sexuality, societal pressures notwithstanding.

I don't know how many times I heard while growing up, "If you're not mature enough to talk about sex, you're not mature enough to have it." The topic at the time was birth control and preventing STIs, but the same absolutely goes for the topic of consent. This is similar to the idea behind prohibiting statutory rape--consent cannot be meaningfully given at certain maturity levels--although honesty and thoughtfulness are much better indicators of maturity than age. (Incidentally, for the folks who worry about being accused of rape after consensual sex, attending to a potential partner's maturity has benefits for you, as well.)

In the end, "no means no" is about making the sexual landscape a better place to be: fewer victims, less blame laid on victims, more people seeing their desires fulfilled, better distributed work of communication. "No means no" isn't about describing the world as it is. "No means no" is about remaking the world as we want it to be.

63 comments:

Jason Thibeault said...

I've been fighting with him all day long. _All day._ He's been skirting the edges of denialism while being very careful to make forceful pronouncements on how much of a victims' advocate he is all the while, and making one semantic argument after another while doing it.

The fact that "no means no" is a semantic argument, from the point of view that the tiny two letter word has a set definition and no special "subtext" to glean (religious oppression and society's attempt to justify nonconsentuality notwithstanding), seems entirely lost on him. I don't know that it's worth trying.

Jason Thibeault said...

I'm sorry. That was far more negative and dismissive than this deserves. Your post is spot-on.

While "he" (by which I mean Rystefn) probably will try to argue the semantics of this too, in defense of his otherwise indefensible post, I don't want you to think that I am too out of some sense of defeat.

Will Shetterly said...

Your paragraph about both women and men having to understand that "no means no" is so very true. I think there may have been an ideal mating ritual back in the days of "nice girls don't say yes" that went something like this:

She: "No."

He: "Okay." Or "But I love you." Or something to establish that he wants her, but will not force her in any way.

She: "Well..."

The problem with social rituals is not everyone understands them. "No means no" means no one will misread the signals.

rystefn said...

Yeah, guess why I started that comment with "I really hate to have to point this out." Go on, guess. I'll give you a hint: it has to do with the fact that I know people have argued it against the "no means no" concept in defense of rape; and it has to do with the fact that I knew it was likely to be misconstrued, no matter how carefully I tried to phrase it.

Yes, the world would be a simpler and better place if more and more honest communication was the norm. However, the conversation at hand was about what does happen, not what should. As I said: "Keep in mind that we're talking about college kids here... clear communication about sex and relationships is going to be fairly uncommon."

It would be great if everyone was completely clear and explicitly spelled out what they're looking for, and it's a damned admirable goal towards which to work.

When you say ""No means no" isn't about describing the world as it is. "No means no" is about remaking the world as we want it to be." I agree with you. That's why I made the comment in question. We weren't talking about the world the way we want it to be. We were talking about the world the way it is. Sadly, the way it is, is that "no" doesn't always mean no, and it that simple fact causes a lot of problems. That's all I was trying to say in that comment... well, that, and who the Hell are we to argue without facts with the people who have them.

If I was unclear about that, I can't say it was unexpected. I suspect there's no way to put it that someone won't take the wrong way. I hope I helped to clarify here, but I'm afraid I can't be overly optimistic about that.

More than likely, I'll just wind up in another argument. It seems someone's already here waiting for me.

Ambivalent Academic said...

Great post Stephanie. I haven't had the energy to engage (or even read) all the posts around these issues lately. Important as this topic is, I've had pressing things going on in meat-space and I'm feeling a little guilty about not chiming in more often, what with silence being the enemy and all.

But I'm really really glad I've been reading each of *your* posts at least. You articulate these things with such clarity and sense. Thanks.

Becca said...

How about "if the relationship isn't mature enough for clear communication, it's not ready for sex?" (which is not to be judgmental about so-called 'casual' sex. I use the term 'relationship' very broadly, and some people are efficient at negotiating the communication needed for sex with someone they have known only a short time).

Rystefn- something I've been perplexed by- why have sex with someone for whom no means yes?
I know sex is good and all, but I just don't buy that it's never so mindblowingly awesome that it's worth the cost of potentially being a grey-rapist.

