Flirting with Danger: Young Women's Reflections on Sexuality and Domination

Flirting with Danger: Young Women's Reflections on Sexuality and Domination

Flirting with Danger: Young Women's Reflections on Sexuality and Domination

Flirting with Danger: Young Women's Reflections on Sexuality and Domination

Excerpt

I recently came upon a lapel button that said, “What is it about 'no' that confuses you?” Having worked for many years on combating violence against women, I rushed to buy the pin, delighting in the question as I imagined it posed to men. With one simple rhetorical question, this pin seemed to capture the messages I had learned and tried so hard to communicate as a feminist researcher, teacher, and advocate. It pointed out that of course “no means no and yes means yes.” And it asked smugly, “Why don't men understand this?” “Perfect,” I thought, “clear and to the point!” But as I waited in line to make my purchase, the pin's words began to take on other meanings. After I initially imagined a male audience, it occurred to me that this same question, when posed to women, is neither straightforward nor rhetorical. In fact, it is a central question that drives my work.

As my attraction to this button reveals, I often feel the impulse to make clear-cut statements about women's desires and their responses to male domination. Indeed, in a society where women's charges of rape and harassment are still frequently met with questions about what they did to “lead men on,” it has been critical to stress to lawmakers, employers, juries, and men in general that consent and coercion are inherently distinct. Yet at the same time, having listened for many years to young women's . . .

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