By Bibliogrrrl

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

edited by Jaclyn Friedman and Jessica Valenti

Yes Means Yes!: Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World without Rape

  • Pages: 361
  • ISBN: 1580052576
  • Link: Goodreads
  • Format: Paperback
  • Published on: January 1st 2009 (first published 2008)
  • Published by: Seal Press

Yes Means Yes! Visions of Female Power and A World Without Rape is a collection of essays edited by Jaclyn Friedman and Jessica Valenti.


The premise for this anthology seems to be “how empowering women to have sex on their terms will end rape.” I thought this idea was pretty silly at the start of the book and I haven’t changed my mind now that I’ve completed it. I’m all for empowering women to have the sex they want to have, but I remain unconvinced that this will stop rape. To me this seems like a very simplistic assertion.

Beyond finding the premise ludicrous, I wasn’t particularly fond of the structure of Yes Means Yes. Friedman and Valenti seemed to think that it would be a good idea to set themes to each essay in an attempt to “link” essays that share similar ideas. Apparently this is supposed to be like the hyperlinking that goes on in many blogs, both in the feminist blogosphere and elsewhere. In practice, some the themes seemed to have been assigned at random (assigning a “race relating” theme to all essays by contributors of color, even if their essay didn’t specifically have anything to do with race, for example). I found this practice to be more gimmicky than anything else, to be honest.

Furthermore, Yes Means Yes assumes that the reader has at least some understanding of feminist lingo. There is a lot of discussion of rape and rape culture, but doesn’t explain how the two are different. If you don’t know the background, you’ll be lost.

The essays themselves were pretty hit or miss. To be fair, the same can be said for virtually all anthologies I’ve ever encountered. Both Friedman and Valenti contributed pieces and I wasn’t fond of either of them. Valenti’s piece was about purity balls, which didn’t really seem to have much to do with the topic at hand. I kind of felt like it was mostly stuck in there in order to help promote The Purity Myth (which I believe was released after Yes Means Yes). Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if her essay were an excerpt from The Purity Myth verbatim – her essay from Yes Means Yes sounded a lot like the portion of The Purity Myth that discusses purity balls. And no, I don’t care to check and see if they’re actually the same text. Not only did Valenti’s essay stray way off the topic at hand, but also it seemed like a vary lazy thing to include on her part.

Yes Means Yes does include essays by women from a wide variety of backgrounds, so I have to give them props for that. The one group that seemed glaringly missing were essays by people with disabilities. Rape and rape culture certainly impact people with disabilities as well; their omission makes me wonder if there were really no contributions in that area or if there were other reasons Valenti and Friedman didn’t choose any essays by people with disabilities.

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