If we're talking about the world as it ought to be, I'd go so far as to say "If NOT Yes, then NO".
Otherwise there's far too much potential for the mutually emotionally destructive messed-up sex (not truly rape, but perhaps an echo of it).
e.g. "I was into it when it started and then it hurt and I wanted to stop but I didn't say anything- why didn't you notice I was crying?"

Stephanie Zvan said...

Will, you may not have noticed, but the comment I linked to on the historical background was yours. :)

AA, thanks. And don't worry to much about what you can do right now. Unfortunately, this isn't a problem that's likely to shrivel up and blow away.

Becca, excellent point about the maturity of the relationship. I wish I'd thought to make it.

rystefn said...

"why have sex with someone for whom no means yes?"

Is enjoying that particular sex game so wicked a crime that we should punish such people with forced celibacy? Say I make a connection with someone (emotional, physical, whatever), and we both decide we want to have sex with one another, and then that person says to me: "I'm going to tell you to stop, but I don't don't want you to. Only stop if I say [whatever]."

What possible reason could I have for backing out at that point? Sure, if you're not comfortable with that particular game, it's perfectly fair for you to say so and back out. Personally, I have no problems with it, so why should I stop?

There is very little I won't do to give a lover pleasure. If that's what someone wants, then I'll gladly give it. For me, it's mostly about giving pleasure, not taking it.

Peggy said...

It doesn't seem like that radical an idea. What's the worst that could happen by following that philosophy? One person says no, the other person stops, and the first person then must clarify that they actually meant yes or get no nookie? It doesn't sound like a serious problem.

If we're talking about the world as it ought to be, I'd go so far as to say "If NOT Yes, then NO".

Yes, this. It's not just "messed up sex" that would be avoided, but the "she was too wasted to say anything coherent, so I took the absence of a no to mean yes" sort of rape.

rystefn said...

Oh, and I'd like to second Stephanie's praise of Becca's point about maturity.

D. C. said...

Parents have a particular role to play here. About the only time I went (calculatingly, please note) ballistic on my then-teen daughter was when she and her then-boyfriend were horsing around and he was tickling her and she was shrieking (unsincerely) STOP!

I came down on them both like a ton of bricks. On him for "what part of STOP don't you understand?" and on her for "and how do you expect to be taken seriously if you don't mean it?" along with "are you trying to train boys to rape other women?"

The time to start teaching kids about "let your 'no' mean 'no'" is when they're little. Don't wait until puberty complicates the situation.

I daresay I spoiled the mood, but we've had some good talks since then where she's had Good Things to say about the lesson learned.

rystefn said...

The problem isn't so much that a playful "no" that actually means yes is inherently wrong. The problem arises if there weren't clear boundaries established for what signal would actually mean no when she really wanted to stop.

Games like that can be played safely and responsibly.

Azkyroth said...

Say I make a connection with someone (emotional, physical, whatever), and we both decide we want to have sex with one another, and then that person says to me: "I'm going to tell you to stop, but I don't don't want you to. Only stop if I say [whatever]."

Then you've negotiated consent.

Don't be so literal-minded.

rystefn said...

The question wasn't why I would want to have without consent. I don't want that. The question was why I would I want to have sex with someone for whom "no" meant yes.

bob said...

Superb post. Oddly I've never thought of the phrase as being anything other than directed at men. It's clear that some women do say no when why mean yes, for cultural/religious reasons, etc. Not meant to be excusing/validating, but it was a passive rejection, and misunderstanding of 'no means no'.

So your post has changed my opinion on this. When the time comes (they're too young right now), I'll make this clear to both my son and my daughter. He is never to take no to mean yes, and she is never to say no when she means yes. I'll also stress to my son that if he does find himself in the situation that a partner is disappointed that he takes no to mean no, that he needs to explain why she's both stupid and betraying other women.

If people want to play this game, it needs to be clear role-play, with a safe word. In the real world, 'no' is the safe word.

Maybe that's a better phrase : 'No is the safe word'.

Anonymous said...

Psst! rystefn...

Hasn't anyone told you?

"no" is the default stopword.

Jason Thibeault said...

I agree with Bob and anonymous -- no is the default safe word. As is "stop", "don't", and crying.

And not explicitly saying yes, while it's not the safe word, it leaves enough ambiguity that if you assume consent and are wrong, you are at fault.

If you negotiate other safe words or other behaviours ahead of time (either through knowing the person is into some letter in BDS or M, or by actually being a grown adult and talking about it), then fine. But if you violate those negotiated safe words or behaviours then you're at fault.

