Quite obviously, no doesn’t always mean no.
Take this excerpt from my favourite movie, The Empire Strikes Back:
Han Solo: Hey, Your Worship, I’m only trying to help.
Princess Leia: Would you please stop calling me that?
Han Solo: Sure, Leia.
Princess Leia: You make it so difficult sometimes.
Han Solo: I do, I really do. You could be a little nicer, though. Come on, admit it. Sometimes you think I’m all right.
Princess Leia: Occasionally, maybe… when you aren’t acting like a scoundrel.
Han Solo: Scoundrel? Scoundrel? I like the sound of that. [Han starts to massage Leia's hand]
Princess Leia: Stop that.
Han Solo: Stop what?
Princess Leia: [timidly] Stop that. My hands are dirty.
Han Solo: My hands are dirty, too. What are you afraid of?
Princess Leia: Afraid?
Han Solo: You’re trembling.
Princess Leia: I’m not trembling. [Han moves in closer]
Han Solo: You like me because I’m a scoundrel. There aren’t enough scoundrels in your life.
Princess Leia: I happen to like nice men.
Han Solo: I’m nice men.
Princess Leia: No, you’re not. You’re… [they kiss]
The only excuse for not having seen this scene is being very young. If you really can’t be bothered to watch the original Star Wars movies, at least go to YouTube and find this scene.
Clearly, Leia wanted Han not to stop. She wanted him to be assertive. No meant yes.
Now take this infamous excerpt from my favorite novel, “The Fountainhead” by Ayn Rand:
She fought like an animal. But she made no sound. She did not call for help. She heard the echoes of her blows in a gasp of his breath, and she knew that it was a gasp of pleasure. She reached for the lamp on the dressing table. He knocked the lamp out of her hand. The crystal burst to pieces in the darkness.
It was an act that could be performed in tenderness, as a seal of love, or in contempt, as a symbol of humiliation and conquest. It could be the act of a lover or the act of a soldier violating an enemy woman. He did it as an act of scorn. Not as love, but as defilement. And this made her lie still and submit. One gesture of tenderness from him–and she would have remained cold, untouched by the thing done to her body. But the act of a master taking shameful, contemptuous possession of her was the kind of rapture she had wanted. Then she felt him shaking with the agony of a pleasure unbearable even to him, she knew that she had given that to him, that it came from her, from her body, and she bit her lips and she knew what he had wanted her to know.
They had been united in an understanding beyond the violence, beyond the deliberate obscenity of his action; had she meant less to him, he would not have taken her as he did; had he meant less to her, she would not have fought so desperately. The unrepeatable exultation was in knowing that they both understood this.
She fought Roark because she wanted it. Rand later claimed if this was rape, it was rape by “engraved invitation”, because Dominique did indeed “ask for it”.
Another example is Margaret Mitchell’s novel “Gone with the Wind”. Here, Scarlett, who has no eyes for her suitor Rhett, finally feels love for him after he violently drags her up the stairs. You can have a look at the relevant passages here.
Both novels were written by women. Indeed it’s very easy to find novels with a distinctly D/s theme that have female authorship, so Occam’s razor demands assuming also a sizable female audience even if rumors about this cliche alone don’t convince you. The same goes for short stories on the internet, and, of course, the bdsm porn industry.
So what does “no means no” actually mean? Does it mean that a woman, who says no, means no, or does it mean that you should take it to mean no even if she means yes. In other words, did Leia or Dominique wanted their suitors to stop, or should those have stopped in any case?
The first meaning is the literal one and is a descriptive statement. The second one is prescriptive; it tells us what to do.
You might think that this is irrelevant nit-picking, but I don’t think so – and here is why. Today, you have to be quite out of touch with the developments of modern technology to live under the delusion that no actually always means no in the descriptive sense. We covered this.
So when today you are told that “no means no” you could argue that it has to take the prescriptive meaning, as clearly the other one is absurd. From the perspective of finding a code of conduct, the prescription doesn’t sound too bad. Since one can’t know for sure what anybody really wants one should act only on consent they give explicitly.
