Don’t Say Maybe When You Mean NO

Forever 21 pulled this t-shirt from their shelves this week after criticism on social media that the message supports rape culture:


Called “jaw-droppingly repulsive” by twitter user @Steph Dale and “very rapey” by Cosmopolitan, the shirt stirred up instant controversy.  Forever 21 responded by pulling the shirt and deleting it from their website, apologizing to “anyone who was offended by the product”.

I read it differently.  In many cultures, women and men are both socialized to say “maybe” or “later” when we mean “no”.  Nice people don’t say no.  Nice people let other people down easy, or do whatever they have to do to avoid hurting someone’s feelings, at least directly.

Yes, people engaging in sex absolutely have the responsibility to gain the consent of the other person/people involved.  Yes, consent should be wholehearted and enthusiastic. Whether you’re asking someone if you can give them a hug or spank them while they’re wearing a duck suit, anything less than an enthusiastic “yes!” should not only give you pause, but should be a warning sign that maybe you don’t want to engage in behavior with this particular individual, because they are not clear on what they want or don’t want.

But as a sexually active individual, it is my responsibility to develop and make clear my boundaries.  “Maybe” doesn’t cut it, unless I follow up with a list of conditions that would make it a yes.  “Later?” isn’t enough of an answer.  “I don’t know” isn’t clear enough.

“No.” “No thank you.” “I like you, but no.” “No, but you might approach so & so (who happens to love being spanked while wearing a duck suit)”.  These should be the phrases and sentences we train ourselves to say.  As a sexually active being, even as a submissive, even as a masochist, I don’t ever get the option of abdicating responsibility for my own safety AND enjoyment.

Frankly, I’d wear this t-shirt and welcome the dialogue that I might encounter.

Upshot: don’t ever take a maybe for a yes.  And don’t say maybe when you mean no. And for all of us, let’s build a culture in which consent is clear and “no” is a socially acceptable and common answer.



Today: Forever 21 apologizes for ‘don’t say maybe’ t-shirt after social media backlash

Huffington Post: Forever 21 Removes Creepy Graphic Tee From Its Website







Federal Judge: Consensual BDSM is Not Constitutionally Protected

A federal court in Virginia ruled recently that consensual kink is not constitutionally protected,that is, that an individual has no right to engage in 100% consensual BDSM.  Judge TS Ellis, ruling on Doe vs. George Mason University et. al, stated in his analysis:

“A legislative restriction on BDSM activity is justifiable by reference to the state’s interest in the protection of vulnerable persons, i.e. sexual partners placed in situations with an elevated risk of physical harm. In this respect, the conclusion… that there is no deeply rooted history or tradition of BDSM sexual activity remains relevant and important to the analysis.”


The court found that banning BDSM activities is justified and further states that since there is no “deeply rooted” tradition of BDSM (defined as including “binding and gagging, or the use of physical force, such as spanking or choking,” activities “not present in traditional sex”), it is not constitutionally protected.

Although the term “BDSM” dates only to 1969, the history of BDSM activities can be traced through such ancient documents as the Kama Sutra, which specifies the use of certain kinds of hitting during sex and through art dating back thousands of years. Dating back to the 5th century BC is an Etruscan fresco depicting two men flagellating a woman. Academic historian Anne O. Nomis has found evidence dating back to 1590 of the Dominatrix as a professional.

“This is one judge’s ruling and it doesn’t create law,” said Allena Gabosch, founder and current Development Director for the Center for Sex Positive Culture. It can, however, set legal precedent. People interested in this news item might consult the Free Thought Project or the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom to inquire further.