I suck at social interactions, and yet I've never had any trouble with any of this.

D. C. said...

When the time comes (they're too young right now), I'll make this clear to both my son and my daughter. He is never to take no to mean yes, and she is never to say no when she means yes.

I'm not so sure that there is such a thing as "too young." A lot of parents and kids get into playing tickle games, where "stop" and "no" are ignored as part of the game.

Teaching moment?

Becca said...

rystfn- that wasn't the question I was trying to ask. I was asking "why have sex with someone if you aren't reasonably sure what they want?"
My point is, trying to give people pleasure (in whatever form that takes) is a perfectly good aim. But since (hopefully) you will also be receiving pleasure, you (and everyone else) are intrinsically biased to hearing borderline responses as "yes". In order to compensate for that, the easiest solution is to exert some self-control.

D.C.- aren't there todlerhood stages centered around "NO"? They Might Be Giants has us covered!

Although, when I try to think of how to teach kids not to impose their will on people smaller than them, I feel a bit out of my depth.

catgirl said...

I think it's a little silly to say that you don't need to take people seriously when they say no just because some people don't really mean it.

It's simple. If someone says no, then stop what you're doing.

So what if they get mad? It's better err on the side of caution and annoy someone than to end up raping someone.

If someone says no and they might no really mean it, stop anyway. This isn't rocket science. If they get mad, tell them that you are just doing what they told you to do. If someone says "I don't want any ice cream", they can't be mad when they don't get any. If someone says no, then don't have sex with them. Even if the person didn't really mean "no", you should assume they did.

Of course, that means that some men need to get past their dislike of women who say "yes". You can't slut-shame women and then expect them to feel comfortable expressing their true desires. Still, it's better for someone to miss out on sex they want than for someone to be raped.

Greg Laden said...

Becca knows the secret to good sex:

"If NOT Yes, then NO"

(This is not snark or a joke.)

DuWayne Brayton said...

Predetermined consent, in which "no" and "stop" aren't the default safe words is completely different than simply making the assumption that "no" means "yes" and "stop" means "harder."

So Rystefn, this commentary has nothing to do with sexual roleplay that has predetermined rules - or shouldn't. But assuming that outside the context of a predetermined roleplay, that "no" means "yes" is absolutely unacceptable. And it's not just unacceptable for the person taking "no" to mean "yes," it is also unacceptable for the person who says "no" when they mean "yes."

And DC, Bob et al, in the context of sexual roleplay, "no" often is a direct corollary to "yes" and "stop" can mean several things - usually "harder." And while I wouldn't assume that this is the case with your children, you need to keep something very important in mind about human sexuality and your children.

Sexual preferences aren't limited to the hetero/homo dichotomy. I would tend to guess that neither of you would express a negative reaction, should one or more of your children come out as gay (at least I would fucking hope not). You would probably not, for example, tell them that having sex with someone of the same gender is absolutely unacceptable...

If it turns out you have a child who has fetishes, you need to keep in mind that telling them that acting out within that is unacceptable, is not much different than telling a gay child that having sex with someone of their same gender is unacceptable. While it may not be as clear cut as their place in the hetero/homo dichotomy, it is still very much a part of who they are, how they have developed and absolutely as valid as being gay or straight.

D. C. said...

For the ladies who may never have considered this side of things:

Some of us Y-types never got comfortable with the guessing games [1]. Being able to actually take a woman's word as being what she really means would be a huge stress reducer. Experience is too often something else again.

And, no, that's not a case of making it about us or of blaming you (the world is what it is). Just letting you know that many of us have our own very selfish reasons for putting a stake through the mindfuck games [2].

[1] /me heard recently from a high school classmate I had asked out a few times and who always had conflicts, so I figured I could take a hint. Turns out she was terribly disappointed because she was really interested. Epic fail there.
[2] DCS, who has at long last happily settled with a woman I can count on to lay it on the line.

D. C. said...

DuWayne, my now-quite-adult daughter can make her own exceptions to the rules. My then-very-much-not-adult daughter (and her boyfriend) needed a lesson on the default rules.

The fact that this was going on outside of just-us-two private space IMHO made the option of private "rules of engagement" difficult to justify.

As for the partner choices of the kids? Not my story to tell ;-)

bob said...

