Yes means Yes: Consent is Sexy

consent is sexySuppose someone you know slightly arrives at your home, baggage and all, and just barges in and stays overnight. When you protest, the response is, “Well, you didn’t say no.”

Or imagine that a man breaks into your home while you sleep off a night of drunken revelry, and robs you blind. Did your drinking imply consent?


Yet a lot of people think it’s okay to enter a woman’s body when she hasn’t said she would like that. 

And actually, when a body is entered without permission it’s far more traumatic than the examples posted above, say Michael Kimmel and Gloria Steinem, who made the analogies in a New York Times piece.

But since California changed the legal standard for colleges accepting state funding from “no means no” to “yes means yes,” some are wondering:

Is consent un-sexy?

When Antioch College began this policy years ago, students simply began asking, “Do you want to implement the policy?” say Steinem and Kimmel.

That’s kind of sexy!

Or, Jason Schultz decided to personally implement the policy in all of his sexual relationships after a good friend of his was raped during their early weeks at Duke University.

Her trauma — the anger, sadness and hurt, and the fear she began feeling toward Jason — led him to become a rape educator.

Here’s how he broached the topic of sex with one woman he was seeing:

I’ve been thinking about kissing you all night. And then touching you. All over. I hope that’s okay.

The young woman blushed and responded,

Sure. I just… well, no one’s ever said that to me so far in advance before. Usually we are already drunk and naked and at least somewhere near the bed.

Consensual is sensualWow! A man has yearned — all night — to kiss her, and touch her all over!

Way sexier then being drunk near a bed.

“Yes” can be erotic, say Steinem and Kimmel:

One of literature’s most enduring works, James Joyce’s “Ulysses,” concludes with Molly Bloom’s affirmative declaration of desire (considered so erotic, in fact, that it was banned for more than a decade after publication): “and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.”

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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 September 29, 2014, in feminism, psychology, rape and sexual assault, sex and sexuality, sexism, violence against women, women and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 49 Comments.

  1. In my eyes consent is definitely sexy. I don’t see what’s wrong with asking or bringing it up before the the time comes. I was raised by women and was always taught the right thing to do was to be honest with the woman from the beginning. The idea that some men try get women drunk or get straight to it without seeing if she has the same desires is simply sad. My personal opinion is that there is nothing more sexy when you know the girl your with wants to take it to the next level as much as you do. This being enforced is a great idea because it makes everything black and white. No longer would there be a gray area. You either get a yes or a no. If a women says no and a man continues to pursue it is rape period. It doesn’t matter if a woman is playing hard to get because at the end of the day no means no.


    She was a guest on one of my favorite local radio talk shows this morning (

  3. You see, this is precisely what I was alluding to earlier. You can make all the laws you wish, I simply do not see how such laws would address these kids of matters.–ncaaf.html

    I abhor this tendency to punish or suspend students just because an allegation has been made. Where is due process here?

    I greatly empathize with you on what we are trying to avoid: rape and its horrid consequences. In our zeal to achieve this, what if we are unfairly punishing students without due process?

    • Yes, that’s what I thought. But consent can be very sexy, and a lot fewer women will be raped — or at least a lot more rapists will be removed from society — with the new consent law.

      I’ve seen a number of instances in which a drunk girl was raped, And she had never given consent. But since she haven’t said no, People didn’t see it as rape. I think this is an important way to change mindsets. It’s not so hard to do, and as I said, it can be alluring if you do it right.

      • “I’ve seen a number of instances in which a drunk girl was raped, And she had never given consent. But since she haven’t said no.”

        You see, this is a real problem for me. If she was drunk, how does she know she never said ‘No’?!