However, the times have changed. When my sexuality was awakening and I began to ponder the fundamental questions about sexual dynamics, there was no internet. But there was, among other things, the mantra that “no means no” that everybody was convinced was true. And I didn’t take it to have a prescriptive meaning, even though I understood there to be a prescriptive corollary. I took it literally. I actually believed that women don’t want their resistance to be overcome. In other words, I believed Han’s masculine assertiveness being desired by women to be unrealistic.
There were also, frequently, stories about rape and sexual molestation in the media being under discussion. The suspicion that the woman might have invited the transgression was considered a tool of sexism. The problem that is so obvious today, that both men and women enjoy dynamics that can be hard to tell from abuse, was wiped off society’s radar.
So, when I think back to my childhood “sexual education”, I can’t help thinking that I have been lied to. Indoctrinated. “No means no” can, and often will have been, when stated unqualified, taken to be a description of female sexuality, rather than a code of conduct. And as such it’s blatantly wrong.
The feminist sex-education by my parents and my government-funded teachers was wrong, I should rather have believed Star Wars.
Obviously this matters. A code of conduct can always be negotiated, and its importance is clear even to a young child. If both men and women desire the “chase”, clear rules can ensure that such chases can be indulged under a framework that balances risks for both genders. But if women don’t ever desire the “chase”, there is no need for a discussion. Every assertive man is then a bully or worse.
Furthermore, I’ve been largely raised by women. The men were, as far as I can tell, not particularly masculine and in hindsight probably not particularly active in forming the narratives under which my views on sexuality formed – as well as the rest of my world-view. They merely went along.
What kind of a woman tells young men in their care something that will impair their sexuality? Things that they know to be wrong, first handed? Things that are likely to be contradicted by the pornographic literature they themselves consume, as is today visible to everyone, when they are not busy lying to those they pretend to care for?
This applies to mothers, other family members serving as role models, teachers, and the adult generation of that time in general. It’s an important question because society is often thought of under collectivist premises. This is called the social contract: The older generation teaches the young generation skills and values, “how life works”, and for that the new generation honors the older generation, and provides for them in their age.
Since most people are too dumb to understand why social contract theory is nonsensical, it’s sometimes beneficial to just assume this irrational framework and ask:
How does hypocrisy fit into this scheme?
In particular, what does a generation owe to another when they have been told not “how life works”, but lies that make them become sexually frustrated “nice guys” wondering why women often reward a guy that didn’t take no for an answer. Didn’t no mean no?
And of course the lies about sexuality are only the tip of the ice berg. In order to become a man as confident as Han Solo or Howard Roark (in other words, in order to become a man at all) one needs much more. Liberal indoctrination doesn’t help here, as you can easily see by looking at all the effeminate neurotics today, especially in the US and the UK, and compare them to their Christians ancestors. People who traveled across the Atlantic towards an uncertain future, to homestead in an unknown country. All that without any college education or social security. Real men.
Compared to the modern progressive mainstream, many of those Christians were sane and honest. Their God might not exist, but sexually, their only lie is that this God wants you to wait until marriage and be monogamous. The abuse-dramatizing, progressive generation of baby-boomers deceive under the guise of being “sensitive”, “educated” and full of “love”, whereas in fact they are merely anti-masculinity and anti-capitalism in a way Christian societies had not predominantly been since the Protestant Reformation. I’m pretty sure that historically for many progressives, this was their problem with Christians to begin with.
The woman desiring to be dominated and not advertising the fact is as innocent as it gets. But if such women became mothers (or educators) who, in the internetless 70ties, 80ties and 90ties, claimed “no means no”, which they knew to be a lie, and jeopardized the sexual health of their child for the benefit of potential rape victims (and their own self-flattery), they did that in the same way that some Islamic parents employ female genital mutilation to trade the sexual health of their daughters for the benefit of Allah. The relative absurdity of the delusion in question does not affect the scope of their betrayal. Parents should be on the side of their children – for their own, selfish benefit: The saved potential rape victim will thank them as little as the Muslim’s fictional deity, but the love and resentment of their offspring is going to be proportional to their loyalty and treachery.