Yale Fraternity Chants “No Means Yes.” Men? Or Scaredy Cats?

The boys (not men) of Yale’s Delta Kappa Epsilon (DKE) chanted, “No means yes! Yes means anal!” at the Women’s Center on campus last week. See video.

What was their motive?

When people do things like this – put others down – they’re trying to create an identity for themselves and for the people they are targeting.

“No means yes.” While rape has a sexual component, it’s mostly about power. In this chant, the guys were celebrating images of men overpowering women. “Yes means anal”? If she says yes, then do something she didn’t ask for (and presumably wouldn’t want) turning even “yes” into rape.

Chanting in front of the Women’s Center – a safe space for women who have been assaulted or abused – makes that message stronger.

Afterwards, the frat offered an apology that let them off the hook. And which actually helps them to feel powerful: We can do anything so long as we apologize.

How sorry are they? Frat boys shouted the same slogans in front of the Women’s Center in 2006. In 2008 a different fraternity bellowed their love of “Yale sluts” in the same location.

Here we have boys desperately trying to assert their manhood. Intimidating women to create a sense of male superiority that doesn’t exist in nature – otherwise they wouldn’t need to try so hard. It all screams “insecurity!” There must be a big gap between the men they want to be, and the boys they seemingly are, to make that much effort.

Guys in frats are often pressured to hurt women to prove their manhood. “Bros before ho’s.” Sociologist, Michael Kimmel, studies men. And he says that many of these pledges don’t want to do the hurtful things to women that they are pressured to do.

But aren’t men supposed to be strong, confident, courageous?  Don’t men follow their conscience instead of following the crowd?

What we see here is not courage but bravado. Trying to appear more brave than they really are.

This is supposed to prove their manhood?

Are women that threatening? Really, these guys are just scaredy cats.

Georgia Platts

Related post: Ever Wanted To Be A Woman? What Men Say

About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on October 20, 2010, in feminism, gender, men, sexism, violence against women, women and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 34 Comments.

  1. I love how people say things like “Men do everything they do in order to get laid.” Yeah, okay. Men go around shouting “no means yes, yes means anal” in order to get laid?

    BTW, I came across some more research you might find interesting!
    These were both 2 large studies regarding sex differences, but they came to opposite conclusions.
    This one came to the conclusion that overlap in personality traits between men and women is slim:
    And this one came to the conclusion that overlap is very large:

    Click to access CarothersReis_2012.pdf

    I’d be interested to hear what you think.
    With your degree, you’re probably more skilled at dissecting research than I am.

    • first, I’m on vacation and this is definitely not the sort of thing I want to read to relax. Why can’t academics learn to speak English? So I just skimmed through both of the articles and here’s what seems to be happening:

      On the one side you have those who are looking to whether you can predict whether someone is male or female based on a variety of traits. And you rarely can. About the only exception is a physical characteristic like strength. That suggest that you can’t simply say man or one way and women or another, except in rare instances.

      On the other side you have people who are asking a different question. Are there large average differences between women and men? And there often are. But that doesn’t mean it’s biologically-based. Stereotypes create social patterns because people try to conform to expectations. So men will try be more likely to try to have sex with as many women as possible whereas women will try to keep their numbers down. And that creates a difference in how much sex you want. Or, it’s part of the female role to be empathetic and so women are more likely to take that on and conform to the role. But again, that doesn’t mean that the difference is biologically-based. It doesn’t mean that it’s a female trait (sex wise). Socialization will create different sorts of human beings. And yet most of the time you can’t predict whether someone is male or female based on any particular trait.

      Finally, please don’t send me any questions like this while I’m on vacation (See the notes I attached to my latest blog posts.)

      • What did you mean by “Why can’t academics learn to speak English?”

      • Well, Did you find the journal articles comprehensible? You asked me to decipher them for you.

        A lot of academic journals are filled with complex writing and the use of jargon that is only understood within a particular discipline. I file it under the category of, “social construction of ‘i’m so smart because no one can understand me except for me and other academics.'”

        What I found in graduate school was that it’s a lot easier to cover up your ignorance if you use really complex language. What is more difficult is to describe in everyday English what is going on. It’s a lot harder to cover over your ignorance when you use language that anyone can understand.

        Some academics joke that other academics need to learn how to speak in English.