        About 12 years ago, I was a VP for this CA based co here in MD. I attended our company holiday party. I got drunk. I had a conversation with this woman named Megan. Her boyfriend was a sales rep with the company name Mark. Well, apparently during this conversation, I remarked that her boyfriend was schtupping one of my subordinates named Terri and was transferring her out of my division This woman Megan knew I was Terri’s manager. Also, she knew of a rumor concerning her boyfriend and Terri. Honestly, I do not recall making the remark. But, because I was drunk, I cannot say I did not.

        The following Monday, Mark’s boss approached me. He said Mark was upset blah blah blah……He was not man enough to come to me himself!! In this case, while I did not deny it, I did tell him it is something I could have indeed said. But, I really did not know. Anyhow, it was a truth! Told him to get the hell out of my office……End of it.

        Anyhow, just as I did not recall what I said, the same goes for any human being that is drunk. So, we cannot assume a rape occurred if the person alleging such is drunk! It is simple common sense. Can she really know definitively what ACTUALLY occurred? Can she really know with any degree of certainty what she ACTUALLY said? I am doubtful.

      • “If she was drunk, how does she know she never said ‘No’?!”

        That’s the point. If she’s drunk, don’t have sex with her.

        Because there’s a risk that she doesn’t want sex. And if she doesn’t want it, it will be an experience that ranges from hard to traumatic. That could make her never want to have sex again, that leads to anxiety and depression and a fear of men. Even posttraumatic stress disorder. Rape is one of the reasons that women’s sexuality is more repressed than men’s. If another man rapes woman who you might someday want to have sex with, she probably won’t want to have sex with you.

        And the standard isn’t no at California schools now, It’s yes.

  4. I’m so glad the affirmative consent idea is catching on, and that our state has taken the lead in passing the new campus consent law! I also highly recommend the Yes Means Yes collection of essays (edited by Jaclyn Friedman) for a great exploration of the concept from a variety of writers.

  5. This is a great article and topic to bring to the table (blog)… I was thinking that consent is the major point when it comes to lack of it in a tough situation. I am of course talking about rapes…
    When it comes to spontaneous given facts which might entrain a further contact, I am not so sure if it is necessary. The example given above is a little bit explicit. Nobody would jump on you that way… Unless the active one is the childish type…. But it is true, it might be “cute”…. I guess: “Can I kiss you?” is well enough… No more words after that question .
    Thanks for sharing. I always like to drop by !. Best wishes, Aquileana 😛

  6. I personally think that if you are in a relationship it’s important to talk about the sex life your partner and you will carry. It’s is important to communicate your sex life with the person you will be with to feel comfortable. For example, if your partner just starts kissing you and it ends up leading to something else and you don”t say anything then he/she will assume you did want to have sex, even though, you were unsure if you wanted to or not. To me, not being sure of what you want is insacure and that’s not sexy, right? Everyone person want a parnter that is sure and confident about them self and on the desicons they make. Not to be pressured into doing something you don’t want to do. Consent is the way to be sexy!

  7. I definitely think a man being considerate is way sexier than when a guy just keeps pressing the issue to try to convince you to say yes. To me the former shows consideration and regard and that would make me want to open much more so than the other way.

  8. “I’ve been thinking about kissing you all night. And then touching you. All over. I hope that’s okay.”

    That;s good to show desire before drunk and in bed. But usually a guy saying this even a woman or girl he knows can make him look like a creep many times, being this forward,in advance or before she showed signs of lusting for him.

    • Your comment made me when you read the article and I realized I wasn’t as clear as I could’ve been. So I altered the text. This was a woman he was already seeing. Otherwise you’re right, it would likely be seen as creepy.

  9. I was recently discussing “hugging” with a friend. Do you have suggestions for guidelines? An ultra-light hug to start with if not sure how the other person will reciprocate? Or Is it always better to ask first?

