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Yes Means Yes!: Visions of Female Sexual Power and A World Without Rape

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  4,972 ratings  ·  285 reviews
In this groundbreaking new look at rape edited by writer and activist Jaclyn Friedman and Full Frontal Feminism and He’s A Stud, She’s A Slut author Jessica Valenti, the way we view rape in our culture is finally dismantled and replaced with a genuine understanding and respect for female sexual pleasure. Feminist, political, and activist writers alike will present their id ...more
Paperback, 361 pages
Published December 2nd 2008 by Seal Press
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Mar 21, 2009 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: folks interested in consent, survivor advocates, survivors (who've had some distance)
i expected to find this book irritating, because i find most of what jessica valenti is involved in irritating (see my scathing review of full frontal feminism for more), & i find a lot of discourse around consent tedious & lumbering, a game of one-upsmanship in which people are proposing ever more individualistic & unrealistic-outside-of-incestuous-radical-enclaves solutions to the tremendous problem of sexual assault & rape culture. the calls for submissions were framed as jessica & her co-edi ...more
Emily May
Oct 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014, feminism, nonfiction
A really powerful read. This book attempts to refute the notion that sex is something that happens to women - that they are conquests, not participants. It's also about how women enjoy sex as much as men and shouldn't be shamed for it. ...more
Feb 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Read this book. No, really. Read. This. Book.

I can't tell you how much the essays in this collection made me rethink my perspective on female sexuality, rape culture, what it means to be a woman in America right now, and many other topics. These essays are eye-openers, embracing not only a sex-positive look at female sexuality but also a perspective that views all forms of sexual pain as legitimate injuries. The essayists go beyond the question of "was there rape?" and "did she say no?" and look
Jun 18, 2011 rated it it was ok
A rather problematic book which has become something of a bible for neoliberal feminists. Here's an excerpt from my review:

"Yes Means Yes rests at the nexus of two ideological points. One is a liberal feminism so battered by decades of right-wing sexism that it spends all its energy reacting to the same instead of questioning how it might have become part of the problem. The other is a burgeoning domestic violence/rape counseling industrial complex compelled to paint its clients solely as pathet
Elevate Difference
May 13, 2009 rated it it was ok
Connections: The Apostate and Professor What If review...
Yes Means Yes!: Visions of Female Sexual Power and A World Without Rape

The Apostate: My initial reaction when I heard about the anthology was mixed. It seemed that the problem of rape was being used for a catchy slogan's sake (the catchy slogan being a play on the anti-rape "no means no" rule), and not because it made any real sense. I wasn't sure where you could go with that—connecting sexuality with rape culture in a way that was meaning
Dec 22, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommended to Kari by: Krissy
I enjoyed this book as much as I enjoy Feminist literature, but it isn't the best. Several of the essays seem to draw on forever, but others are simply incredible.

Perhaps my favorite essay, "Hooking Up with Healthy Sexuality: The Lessons Boys Learn (and Don't Learn) About Sexuality, and Why a Sex-Positive Rape Prevention Paradigm Can Benefit Everyone Involved...," was written by Brad Perry. I enjoy reading about rape, sex, and gender relations form a male perspective because I am bombarded with
Kate Gould
Jul 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most exciting, stimulating, and intelligent books I've ever read. I had so many "f*ck yeah" moments reading it. I'd recommend it to every woman and to every man who wants to know what makes us tick. ...more
Jan 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
I liked this book quite a lot, as evidenced by the rating I gave it. I do recommend it. I thought it was a really thought-provoking, thoughtful collection of ideas and topics. But none of that is what I want to talk about here. What I want to talk about is what I didn't like about it, which, for me, overshadowed everything I did like.
First off, let me say: sex positivity is great. Enthusiastic consent is great. Better sex education is great. It's all great, and all something we should work towar
Apr 28, 2009 rated it did not like it
I suppose I should clarify why I gave this book such a crap rating. There is NOTHING in here about sex, consent and disability; for a book that's supposed to be "intersectional," that is a problem. In sum: "female sexual power and a world without rape" is only important for able-bodied women, I guess? ...more
Ms. Online
Veronica I. Arreola

Review of Yes Means Yes! Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World Without Rape
Edited by Jaclyn Friedman and Jessica Valenti
Seal Press

Utopian novels have grappled with the idea of a world without rape, but what would the path to that world look like? The controversial essays that make up Yes Means Yes! light the way along this very rough road and, not surprisingly, offer no easy solutions.

The book itself was conceived in controversy. A report on Women’s eNews a
Dec 18, 2008 rated it really liked it
I had really high expectations for this book, as it seemed to touch on a lot of issues that I have been thinking about recently. And unfortunately, what I read of it (admittedly, only about half the essays) didn't quite meet those Lisa mentions in her review, if you're fairly familiar with feminist thought, some of the material will seem like more of a review than a radical new way of thinking about things.