Thought provoking comments. I guess teaching to respond to 'no', 'stop' etc for something that is not sexual is something to consider.

bob said...

DuWayne, I explicitly excluded role play. Role play doesn't float my boat, but I appeciate and understand that this is a rich and valuable part of people's sexual repertoire.

I always said I'd much prefer my kids to turn out to be gay than religious. Some people don't believe me / are shocked, but gay is normal, natural. Religious is irrational nonsense.

Jason Thibeault said...

DuWayne: I agree with DC that the "ground rules" e.g. the default state absolutely needs to be taught. Telling a child that no should mean no by default is good and healthy, because it means we'll be instilling the value of "no means no" into the future adults of this world. When explaining this, there should be a sidebar on consent, and how it's okay to talk to your partner and decide how you want to negotiate things and whether or not no really means no for the two of you.

And then when the birds-and-bees conversation comes up (as separate and distinct from the no-means-no conversation), if you want to take it so far as to explain some aspects of BDSM as a sexual preference, go for it. I would tend to think if BDSM is a sexual preference, they'll figure that out themselves, though. The goal there would be to keep them from feeling the need to be "in the closet" about it.

Though as I'm sure BDSM practitioners are already in the closet by default, one step at a time... first we get everyone to understand the default position so there's no more semantic argument to be had over the whole consent thing. Since the goal is to make "no means no" the reality rather than the wishful thinking. We can't afford these social conventions from the 1950s where "good girls always say no even if they mean yes" lingering around any longer.

rystefn said...

Playing catch-up again... This would be so much easier if I were on the same kind of posting schedule everyone else seems to be... Anyway, on with the replies (this may take a while)

Bob - you're talking about what should be again. I agree 100% that "no" should be the default safe word. Unfortunately, that's not always the case, and it does cause problems. That was the point of my comment around which much of the OP was written.

Anon - Again: "should be" is not the same as "is."

Jason - Count yourself lucky. I have. It sucks. (Just we're clear, the problem arose because I stopped at "no," not because I didn't.)

D.C - That is an excellent teaching moment, I think.

Becca - If you think I've ever had sex with someone I wasn't 100% certain beyond all doubt wanted to, you're misreading what I've been writing. I don't think anyone I've ever slept with has avoided the "are you sure you want this?" question at least three or four times.

catgirl - "I think it's a little silly to say that you don't need to take people seriously when they say no just because some people don't really mean it." I don't think anyone here has said that. In fact, it looks like everyone here agrees with that statement completely.

DuWayne - "So Rystefn, this commentary has nothing to do with sexual roleplay that has predetermined rules" actually, it does. That is the solution to the problem I was talking about in the comment quoted in the OP. There seems to be a lot of misreading of that comment, and of my attempted clarification, as well. I find myself wondering how much of it because people refuse to even consider that I might be saying anything other than what they want me to say so they can say I'm wrong. Not accusing anyone specific here, mind you, just tossing the thought out in the hopes that someone might read it and think about their reactions for a second.

DuWayne (again) - "If it turns out you have a child who has fetishes, you need to keep in mind that telling them that acting out within that is unacceptable, is not much different than telling a gay child that having sex with someone of their same gender is unacceptable" QFT

Jason - "the goal is to make 'no means no' the reality rather than the wishful thinking." In this, if nothing else, we are in 100% agreement.

bob said...

I'm pretty sure I get what you meant. I may not have been clear in my comment.

I meant that in the real world, 'no' must become the safe word. The only way to do this is to teach our kids (and ourselves, peers, parents even) that 'no' is the safe word.

Jason Thibeault said...

Rystefn: if everyone seems to have problems reading what you write, have you considered the possibility that maybe, just maybe, it's because what you've written was inarticulate, and not that the reader misunderstood?

Pray, sir, think yourself wrong, if only this once?

Jason Thibeault said...

Bob: "I always said I'd much prefer my kids to turn out to be gay than religious. Some people don't believe me / are shocked, but gay is normal, natural. Religious is irrational nonsense."

This is a money quote. I would tweet it, if it weren't 140+ and I could reference you properly.

rystefn said...

Bob - I'm with you there... but sometimes it only takes one person to unteach a teenager everything their parents tried to teach them about sex. Still, we must all do what we can. Every little bit helps, no?

Jason - Jason, if you can find a way to phrase "Sometimes no just doesn't mean no" in a space crowded with people already primed to disagree with anything you have to say so it won't be misconstrued, I'd like to hear it.