  10. Consent is the key word…and I hope men will understand it’s importance one day….

  11. for a woman consenting should be the only kind of answer , a clear consent. so. saying that “I’ve been thinking about kissin you.. can also be interpreted as a manipulative of to obtain her consent. why if it is true that he really thought, didn’t he ask for a nummber normally and everything. If there is no natural consent no matter how sexy it looks it’s actually wrong. women’s bosies should be respected and their consent is the way to do so to even go further their consent must be totally repected to stop objectify them

    • With your comment and another person’s, I realized I was a little unclear in the post, So I went back and made clear that he was already seeing this woman. Otherwise, your comment makes a lot of sense.

  12. Sex is not sex without consent. With that being said, if there is no consent there is no sex. Consent can not only be a very appropriate and LEGAL thing to do but it also creates a stronger bond between partners and lets the other person know that their safety and happiness is in mind of their partner. Consent is important to ask for, no matter what the sex is of your partner. Always confirm consent.

  13. That last quote was sexy. I have different standards on that kiss you all over approach. If a guy approaches me and say that I’ll think he’s some kind of perv and get away wide eyed. If my boyfriend asked then that would be okay for me to consider. But I get the concept and consent is just the right way to approach any sexual encounter.

  14. Consent is sexy, yes! Always be sure of what you want with the person your with!

  15. More importantly consent should be the only option. We all know not everyone wasn’t raised the same therefor not everyone has the same values. Sex should happen when the two partners both consent with one another not ones self gain. When consent isn’t involved it destroys the sensual loving nature of sex. As a man you are Supposed to protect women and care for them not take advantage of them after all ask your self , wouldn’t you want your daughters partner to have her consent. I also believe it would be much more sexier knowing the partner wants you as much or even more than you want them.

  16. “I’ve been thinking about kissing you all night. And then touching you. All over. I hope that’s okay.”

    This is perfect – it communicates the desire and asks for consent at the same time without sounding clunky or scripted. So the girl can feel desirable AND in control of the situation at the same time – two things that don’t normally happen simultaneously with a lot of guys.

    • “I’ve been thinking about kissing you all night. And then touching you. All over. I hope that’s okay.”

      I know so many women who would think this is the most unromantic, lacking in confidence, unsexy, and weak as hell thing to say to them. A quintessential Mr. Nice Guy (read not sexy at all) move.

      • Well, you’re a guy. Maybe a guy with stereotyped notions about what women like. Is sounds VERY sexy to me, and a number of women who commented also said they like it.

      • I think some of it would depend on the delivery. If it was delivered in that leering manner typical of pickup lines it wouldn’t be very romantic. If, on the other hand, it was said with a sincere manner in a conversational tone of voice, I think it would work really well.

  17. I would be very wary of a “Is X or Y sexier?” war, because the fact is many male behaviors which you would deem “sexist” or “anti-feminist” indeed “work” in terms of attracting women:

    Men do observe women drooling over Don Draper and Christian Grey and wonder what they might learn from them—that’s a fact. You gotta look at the gender attitudes and courtship styles of the men most men deem to be the most attractive to women or the men women appear to be the most attracted to within a group, that’s **extremely important.** Women greatly under-estimate the fact that women they publicly drool over certain men that men are invisibly and silently taking notes. Here’s a relevant video worth checking out:

    Also, if you and/or the woman in question have sexual shame up to your eyeballs, or if you and/or the woman in question belong to some religious community that makes feigning spontaneity less guilt-triggering than clear, explicit communication, then communication and courtship style as a whole need to be analyzed and not just the few seconds leading up to physical contact or sex. Obviously that only applies to some people, I know men and women who are not afraid of saying anything they want ever. And what about men for whom performing social dominance and status-flexing is among their primary sexual attraction strategy—the point is the guy is leading the whole interaction and men who go “hey, I have no plan, what do you want to do?” are often seen as weak/lazy/unattractive/etc. Here’s another article:

    There’s a connection between the themes in that article and yours and I’m sure there’s many subtle ones even I didn’t see.

    • “I would be very wary of a “Is X or Y sexier?” war”

      Really? That’s scary. And so are the links you sent to make your point.