HOWEVER, there were two essays that stuck out to me and that I would hi
Feb 25, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: sd-fem-bookclub
A well-curated collections of essays about rape, abuse, and sexual consent, "Yes Means Yes" contains a variety of different perspectives and voices. Some of the essays contradict other ones; I disagreed with some authors' points while finding others' persuasive and illuminating. I found highlights of the book included Margaret Cho's honest and assertive foreward, Julia Serano's proposals for changing male culture to discourage rape, numerous authors' calls for the cultural replacement of stressi ...more
Apr 03, 2013 rated it it was ok
For a book - and a movement - that touts intersectionality, "Yes Means Yes!," a tour de force of writing talents ranging from WOC lesbians to straight trans and so on, completely ignores conservative and religious feminists.

Yes, we exist!

In fact, "Yes Means Yes!" reads more as a list of grievances against the Right Wing - who, according to the editors and authors, is completely made up of white religious men - with the authors of the essays roundly lambasting a straw-man version of conservative
Jun 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
As if humanity needed more evidence for a second sexual revolution. Just skim a few pages and you'll want to volunteer down at your local rape crisis center or Planned Parenthood. While I value this book for its bravery, I see two big flaws here: 1) too much focus on westernized American feminists, and 2) some essays reads like one long blog entry (I prefer empirical research over blog comments for evidence/arguments). But I understand that academia is too slow to wade into the swiftly moving de ...more
Mar 21, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2010
There are several things to appreciate about this book--for instance, the fact that it exists. I'd be excited (and grateful!) to get recommendations for books that cover sexual violence (NOT Against Our Will, the person who wrote that needs to fully examine the implications of their thesis!-- in my humble opinion) as sensitively yet humorously as this book did. A second thing to appreciate is the diversity of perspectives and backgrounds. Related to this, the range of topics discussed is astound ...more
Apr 18, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: feminists, survivors, boys learningto be allies
This was really good.

Yes Means Yes is an anthology of essays on rape culture, consent, and related topics. I was really impressed by how broad the subject area covered was. An incomplete list: the book contains articles on reproductive justice, virginity, sex education, surviving abuse, and intersections of sexualized violence with race, class, sexual orientation, size, gender, and immigration status. The authors come from a wide range of backgrounds and ground their essays in varied unique pers
tom bomp
Jun 26, 2012 rated it liked it
My biggest problem with this book is that a lot of the essays don't really push into the visions promised by the title - they're to a large extent descriptions of what the authors have experienced. This is obviously valuable, but I guess I expected a bit more given the title and the wide availability of many different people's experiences on the internet that this to a certain extent replicates. Also, only a few essays linked the problems described to causes past a nebulous "culture" and to thin ...more
Jan 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Love, Love, LOVE this book. It reinforced again and again concepts that I have argued for time and again in the past, and sincerely hope will become second-nature in the future:
-Rape is caused by Rapists. Period. There's nothing that you do to cause yourself to be raped.
-Girls and young women should be taught that their sexual desires are normal, and that both YES and NO are valid responses to the sex question.
-An "absence of no" shouldn't be the baseline for sexual encounters-- an "enthusiasti
like, there is a 1:1 correlation in this book: is the article by a WOC? then it among the best in this book. The rest is just... largely boring, repetitive,overly optimistic, etc. and it was almost unbearable to work through the fucking thing, especially the naive sex positive parts...
Jun 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: feminism, nonfiction
This is a wonderful anthology full of a wide range of essays. I liked some more than others, but overall it's a great book. ...more
Apr 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Easily the best book I've read this year, if not ever. Yes Means Yes! is an anthology of essays from women and trans folks (and a few men) of all backgrounds, white, black, Latina, Asian, poor, affluent, queer, hetero, sex workers, dominatrices, bloggers, organizers, educators, artists, and survivors, all answering the question, "How can we create a world without rape?"

This book more than any other opened my eyes to the central importance of female sexual power to movement for progressive social
I picked this up after reading Jaclyn Friedman's What You Really, Really Want: A Smart Girl's Shame Free Guide to Sex and Safety. The title was catchy and made me think "Is it possible to have a world without rape?".

