Yes, No, Maybe

26 Nov

My friend Elaine sent me this excellent post by Rachel Kay, Why I Never Play Hard to Get. I read it the next morning as I was getting ready for work and I immediately felt the desire to write a post. The unfortunate realities of the day to day prevented me from executing on this desire until today.

Kay builds on Jackie Klein’s resurrection of “No Means No” (we can clearly use the reminder given all of the political discussion around rape) and the persistent dismissal of the female voice. As a society we don’t teach men or even other women to yield to a female’s protests or resistance on something as basic as teasing. And while this doesn’t always snowball into rape, the undercurrent of dismissal remains and is relevant. When No is no longer enough, we are a long way off from Yes is required.

And isn’t this the true heart of the matter? Sex should not be a given unless a woman says no, it should only be granted if a woman says yes. And yet we haven’t moved past the first part: why does “No Means No” have to reaffirmed still? How is this not a given? Klein helps establish that we’re not there yet. And Kay helps provide at least one answer for why: love and romance is a game of the chase. And the chase is perpetuated by women playing hard to get and men pursuing despite the verbal cues (if not body language) of his pursuer saying no.

Playing hard to get is a women’s way of saying read between the lines, interpret the context of my words. Everything shifts: a No becomes a Maybe and a Maybe becomes the green light. There are no hard stops. Pursue long enough and the woman will change her mind. This, Kay points out, is love in the world of conquest and is still heavily romanticized. The alternative is a world of communication, where No means No, Yes means Yes and Maybe means…maybe?

Kay uses the historical era of rape and pillage as the origins for the current world of conquest. I believe that what continues to perpetuate its existence is the uncertainty around what we want and hesitancy to assert it when we know.  As I read Kay’s article I couldn’t help but think– what if I really do mean maybe? What if I’m not sure. And in that case if a guy can “convince me” then isn’t that a decision? The chase is a girls way to delay having to decide and shifts responsibility onto the man for making the decision. So by choosing to enter the world of communication, we also choose to take on the empowering and yet heavy responsibility of bringing clarity to our feelings and desires. For the conversation to shift from refusal to requirement, we must first take back ownership of our right to choose.

The female voice can only be resurrected if we stop dismissing our own voice (regardless of gender).

This holiday I’m listening to “Baby It’s Cold Outside” a whole lot differently.

Thanks Christine for sending me this song in relation. It is the perfect ending I think!


4 Responses to “Yes, No, Maybe”

  1. Rachael Kay Albers November 26, 2012 at 10:51 am #

    Wow! This is an AWESOME reflection on a domino line of consent posts, starting with Jackie and now winding its way around the world. I am so humbled to read your thoughts on my article and so glad to see these ideas taking shape through other peoples’ experiences and ideas.

    • somethingstrangeandbeautiful November 26, 2012 at 2:45 pm #

      Oh I’m so glad you enjoyed it. I really enjoyed your article, definitely got me thinking about rape, dating and feminism in a new light. Its really wonderful when that happens. And thank you for the comment, it really means a lot 🙂

  2. Elaine November 26, 2012 at 5:26 pm #

    I really like this point about “maybe.” I don’t think that the chase/ “maybe” period is a way of shifting responsibility onto the man for making the decision though. It’s definitely a way to delay decisions, but it’s more about gathering enough information to make a decision. Because of this, the chase won’t ever really go away. However, a “no” really should signal that a guy (or girl) should stop, whereas a “maybe” is permission to chase?

    On a somewhat related note? How does this translate to cultures where traditionally, maybe means no? (e.g. the Japanese will say maybe when they mean no) Or to Chinese culture where you’re expected to say no if someone offers you a gift or favor, but really you might intend to take the gift, and it’s the other party’s job to insist…?

    • somethingstrangeandbeautiful December 12, 2012 at 5:48 pm #

      If “maybe” is permission to chase– isn’t that like a judge sitting there asking the men to duke it out and prove themselves worthy? And doesn’t that mean they get to decide what’s important and not you? The concern is leaving yourself open and susceptible to the chaser’s persuasive powers and allowing your criteria to be manipulated and adjusted. And let’s face it we all like attention, but unless there is a firm and solid criteria that exists BEFORE the chase begins how do we know if we’re really gather accurate information vs. a rose colored illusion.

      The other cultures part is super interesting! I do wonder though if there is a relationship between high context cultures and lower female empowerment? There definitely is a relationship between high context and lower cultural diversity…making one wonder if, as we grow and progress, if there is room for this indirect form of communication in a more modern society?

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