Can we stop misrepresenting our own movement?

IMPORTANT NOTICE: This post is several years old and may not reflect the current opinions of the author.

So, Feministing is soliciting submissions for a new book called Yes Means Yes! (hat tip: feminist_writer LJ community). The book aims to brainstorm constructive ways that a more positive attitude towards sexuality, especially female sexuality, can help dismantle rape culture:

Imagine a world where women enjoy sex on their own terms and aren’t shamed for it. Imagine a world where men treat their sexual partners as collaborators, not conquests. Imagine a world where rape is rare and swiftly punished.

Welcome to the world of Yes Means Yes.

Yes Means Yes! will fly in the face of the conventional feminist wisdom that rape has nothing to do with sex. We are looking to collect sharp and insightful essays, from voices both established and new, that demonstrate how empowering female sexual pleasure is the key to dismantling rape culture.

Now, I am 100% behind the intent of the book. If I had the time, I would definitely submit something (unfortunately I barely have time to write my WisCon paper, and I have until May to finish that). It’s no secret that I’m a sex-positive feminist and I believe that sex-negative attitudes — both conservative sexual shaming and liberal forced sexuality — are harmful to a truly equal society and I think this book is an excellent opportunity to get some positive ideas out into the mainstream (or at least feminist-leaning mainstream). The book will go on my Amazon wishlist when it comes out.

However (there’s always a “however” with me, isn’t there?), I am not so pleased with this part of the pitch:

Yes Means Yes! will fly in the face of the conventional feminist wisdom that rape has nothing to do with sex.

There are two basic problems that I see with that line:

  1. It perpetuates a fundamental misunderstanding of what “rape isn’t sex” is saying.
  2. It is setting the editors/contributors in direct opposition to “conventional feminist wisdom”.

Below I’ll go into more detail as to the problems and talk about why I feel that this way of presenting feminist theory is problematic and ultimately hinders feminism as a movement. Continue reading