By Dr. Wendy Walsh
The pledge ritual of a major fraternity at Yale University recently raised the ire of campus women's groups, but it raises even more questions about gender inequality in the sexual arena.
The ritual involved members of Delta Kappa Epsilon marching past the housing of first-year female students and chanting, "No means yes! Yes means anal!" The antics were captured on video and posted on YouTube.
Women clearly have the right to seriously question the ethics and morals of men who would shout a chant that seems to promote unwanted sexual contact and even outright rape. However, the Yale men's misguided chant has its genesis in sexual politics: the sexual double standard.
The sexual double standard is that quaint social rule whereby men gain status for sexual experience and women become devalued. Anyone who got through fourth-grade math knows the statistical improbability of a small percentage of randy women servicing all their male peers while the majority of "nice girls" remain chaste. It's baloney.
Peer men and women have about the same range of sexual experience across their lifespan. In other words, they are having sex with each other at the same rates. On the surface, the idea of lying about one's sexual experience in order to preserve one's reputation seems innocent; the problem is that men have gotten wise to women's sketchy math and breathy bedroom coos of "I really don't do this often." The result was Yale's march.
With their bawdy, aggressive chant, the men were challenging women to come clean. For all too long, some women have used the word "no" as sexual foreplay, and men know this. This dangerous practice by women has removed some of the power of that word. Women have unknowingly devalued the word "no" in order to protect their reputations. It's understandable how it happened, but it makes women who say no -- and mean it -- very vulnerable.
The unfair sexual double standard also leads some women to be verbally conservative with their sexual boundaries and, often, more liberal in action. I mean, what girl wants to promote her desire for anal sex (or whatever non-vanilla activity she prefers) on a date that might lead to a marriage partner?
Were the Yale men wrong? Absolutely. Does no mean NO? Absolutely. So women, I beg you: Protect your sisters' sexual boundaries and the power of the word "no" by proudly declaring "YES!" when you mean it.