Women Do Not Have To Change How We Speak So Men Will Understand That No Means No

Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
The baffling internet debate about whether no really means no rages on today, for some reason. When inspiring video footage of Rep. Maxine Waters giving Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin a lesson in what not giving consent sounds like started circulating on Twitter this week, Slate correspondent Will Saletan tweeted something he meant to be supportive, we think. He suggested that women should follow Waters' example of decisiveness: "say 'no' firmly and mean it."
Okay, sure — except for the fact that no means no, regardless of whether the man in question interprets your tone of voice as a "firm" one. Saletan's tweet continued to explain that "men sense women's willingness to yield."
It didn't help that Saletan framed his argument (which essentially puts the onus of not only modulating conversations but rape prevention on a woman's tone of voice — and men's interpretation of that tone and whether it "means business") as advice to parents for what to teach their daughters. As opposed to, you know, parents teaching their sons and daughters not to sexually assault people of any gender.
The denizens of Twitter, of course, are not having it. Men and women alike have been tweeting rebuttals about what consent, both linguistically and legally, entails. Unfortunately, Saletan stuck to his argument despite its dismantling.
And because Twitter irony knows no bounds, Saletan tweeted again to criticize the women who spoke out in response to his argument that women should speak out.
What started out as an attempt (with a misguided angle) to applaud Rep. Waters spiraled into an apparently much-needed conversation about consent (again). Let this be a lesson to us all about when to rescind an argument and apologize — and about the actual definition of consent.
Anything that isn't an enthusiastic "yes" is not consent, period.
Thankfully, legislators across the country have been buckling down on consent laws in recent months, so there will be an added legal reason for parents to teach their kids that no absolutely means no, regardless of how you speak, shout, or whisper it.
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