    • Thanks so much for this. This sounds right on the nose:

      “Too many guy’s with over inflated egos, and more likely rooted from insecurity, and unfortunately can be found in a fraternity because it’s a place where guy’s are trying to one up each other, a testosterone, competitive male envirionment, trying to prove each other whose is more of a man.”

      Maybe I will write about it if I get a chance. It’s a really good topic.

      I’m trying to work on a book right now so I’ve been doing a lot of reruns.

      But thanks for being such a great inspiration for my blog!

  2. Have you seen this? This has been showing up in the news lately. Just not a good sign, but I have a feeling those signs have been around way before, so it’s not exactly new. It’s too bad that guy’s have to have that attitude, which can be dangerous to have as stats of college rape have shown and at the very least show total d baggery.


    Same signs I think last week for university of Virginia I think. Some say and think it’s a joke and not to be taken seriously. But I don;t believe, like you can see from the dudes in the picture. I’ve seen guy’s like that and can’t help but take it serious because of the many cocky, “tools” I’ve seen, where they think it’s cool to be a cocky d bag who is god’s gift to women and think it’s cool to treat women like shit and be players and brag or be cocky about it.

    Too many guy’s with over inflated egos, and more likely rooted from insecurity, and unfortunately can be found in a fraternity because it’s a place where guy’s are trying to one up each other, a testosterone, competitive male envirionment, trying to prove each other whose is more of a man. It’s unfortunate guy’s like that can reside in fraternities and slander many other frat boys as, I’ve know other frat guys and they aren’t at all like that and are cool and regular, nice guys like men and other men. But the the situation and group of boys trying to be young men in such atmosphere probably attracts or can have young men to be part of such stuff or attract such, because the atmosphere conducive of men trying to look cool to each other. I have a niece, who is a long way from being college age ha, but seriously, if many years down the line when she’s readyf ro college and I was driving her down to the college of choice and I saw those signs outside of frat house to the college she was thinking about going to. I would not want her there and I’d turn back.

  3. It’s incredibly ironic that fraternities are based on “principles” of being complete gentlemen and upstanding citizens/students yet they act like uneducated and immature 13 year old boys. I can’t say i’m all too shocked with their actions, Yale DKE is not the only fraternity who has done these types of things before. Honestly, a large amount of boys (mainly those in college) throw around phrases like “No means Yes.” It’s not anything all that surprising. I completely agree with the author when she stated that this most likely derives from these students’ need to feel superior especially being in a group with 100 or so other males you find the need to feel dominant with all that testosterone. As far as Yale’s way of handling the matter, I think mandating a public apology is as sufficient as it can get. Expelling or doing anything as harsh wouldn’t do anything. These boys will still continue to think the same thing and have their same mind sets. What will punishing their frat, etc really do? Honestly these types of actions and behavior is truly disgusting, but the truth is that some people do not have the common sense and judgement to know any better. Hopefully that is something they will gain with time and maturity. Until then, their hurtful and demeaning words towards women should be looked down upon and just feel sorry for these boys who will surely have a difficult time finding a classy and respectable woman.

  4. And several years later, in a prison shower…

    Perspective. Those ignorant pukes need quite a lot.

  5. It is always easier to blame the other person. It is because what ever the deed was. We wanted to do it in the first place. Before pointing the finger to correct the other person remember there are four fingers coming back to us. We need to stop living in a fantasy world and come to the real world. Accept doing the right thing and we won’t have to look over our shoulder.

  6. For guys to be acting like this…it’s so stupid. If men want to prove that they are brave, strong, couragous, and etc there are so many ways to prove that, but not to point of hurting and disrespecting women. If guys are going to be hurting women in order for them to make them feel better about themselves that is beyond being a coward. My question is why are these boys getting away with this? How come the Universities are letting them get away with something like this?

  7. This is an example of an adolescent over-reaction to a perceived threat from “uppity” women, reflecting out society’s sexualization of nearly everything. Leave it to the children to reflect our hypocricy back for us to ponder.

  8. Michelle Srikhundonr

    I find it saddening and frustrating that there is a psychological part in a man’s mind in which he feels the need to overpower a woman. The negative influences that the fraternities are having on pledges should be confronted and minimized as much as possible because, if these activities continue to be allowed, there is no end to the outrageous acts that will come about — especially if they can simply “apologize” and be let off the hook.

    • Yes, and I’ll write later about the mind of a rapist and how rape is correlated with cultures that don’t value women. The more women are valued, the less rape there is (and vice versa).