      The Don Draper/wife video — and the attitude you express along with it — is an example of how dangerous token resistance is. When either men or women use token resistance (I’m saying no but I really mean yes) it teaches people that rape is okay. That’s why this sort of thing should be avoided. It can too often lead to rape. As can ideas like that last link you sent.

      Especially when consent can be so sexy (or even if it weren’t), it’s not worth the risk.

      Let’s say you guess wrong and she really wants sex with you, but you don’t to be safe. What’s the risk? She may well end up wanting you more. She will know that respect her, Which could make her like and respect you more.

      Let’s say you guess wrong and she doesn’t want to have sex with you, But you think that no — or the absence of clear consent — means yes. You could get a rape charge and have your reputation deservedly ruined, And spend some time in jail. And girls and women who are raped have all sorts of negative consequences. They typically lose interest in sex (So don’t plan on having sex with her ever again), they experience trauma, some even experience PTSD. They stop trusting men. They undergo anxiety and depression… And much more.

      Do you really want to risk doing that to someone?

      Jason, who I wrote about, saw first hand what happens to young women when they are raped. The young woman experienced trauma and fear and no longer trusted him. I know another man who was in a relationship with a woman who went numb after they had sex. That was not fun for him. Or sexy. He asked about what happened. She said that she had been raped before and felt like she needed to have sex to have a relationship, but she couldn’t handle it. So she dealt with it by mentally moving outside her body when the sex started so that her mind was absent. And my brother dated a girl who had been raped and she would just start crying for no apparent reason.

      None of that is sexy.

      • “When either men or women use token resistance (I’m saying no but I really mean yes) it teaches people that rape is okay.”

        Isn’t this incredibly simplistic thinking ? Most rapists know what they are doing is NOT OK. I think the video accurately portray how real human being communicate and interact. If a woman REALLY mean yes, then how does this constitute rape?

        No one disputes the awful consequences of rape, except rapists. Most are violent people who could care less about the rules, laws, etc. Many are sociopaths.

        “It can too often lead to rape. As can ideas like that last link you sent.”

        OK. How often?

        Anyone who is informed about the sexual assault issues on college campuses know there is one thing that is nearly always a factor: alcohol. If both parties are intoxicated, then it is truly question if either can recall the facts of their encounter with any degree of accuracy.

        I cannot see how any of these new rules to regulate and control social behavior could impact things in any meaningful way. Seriously.

        It is just so frustrating today. One the one hand, we are witnessing the Khardashianing of America,,,along with rampant and unbridled narcissism,

        Make a homemade porn tape = Empowering
        Become a porn actress = Empowering
        Become an escort = Empowering
        Become a “sugar baby’ = Empowering

        Then, on the flip side we get these attempts at social control…They seem to run counter. All so confusing.

        Help me understand all this. Please.

      • Guys in my class have said, “but what if you know she really wants it?” And the video does make it look like she really wants it. Nonetheless, this sort of video can mislead a lot of people. In fact, the examples that William gave were all of the same sort. These guys would not see themselves as rapists, but the women they are with might. It’s not worth taking a chance given the harm you can cause. And “how often?” is beside the point. Even once as damaging. And while alcohol is usually involved in campus rapes, Not 100% of the time. Whether or not the new rules affect behavior, they will affect consequences — and get men removed from campus, and society, where they are dangerous. Men rarely worry about being raped, So it can be hard for them to see things from a woman’s perspective. It saddens me to see resistance to something that could prevent so much damage to women.

      • What’s the racial and class makeup of your class (or most of your classes)? I’m curious if it matches the picture I’ve developed in my head.

        Back to our conversation, you have ideas, I have ideas, to sell my ideas to you, I have to know something about the ideas you already embrace. That’s how it works, and going “OMG I CAN’T BELIEVE EVERYONE DOESNT ALREADY AGREE WITH ME” doesn’t solve anything or help anyone. No one you approach with any kind of message or injunction is a blank slate. To make a “this is what most women find sexier” argument and actually CONVINCE people, you need to look at what media, people’s common experiences/perceptions/etc. already have conditioned them to believe.