Jason Thibeault said...

Here's how you do it.

"People sometimes pre-arrange consentual sexual situations where no doesn't mean no."

And nobody would disagree with you, but you'd probably get more than one "duh", and more than one "this is well off topic with regards to people who don't have pre-existing arrangements like the one you described." No argument, and nobody jumping on you for defending the indefensible.

Stephanie Zvan said...

Actually, Rystefn, the pushback you're getting here has nothing to do with your status as a sexual minority. We've pretty much all been saying, or agreeing once someone states it more explicitly, "No (or whatever word you're using in its place, because the rest of us get that words are flexible) means no."

The challenge you're getting is from your original statement, which suggests that the pain of one bad encounter might excuse some confusion in how you behave with the next person. We've all had crappy, uncomfortable, embarrassing sexual experiences. They're irrelevant to this post and the whole concept of "No (or whatever word you're using in its place, because the rest of us get that words are flexible) means no."

rystefn said...

Sorry, Jason, but that's not at all what I was saying. I wasn't talking about prearranged situations. I was specifically talking about situations where honest and direct communication is NOT present. Try again.

Stephanie, I'm not accusing people of having an issue with my sexuality. The comments which may seem to be having that issue are not, they are merely using it as ammo in a personal issue with me regardless of my sexuality. The challenge I'm getting is from people assuming that my attept to explain where such confusion might come from, especially among college kids, with an attempt to excuse the behaviors within the illustration.

All I was doing was suggesting a scenario wherein a woman who says "It was nothing more than a miscommunication" might be accurately describing what happened, and therefore we might want to believe her when we have no idea what happened at all.

Once again, I'm not talking about what should be, and neither was the person I was responding to when making that comment. We were talking about what is. We live in a world where people who mean "yes" do say "no." We live in a world where many of those people do not explain this beforehand and arrange an alternate signal of some kind as they should. This fact is relevant to this post, and to the concept of "No (or whatever word you're using in its place, because the rest of us get that words are flexible) means no," if only as a warning of the dangers and problems that arise when people don't take this fairly simple bit of information to heart.

Jason Thibeault said...

As we've resolved that we're not talking about your sexual preferences, I'm sorry for assuming you meant you wanted me to rephrase "sometimes no means no" in the context of that sexual preference.

However.

In a thread where the argument is that "no means no" should be the default and misconceptions about it should be corrected, you again want to bring up that it doesn't presently mean no for everyone, for reasons that are culturally ingrained. You do this for an entirely self-serving reason - to absolve you (or some hypothetical other) of any sin by virtue of the possibility of mistaking no for yes incorrectly (whether you agree that this is your argument, this is your argument). You argue this because you once ruined the mood and annoyed someone by assuming no meant no, so you can see how someone in all honesty could accidentally interpret no to mean yes incorrectly.

You're part of the problem, pal. The problem is that too many people are okay with no sometimes meaning yes. Don't argue for the status quo by describing it as a possible situation where the person in the wrong is actually not so in the wrong. We know what the status quo is here, and in saying the status quo defends such individuals you are tacitly agreeing with that status quo despite your protestations.

Stephanie Zvan said...

Jason, let it lie. If Rystefn is paranoid enough to still believe this is all about destroying his reputation instead of actually teaching people how to deal maturely with sex, there's nothing to be said that will help.

rystefn said...

You're taking everything I say in the completely wrong way, and I have to wonder if it's perhaps intentional at this point, because you had to go pretty far out of your way this time, even to the point of insisting that my argument is almost the exact opposite of my argument. Seriously, Jason. Think about that for a second.

I'm not bringing up the fact that "no" doesn't always mean no in defiance of the actual point of the conversation. I'm only giving the context of my comment which is quoted and discussed heavily in the OP here, since so many people seem to be failing to understand that context.

In a conversation about a misconception Stephanie thought I had, I again want to point out that I was talking about an unfortunate reality, and nothing else. I do this for an entirely self-serving reason - I really REALLY dislike having people think I'm defending the thing I'm speaking out against. You first among them. Of course, since you were here waiting for a fight before I ever even read the post, I don't imagine you've really read what I had to say very carefully. When I say people are primed to disagree with me and ignore what I'm saying so they can pretend I'm saying something else just so they can disagree with it, I'm talking about you.