  9. this is pretty sad, i pity these BOYS. In my eyes it takes a certain kind sicko to act this way in front of a building that is meant to protect women and shelter them from people like the Yale DKE members. I hope these BOYS do not expect their actions to result in them getting laid more, if the girls and women of Yale know whats good for them they’d stay clear of DKE because is clear that these BOYS have no clue how to treat a women properly. Its as if these BOYS posted a bulletin on their frat house that states “We Will Probably Rape You”…maybe that is extreme but its actions like this that set back gender equality and generally makes guys look bad. Its tragic that Yale can’t/won’t punish these BOYS extensively, they will probably hide behind the 1st amendment but this, to me, is clear abuse of our freedom of speech. This BOYS need to ask themselves what if their mothers or sisters had been victimized by someone with the same mindset, I’m sure they’d change their tune in a heartbeat. These BOYS should be forced to volunteer their time in a battered women shelter and maybe they’ll truly understand why their remarks are so sickening and insane…or maybe in a different world be forced to have anal sex with a man and see what that is really like but again I’m probably stepping over the line. just a thought

    • I agree. I’m hoping the women will start ostracizing guys who behave like this.

      And you and Bob are right about encouraging rape. Many frats create rape cultures, so not surprisingly, rape is higher in places like frats, than among the general population.

      Once again, young men feel pressured into frat gang rape, and participate even when they don’t want to, or say nothing about their brothers behavior.
      This all keeps rape culture going.

    • “a building that is meant to protect women and shelter them”

      The sole purpose behind this building is to give hatemongering academic feminists a base to spread their propaganda and recruit new members. Always have been, always will be.

      • Hmmmmm,

        – Women’s Center that helps assaulted and abused women.
        – Guys’ chants of “No means yes! Yes means anal!”

        One of those does sound hatemongering.

      • The guys may not have meant any of the stuff they said. For all we know, they may have been there to stir the feminazis up. If so, then they most likely did it because feminazis always go out of their way to harm men. Just about every policy implemented by academic feminazis is meant to incite misandry and marginalise men. Of course that doesn’t justify what these young men did, though it might explain the motivation behind their actions.

      • Interesting tactic.

        Who looks worse?

      • The guys will come across as arseholes, but they don’t care. All they care about is stirring up the feminazis.

  10. Lauren Schneider

    … Just realized that I turned the anonymous author into a man.
    I’d change it and make it sexless, but I really doubt the author is a woman (although what do I know, apparently I’m the wrong kind of feminist).

  11. Lauren Schneider

    The Yale Daily News’ response (unsurprisingly, it’s apparently anonymous) is infuriating. Not only does the author end his lame criticism of the fraternity by lying right back down on the “come on, everyone knows we’re done with the fight for equal rights” nondefense of the pledges’ actions, he belittles the reaction – unbelievably, he calls it “histrionics” – of the Women’s Center and its defenders. Here’s a link to the article: http://www.yaledailynews.com/news/2010/oct/18/the-womens-center-must-continue-to-break-the/

    Here’s a little excerpt demonstrating how the Women’s Center is sooo out of touch with Yale’s completely equal and satisfied female population:
    “In recent years, the radicalizing echo chamber of the Center has failed to represent the broader spectrum of women on campus after acts of public misogyny. While the Center spent their time painting murals of their own vaginas, the rest of women were left without a public voice. Their history of radicalism has alienated Yale’s women; few think of the Center as a representative forum in which to tackle gender relations.
    …We would all do well to remember that, at Yale, the effectiveness and inclusiveness of women’s advocacy is inversely proportional to its radicalism.”

  12. I don’t think the choices you gave for the source of their actions really fit. Rather that being scaredy-cats, I think their choice os yelling these hurtful comments en mass, in the dead of night, in front of the women’s dorms… is an attempt at bullying, or even terrorizing, the young women. And the “Yes means No” taunts seems an open threat to violate the usual “No means NO” phrase that is used to give women the courage to stand up for their rights and resist sexual advances when that is what they want. Yes means No” threatens that we’ll take sex when we want it, regardless of what you say. And unfortunately, this group reinforcement may well lead to at least some of them following through on their group threats and raping some girl.

    For me, unless the administration takes a firm stand and denounces these bullying tactics, these future “leaders” within our society will continue to assujme that these attitudes and actions are acceotanle in our society. Just like drunk driving, this is an opportunity for us to reinforce that these views are not acceptable, or tolerated.

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