Slightly pared down, here is what I find to be the choicest bits:
At first, the fraternity issued a cover-your-ass smirking apology for offending people’s feelings (read: you feminists can’t take a joke). Their next apology, a day or so later, was far more abject, and showed they’d put some serious thought into how their actions might have been experienced by others. It seemed sincere enough.
But it lacked historical perspective. In 2006, fraternity guys marched in a sort of picket line outside the Women’s Center on campus, chanting those same phrases. In 2008, members of another fraternity celebrated their love of “Yale sluts” by screaming about it outside that same campus Women’s Center.
What does it mean to chant “No Means Yes” outside the campus Women’s Center, the place that offers a safe space for women who have been assaulted or abused? What does it mean to target the one place where women might actually feel safe enough to find their own voice, feel strong enough to succeed in a world still marred by gender inequality? It’s a reminder that men still rule, that bro’s will always come before “ho’s”. Even the Women’s Center can’t protect you.
That is, it’s a way to make even the safe unsafe.
We could leave it there, and let the campus judiciary and the blogosphere continue to debate about free speech and hostile environments and hate speech. But I think it would miss another, equally important element–the second half of the chant, “Yes Means Anal.”
This chant assumes that anal sex is not pleasurable for women; that if she says yes to intercourse, you have to go further to an activity that you experience as degrading to her, dominating to her, not pleasurable to her. This second chant is a necessary corollary to the first.
Thanks to feminism, women have claimed the ability to say both “no” and “yes.” Not only have women come to believe that “No Means No,” that they have a right to not be assaulted and raped, but also that they have a right to say “yes” to their own desires, their own sexual agency. Feminism enabled women to find their own sexual voice.
Sometimes, as in the case of the now-famous Karen Owen at Duke, they can be as explicitly raunchy as men, and evaluate men’s bodies in exactly the way that men evaluate women’s bodies. (I agree with Ariel Levy that women imitating men’s drinking and sexual predation is a rather impoverished style of liberation.)
This is confusing to many men, who see sex not as mutual pleasuring, but about the “girl hunt,” a chase, a conquest. She says no, he breaks down her resistance. Sex is a zero-sum game. He wins if she puts out; she loses.
That women can like sex, and especially like good sex, and are capable of evaluating their partners changes the landscape. If women say “yes,” where’s the conquest, where’s the chase, where’s the pleasure? And where’s the feeling that your victory is her defeat? What if she is doing the scoring, not you?
Thus the “Yes Means Anal” part of the chant. Sex has become unsafe for men–- women are agentic and evaluate our performances. So if “No Means Yes” attempts to make what is safe for women unsafe, then “Yes Means Anal” makes what is experienced as unsafe for men again safe–back in that comfort zone of conquest and victory. Back to something that is assumed could not possibly be pleasurable for her. It makes the unsafe safe–- for men.