At first, when I found out how the authors suggested I read the book via the list of recommended titles at the end based on the themes, I was a little sceptical as I am quite a routine person who reads things cover to cover. But I tried it and surprisingly it was a fun and unique way
May 20, 2009 rated it it was ok
I really expected more from a book that claimed to be putting the yes and pleasure back into consent. I've been disgusted with the liberal rape crisis movement for years in the way it polices people's fantasies and sexualities for healthy or unhealthy (do you like BDSM? You're just reliving your trauma; try to condition yourself to get off by imagining a refreshing waterfall instead--that's bullshit is straight from _The Courage to Heal_, the movement's bible, by the way) and how it looks down o ...more
Aug 13, 2008 marked it as currently-re-reading
Recommends it for: EVERYONE
Rereading this for the reading group.


First Reading:

I'm so sad to be done with this book. I mean, I'm totally glad that I finished it and read the awesome essays at the end (Higginbotham, Kulwicki) that I was missing when I got distracted 2/3 of the way through, but I'm sad that there's no more for me to read.

Okay, there were a fair number of essays that were just sort of mediocre and which trolled through stuff that i'm heard ad nauseum (Valenti, Filipovic, Jervis)*. And there were the few es
Rachel Jackson
Jun 09, 2016 rated it liked it
When I began Yes Means Yes I anticipated a discussion on the political and social aspects of sexual assault in our current society and all the ways rape culture and sex-negative culture affects us. It's not quite what I got. While the book — which I read online here — does talk about ways to empower women, to keep women safe, to expand discussions on safe sexual education or activity, it seemed mostly self-serving to those who wrote the essays within it and who apparently just wanted to have a s ...more
Jun 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Yes Means Yes is a great anthology incorporating a number of perspectives and analysis on rape culture, including but not limited to persons of color, survivors, trans people and queers. It is mostly focused on American culture, but it's still a relevant text since damaging campaigns like the Silver Ring Thing expanded their remit well past the US of A.

The essays are as varied in their topic and approach as their contributors, but the underlying theme is that a model of enthusiastic consent woul
Oct 21, 2015 rated it liked it
I'm confused about this book. I think it could've been great but it just isn't. Some of this essays are fucking awesome and eye opening but then you have some others that make you go: wtf, this has nothing to do with this book.
nonetheless, here are my favorite excerpts:
- ...Rape victims are almost always depicted as female, despite the fact that one in thirty-three MEN will survive sexual assault.
- Feminists insist that men are not animals. Instead, men are rational human beings fully capable of
Dec 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is by far the most enlightening, educational and informative book I've ever read on the topics of rape, sexuality, consent, masculinity, femininity, gender, pleasure, incest, dating, love, misogyny, birth, pregnancy, female empowerment, and trauma, many of which are tied to each other, or race and/or class. I personally loved that it was a collection of essays grouped together by theme; I followed the "jumping around" throughout the book that Friedman and Valenti encouraged-I didn't read fr ...more
May 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
It is curious - and hard to explain - how dated a lot of this feels, despite arguably being just as relevant now as it was 8 years ago. Maybe because so many of the essays reference current events or politicians, clearly marking them as emerging from a specific moment, or maybe because the way these conversations are had has changed, or maybe a little bit of both. Nonetheless, there are a handful of essays here that I think will be useful teaching tools. It would be interesting to see what an up ...more
Aug 10, 2018 rated it liked it
Having now completed this, I find that I have pretty mixed feelings about the whole thing (hence the 3 star rating). Some of these essays were absolutely phenomenal and really spoke to me and just seemed to IMPORTANT and well thought out and just amazing all around. But others either just went completely over my head, felt unfinished, or were just "meh".

I do have to congratulate the editors of this essay compilation however, because this "mixed bag" of essays from different authors really cover
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Jaclyn Friedman is a poet and performance artist whose writing has been published in many places, including,, Pedestal Magazine, the Underwood Review, and Sojourner. She has been the Program Director for The Center for New Words and New Words Live since January 2000. She is the recipient of a 2001 Cambridge Poetry Award, a 2004 Fellowship to the Vermont Studio Center, ...more

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24 likes · 6 comments
“I felt drained and frustrated (not to mention flat-out dirty) operating within a framework that positioned the criminal legal system as the primary remedy for sexual violence. The prison-industrial complex, to which the mainstream rape crisis movement is intimately and often unquestioningly linked, is an embodiment of nonconsent used to reinforce race and class inequality. Prisons take away the rights of people, primarily poor people of color, to control their own lives and bodies. This is glaringly apparent when one sits in a courtroom and observes the ways in which race, class, and power intersect in this space. How, then, do we as a movement whose fundamental principle is consent see this as an appropriate solution? A successful anti-rape movement will focus not only on how rape upholds male supremacy, but also on how it serves as a tool to maintain white supremacy and myriad other oppressive systems. When this is done, the importance of creating alternative ways to address violence becomes more apparent, and the state-sponsored systems that reproduce inequality seem less viable options for true transformative change.” 5 likes
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