Home / SEXPress / Sexual Healing: From "No" to "Yes" in the Field of Rape Prevention
Friday, Feb. 20, 2009

Sexual Healing: From "No" to "Yes" in the Field of Rape Prevention

Online Edition

Google+ Pinterest Print
My entry into the field of sexuality education was a volunteer job as a rape crisis counselor, a position that I held for two years right after I graduated from college. I knew that I wanted to do some kind of work related to sexual health, and the most pressing issue seemed to me to be the threat of violence and shame that loomed over my sense of sexual self-determination as a young woman. Looking back on this, I wish that I had lived in a world where sex was not automatically linked in my mind with coercion and confusion, and that it had not taken me years to move to a place where most of my work focuses on sexual pleasure. Therefore, I was thrilled when the new anthologyYes Means Yes! Visions of Female Sexual Power & a World Without Rapewas published last year. Edited by writer and activist Jaclyn Friedman andFeministing.com [www.feministing.com]founder Jessica Valenti, this amazing collection of essays truly upends conventional views of both sexual assault and women's sexuality.

Friedman will be in town on Saturday, Feb. 21, at 7 p.m. at theTool Shed to read from the anthology as a fund-raiser for Milwaukee'sBroad Vocabulary feminist bookstore, which is currently searching for a new home. In anticipation of this event, I asked Friedman to tell us about the book, her visit and why spaces like Broad Vocabulary are so important.

What was your inspiration for putting this anthology together?

Yes Means Yesdeveloped in response to one article too many warning women about the risks of wearing short skirts and partying in public, without putting any responsibility on rapists to police their own behavior. We are calling for a world in which women can enjoy their bodies and their lives without shame or fear, and we believe that effective rape prevention has to start from there.

Yes Means Yesis about creating a world where pleasure is a basic human right, where men and women have equal and safe access to enjoying the pleasure of their bodies on their own terms. It's about creating a world where consensual sex means each partner has a responsibility to ensure that their partner is not just not objecting, but enthusiastically consenting. It's about shifting our cultural approach to sex from one where sex is seen as a commodity which women have to protect and men have to get, to one where sex is a shame- and pressure-free collaborative performance between two or more willing people. Ultimately, it's about healing our profoundly diseased sexual culture.

What has the reaction been toYes Means Yes during your book tour so far?

The reaction has been overwhelming, more than I could have thought to hope for-capacity crowds and sold-out books nearly everywhere. Of course that feels great as an author and editor, but honestly it thrills the activist part of me even more-to meet and engage with so many people who are eager to have these conversations, to think new thoughts about how we talk about sex and rape and to envision and work toward new realities. It gives me great hope for all of us.

Do you have a favorite piece in the book? What will you read during your visit to Milwaukee?

That's like asking a parent to choose a favorite child! I could never pick-they were each chosen so carefully from a really deep pool of submissions.

In Milwaukee, I'll read from my own essay, "In Defense of Going Wild or: How I Learned to Love Pleasure and How You Can, Too," which is about rejecting the idea that it should be up to women to deny our own pleasures in order to avoid rape. Given the location, I'll probably do a bit of Lee Jacobs Riggs' "A Love Letter from an Anti-Rape Activist to Her Feminist Sex-Toy Store." Other than that, I can't promise. I've been reading excerpts from Kimberly Springer's "Queering Black Female Heterosexuality" at some tour stops, and I can't stop loving Kate Harding's "How Do You Fuck A Fat Woman?" Thomas MacAulay Millar's "Toward A Performance Model of Sex" is probably the essay I've referenced most in interviews, for its incredible paradigm shift and the possibilities that come with it.

Your reading will be a benefit for Broad Vocabulary, Milwaukee's feminist bookstore, which is currently undergoing a transformation and searching for a new home. You worked at Boston's Center for New Words during a similar transition period. Why are feminist bookstores important to you, and how do you think Broad will best survive?

When feminist bookstores first came into being in the '70s, they were making available books that were literally unavailable anywhere else. Obviously, that's no longer the case. But what I think folks don't always understand about feminist bookstores in the present is that they still create a market for feminist books that disappears when they close, so that it's harder for publishers to sell feminist books, and that makes it harder to feminists to get their work published. When we support feminist bookstores, we support the whole creative cycle that allows feminist writing to flourish, and when we neglect feminist bookstores, we do great damage to our collective voice.

The other role feminist bookstores serve is as a community and cultural meeting grounds, where we can encounter new ideas, crucial resources and each other-in real time and space. This kind of space is becoming harder and harder to find as so many of our interactions get automated, filtered and digitized.

I don't know what the future holds for Broad Vocabulary. The economic landscape is changing so rapidly it's impossible to even guess. But I'm really glad to play a tiny part in making it possible for the collective to figure it out, and I'm so grateful that they're refusing to give up until they do.

Want Laura to answer your questions in SEXpress? Send them tolaura@shepex.com. Not all questions received will be answered in the column, and Laura cannot provide personal answers to questions that do not appear here. Questions sent to this address may be reproduced in this column, both in print and online, and may be edited for clarity and content.

Laura Anne Stuart has a master's degree in public health and has worked as a sexuality educator for more than a decade. She owns theTool Shed, an erotic boutique on Milwaukee's East Side.

Log in to use your Facebook account with
Express Milwaukee

Login With Facebook Account



Recent Activity on Express Milwaukee