10 March 2011

Like Irony, but without the Irony

No means yes and yes means anal, apparently. I'll sheepishly admit to finding it vaguely funny - I'm a sucker for well-crafted dark humour, and this is a wickedly pithy way to say "I am an impressively abhorrent and misogynistic excuse for a human being". Mark Kimmel's analysis:
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.
What Kimmel doesn't really emphasise is that this chant was intended as a joke, and this important. The fact that it is a joke doesn't make it harmless and devoid of meaning. If anything, it adds a couple of layers of meaning. Kimmel's is a brilliant analysis because it shows that even ironically offensive jokes still mean something. Just because you phrase it as a joke doesn't necessarily mean it's not also your real opinion.


  1. I dont know where to start! I hate Michael Kimmel I think he knows fuck all about masculinity and even less about women. Also it is arguable that feminism has led to women being in control of their sexual choices- a lot of feminism is all about restricting women and shaming certain women for making particular sexual choices.

    No means yes and yes means anal? I think it probably means they want to be bummers but you knew I'd say that.

    Fag Up!

  2. 'I agree with Ariel Levy that women imitating men’s drinking and sexual predation is a rather impoverished style of liberation.'

    oh fuck off Michael!

  3. I think it definitely means they want to be bummers. As in people who bum, anyway. There's an awful lot of emphasis on the fact that it's women they'd be bumming though so it's probably not gaybummers they want to be.

    Agreed about the Levy quote. If women's liberation doesn't produce more drunk, predatory women then I've been supporting it for all the wrong reasons.

  4. hmm I think they may protest too much and that going on about bumming women may mean they really want to bum men. Kimmel always deliberately ignores the 'homo' aspect of homosociality. He is probably a bit homo-anxious himself.

    Interesting post though!

  5. Not convinced that they even want to bum at all. Just defeat the enemy's rearguard action. This isn't one of these situations where a cock up the arse is purely about a cock up the arse.

  6. indeed. so it's not necessarily about 'misogyny' is it? It reminds me a bit of the Keys 'smash it' phrase.

  7. I'd give the opposite interpretation. There's nothing inherently misogynistic about a cock up the arse, so if it was purely about a cock up the arse there'd be no problem. I'm with Kimmel on the comfort-zone competition thing.

    One of the main things about this chant, I think, is that it probably has zero relation to what the chanters actually want to do in bed. Just man-to-man competition on who can give a sorority chick the sorest arse, and all that Kosofsky-Sedgwick stuff.

  8. If you're with Kimmel then you're definitely gay.

  9. I'm not with with him, we just hang out.

  10. But Alex he says 'Man Up' in all seriousness.
    Fag UP man! leave Kimmel to his fagly homosocial anxiety.

  11. In 70% seriousness tops. Come on, he's telling a group of testosterone-soaked fratboys to act like men and stop the macho dick-waving. It's not a master stroke of irony but it's highly competent.

  12. But he believes 'real men' do behave a certain way. He is macho in his own way.

    its like the 'real men don't rape' campaigns

  13. From now on, the "Real Men Don't Rape" campaign is known as the "Rapists are Robots" campaign.