You accuse me of changing the subject for clarifying the comment that is much of the subject.

You accuse me me of trying to absolve myself of a sin I've never committed. (If you really thought I was absolving someone else, would you have called it entirely self-serving?)

You insist that my argument is something wholly other than what I've explained at least a half a dozen times it is not with exactly nothing to back up your assertion.

You confuse an example of a problem caused by the issue for the cause of my entire stance.

You have constantly and consistently mischaracterized my stance, failed to read or comprehend what I've said very clearly, assumed the worst in any case that's even remotely unclear, and ignored or argued against every attempt to correct you.

I don't know what your problem is, but maybe you should step back, calm down, actually read what I say, and think about it for a little bit. Instead of walking in assuming I'm going to say something to piss you off and starting off pissed, assume I'm trying to help people to understand the problem and trying to help resolve it.

rystefn said...

Stephanie, I never remotely thought it was about destroying my reputation. Believe me, at no point did I think this post (or anything you said to me) was made in malice. We're on the same side, here, despite certain protestations to the contrary.

As I've said more than once, I completely agree with you about how things should be. I completely agree that it would be better if everyone was absolutely clear about what they want and if no one progressed without being absolutely sure that the anyone else involved wanted it as well. I am 100% with you on this.

Surely you can understand how frustrating it is when pointing out a problem is mistaken for being part of the problem, though.

Surely you can understand how frustrating it is when my every attempt to explain this is met with hostility.

You say that this is supposed to be about "teaching people how to deal maturely with sex." Can you understand why it might be a shade upsetting to be attacked for pointing out what is a fairly common problem on that front?

Let me make that clear again, since I don't think I can make it any clearer: Not communicating clearly is a problem, and it leads to other problems. This is not a good thing. More communication, and more honest communication, is the solution. If there's any question at all, stop and get clarification, don't assume.

Stephanie Zvan said...

Of course I understand it. If you hadn't turned every thread on the topic of rape in the last week into a referrenda on your feelings, I might even be sympathetic. Right now, you're just a distraction.

D. C. said...

Ms Zvan, I am in awe of your tact and patience.

Jason Thibeault said...

"Ms Zvan, I am in awe of your tact and patience."
What he said.

I'm genuinely sorry for contributing to the distraction.

rystefn said...

Now, now... In fairness, I always start with a response directly on-topic. If I feature heavily in the post made, I don't think it's inappropriate to try to ensure that I'm being portrayed accurately. If I'm attacked in the comments of a post before I've even read it (as is the case here), I think it's completely appropriate to defend myself.

If people ask questions of me or direct statements toward me, I think it's appropriate to respond.

If you really don't want me turning up and talking about something, maybe it would be better to not write a post about how one of my comments is either confused or a case rape denialism or justification.

Yes, I know it was about more than that, but it was also about that. I'm not turning this into a referendum on my feelings. I'm just trying to correct people who misinterpret what I'm trying to say. Who gives a shit about my feelings? This is a serious problem we're talking about here, my feelings don't mean shit. Facts, on the other hand, do matter. Actually understanding what the people involved in the discussion does matter. Clearing up misunderstandings does matter.

If I thought for a second it would help in any way for people think I'm trying to reinforce the behaviors that lead to the types of confusion I was talking about, I'd let people think that. I'd encourage them to, even. It doesn't, though. Moreover,any time someone leaps to a wrong assumption about a comment and isn't called out on it, it reinforces the wrong assumption and encourages them to leap to further assumptions in the future.

How in the universe leaping to wrong assumptions and seeing enemies where you have allies is going to help get people to understand the importance of clear communication is beyond me.

Becca said...

Let me 'esplain. Wait, no. It is too long. Let me sum up:

Stephanie Z: "No means No" (sings: no is always no, if they say no it means a thousand times no /TMBG)
Rystefn: "sometimes it doesn't"
Chorus: "Rystefn, OMGWTFBBQ it's so much safer to assume no means no"
Rystefn: "I do that. It can cause it's own problems"
Everyone (chorus+Rystefn) together now: "yeah, but they are not worse problems than rape. ergo, we must behave as though no means no"

TLDR summation:
Everyone: "No should mean No"
Picard: "make it so"

Interesting 'random' factoid: this morning on NPR the guest was the author of "The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement".

rystefn said...