        You did give me two new ideas to ponder in your last comment: “Look at how many people Don Draper and James Bond *might* have raped’ is definitely not an approach I would have considered prior to you using it. You are also saying that what many women appear to want is putting other women in a dangerous position when men attempt to implement that, which is something else I haven’t considered. So you’re saying women who engage in token resistance should consider the impact of their behavior in the aggregate?

        Here’s how token resistance (as I encounter it) normally works. Just like many self-described feminist women are attracted to conventionally masculine “take charge” men, many men who claim to be liberal, progressive, and cool still don’t like or appreciate women who are too promiscuous or sexually forward. So to be “super-safe” a woman will feign disinterest in sex or act like it wasn’t on her mind “just in case” the man consciously or unconsciously is a slut-shamer, because despite whatever sexist, misogynist or anti-libertarian beliefs the man may have, she’s still attracted to him. For example an old friend of mine regularly engaged in casual sex and one night stands because she thought they were fun, but with a man she was dating for a long time, she basically presented herself not very sexually experienced and not the kind of woman who does that kind of stuff. She also denied him sex earlier in the relationship so that he would be more likely to see her as a long term prospect.

        I would encourage you and everyone reading this to read the Serano article I linked to in my first comment, because it’s still something I ponder occasionally:

        I understand what the possible psychic consequences of sexual assault are, trust me.

      • As much as I would like to convince everyone of my ideas I don’t think it’s possible.

        The dominant ideas of our society tend to come from people who are white, male, rich and straight. That’s because people in the most powerful positions in media, politics, business and religion come mostly from that demographic.

        I explain to my students that I will turn things around in my classes. We will look at the world from the perspective of people who are nonwhite, female, poor and LGBTQ.

        As I explain to my students, my job is to present a perspective. Their job is to consider what they think of that perspective. And I encourage them to not just accept everything I say, but to question. They only need to be polite.

        We can have some very lively and interesting discussions. And my classes are so popular that my Dean has asked if I would be willing to teach more classes, because they fill up so quickly. (I told him I would rather not because I’m trying to get some writing done — so I’m teaching part-time right now.)

        When it comes to race my student demographics roughly reflect the demographics of the southern San Francisco Bay Area (we call it “The South Bay”): about 1/3 white, 1/3 hispanic, 1/3 Asian, 3-4 Blacks, and 2-3 Muslims. The gender makeup varies, with my “women’s psychology” class getting somewhere between 1/3 to 1/2 men. “Intro to women’s studies” is about 1/5 to 1/3 men. Interestingly, the number of men in my classes increased when I began my blog. Maybe because their friends were e-mailing my stuff and the guys got interested?

    • “For example an old friend of mine regularly engaged in casual sex and one night stands because she thought they were fun, but with a man she was dating for a long time, she basically presented herself not very sexually experienced and not the kind of woman who does that kind of stuff. She also denied him sex earlier in the relationship so that he would be more likely to see her as a long term prospect.”

      The problem with your old friend’s approach is that she is clearly being dishonest and deceptive about her sexual past to this new man. Such is not a harmless endeavor. This man deserves to know about her past. Also, her past is bound ti have some degree of impact on the relationship, sexually.

      I wonder why she did not try to cultivate a long term relationship with some of her casual lovers? If she was willing to screw them, then why not? Now, this poor guy she is dating thinks he has a woman of a certain “quality” and instead he has a person who is not who she claim to be. It is really a sad and dishonest thing on her part.

    • “Her previous partners were all inferior to this guy in terms of financial and social status. He owned his own business and made 30k a month.”

      And? …Your point is?

      So, it was all about the $$$?

      Does that justify lying and being deceitful? I think not.

  18. Definitely I think the only way sex can be sexy is with consent

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