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Yes Means Yes! Book review

June 17, 2010

I just finished reading a book called “Yes Means Yes! Visions of Female Sexual Power & A World Without Rape” edited by Jaclyn Friedman and Jessica Valenti. It was AMAZING. The book is a series of essays written by a variety of people who are advocates, activists, bloggers, authors, and more. The essay topics are so diverse it would be difficult to classify them. Instead, I’ll tell you about two of my favorites.

My absolute favorite essay is “What It Feels Like When It Finally Comes: Surviving Incest in Real Life” by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha. This essay tells the author’s story of understanding (and I would say reclaiming) her own sexuality after experiencing incest. This is a subject that is rarely discussed and difficult to address, but Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha takes us on a moving journey as she heals and struggles and doubts and mourns and thrives. “That you have choices in walking back into your body, and that that is the final goal: to be able to live in your body, all the way” (p 101) Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha explains. Well put.

My next favorite essay is “A Love Letter from an Anti-Rape Activist to Her Feminist Sex-Toy Store” by Lee Jacobs Riggs. This essay focuses on sex-positive messaging in a sex-negative and sexually toxic society. As the title indicates, the author has moved from anti-rape advocacy work to a sex-positive approach to sexuality. The author argues that in the anti-sexual violence movement we are so focused on “a world without rape” but we often ignore what the world would be – a world WITH _____. “As part of rape crisis services, I became tired of putting energy and resources into fighting against what I didn’t want, rather than building toward the world that I did want.” (p 111). The world we all want, obviously, is a sex-positive world where people have ownership over their own bodies and sexuality.

Every essay in this book is pretty amazing in my opinion. This book is a page turner and I found myself talking out loud to the book at times, even shouting – as the title suggests – Yes! Not since “Transforming A Rape Culture” has a book about sexual violence felt so cutting edge to me. This book is a history of where we’ve been as a movement, and hopefully, where we are heading.

Check out the Yes Means Yes blog to get a taste of the book.

Written by Jennie Backus, Prevention Program Coordinator at the Sexual Violence Center.

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