More or less. I'd change it to "sometimes it doesn't, and that creates problems," but it's not that critical. You've basically got the gist of it aside from three dozen comments, more or less, arguing about what I meant for some reason...

Oh well. We're all on the same page, now, yes? In the absence of alternative signaling specifically negotiated beforehand, "no" should always be assumed to mean no, and nothing else, both by the person saying it and the person hearing it.

Am I right? We're all in agreement at this point?

Jason Thibeault said...

"Let me 'esplain. Wait, no. It is too long. Let me sum up"

Princess Bride is my very favoritest movie ever.

Stephanie Zvan said...

I think that if you check the original post, you'll find that nothing has changed in 47 comments except that Becca added a couple of excellent refinements.

Jason Thibeault said...

I have to agree. A Princess Bride reference and a They Might Be Giants reference, plus a "Make it so", and you've got basically everything it takes to make me agree with anything you say in the rest of the post.

Incidentally, this was on XKCD the other day. I think it has a parallel here. http://xkcd.com/592/

Jodi said...

Maybe 'no means no' is not reality at the moment but that is not the point of this post, as I see it. The point is that if you are reading this now you MUST start assuming that 'no means no' is the default position.
By continuing to argue that 'no means no, except sometimes it doesn't' you're just muddying the waters and making things worse in the long run. We all know that sometimes, sometimes humans are silly creatures and play silly games and say 'no' when they really mean 'yes' and sometimes that can get confusing (and I'm not talking about bdsm), but everyone here is trying to help clear up that confusion.

It's simple really, avoiding raping someone by assuming they mean no trumps getting yelled at by a silly girl who was too immature to say what she meant or take a second ahead of time to explain her sexual preferences. Less people being raped in the world also trumps a bit of confusion and hurt feelings.

(I'm not a regular poster to blogs, so I think it took me too long to write up this comment and it is probably irrelevant now but I just had to say all that ^ anyway. I've had a rough day and some people in the world just need to fuck off.)

Stephanie Zvan said...

Thanks for breaking the lurking habit for us, Jodi. I hope your day gets better.

rystefn said...

Maybe nothing has changed. I'd rather hoped that at least the perception certain people had that I was saying anything other than "sometimes people aren't clear, and it causes problems" might have changed.

Maybe that's a lost cause.

Oh, and Princess Bride is the greatest movie ever made, and that's why we danced to "Storybook Love" at my wedding.

D. C. said...

I think that if you check the original post, you'll find that nothing has changed in 47 comments except that Becca added a couple of excellent refinements.

Forty years in the wilderness to go from the Nile to Palestine -- less than 300 miles.

Sometimes it's the path length rather than the endpoints that matter.

Jason Thibeault said...

Yeah... Jodi's like my emotionally stable yang. See why I love her?

DuWayne Brayton said...

Holy Fucknoly!!!! You guys have got to be kidding...

Or am I hallucinating???

I did almost tip over whilst getting a few hits from a cigarette earlier.

HI JODI!!!!!

Stephanie Zvan said...

Sorry, DuWayne, you're just not unique anymore. Love's all over the internet. I hear tell Greg's even gonna blog about me and my boy tomorrow. You and Juniper are going to have to share the tubes. :)

Jason Thibeault said...

GWAHAHA SUCK IT BRAYTON

I mean.

Yeah. Isn't it nice we all have someone to love? Love, love, love... doo de doo doo

DuWayne Brayton said...

I was actually holy fucknolying the argument to nowhere, that never ends - but that may have been a hallucination...

DuWayne Brayton said...

I should mention that I've been in a great deal of pain and am medicated - very comfortably medicated...Except now I want cookies, but they do not come when I call...

Stephanie Zvan said...

I know, DuWayne, and I apologize, but that's what makes it fun to mess with you just a little right now.

DuWayne Brayton said...

How the hell did you know I want the cookies that won't come to me???

No matter...In little more than an hour there will be DuckTales - ALL the DuckTales!!! And...Oh yes, And there will be Darkwing Duck!!! Then Saturday I will hopefully have Eldest's new computer to put them all on, along with a shit-ton of books and more educationally oriented shows for him and Youngest to enjoy.

rystefn said...

Ah DarkWing... Such a great show.

...also, love is the greatest, isn't it?

Stephanie Zvan said...

'Tis indeed.

Jason Thibeault said...

When there's trouble you
call Dee Double-you!