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Byron Shire
June 15, 2021

Mandy Nolan’s Soapbox: When ‘Yes’ means ‘No’

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When ‘Yes’ means ‘No’

This year the federal government showed us they don’t understand consent. Then they spent $4million plus on what was to be an educational series for young people that featured a weird milkshake video. It answered a lot of questions for me as to why rape culture appears to exist in our parliament: they don’t get it. To them it’s a transaction that has nothing to do with gender, that’s why they made the woman the protagonist… and they reduced sexual conduct to a flavoured drink. Hang on, maybe I can only allege they don’t get it?

Then there was the suggestion of the consent app. This suggestion by NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller showed further that old white men don’t get consent. It’s not a milkshake in the face. It’s not an app that reduces sex to a social transaction that, in the end, protects men from prosecution but not women from unwanted penetration. The consent conversation has been more about protecting men from legal ramifications of rape and assault, and less about empowering women to make assertive choices and have them respected. The reason we can’t have conversations about consent in a way that is meaningful, is that true consent can’t exist until there is social change.

Consent is meaningless until you address patriarchy. How do you give ‘permission’ for something male culture already feels entitled to? Consent becomes meaningful only when we have eradicated entitlement.

You can’t talk about consent in a patriarchal culture where women, and particularly young vulnerable women, aren’t heard or supported when they give consent just to be liked, or to get a lift home, or because they were drunk, or just to stop being hassled. Is consent that results from begging, cajoling or a sense of indebtedness actually consent? No, it’s not.

Consent is not black and white. You can say ‘Yes’ or you can not say ‘No’ and you can still be manipulated or disempowered into giving consent. I call this coercive consent.

There wouldn’t be a woman on the planet who hasn’t been coerced into giving consent at some point in her life. This can be with a stranger, a friend, with a husband. This is a pervasive behaviour that also exists within the alternative ‘spiritual’ community.

I had this conversation with a local friend recently who strongly believes that many of her early sexual experiences were framed by coercion.

Libby moved to Byron, this mythical place full of hippies and healers at just 16. She told me the lines for her around sex and consent then were very blurred. ‘As a hippy woman if you weren’t open and loving and free you could be called “not trusting”, or “inhibited and fearful”. It was like the more open and sexually free and liberated you were the cooler you were, and the more status you had.’ So is being seen as repressed or uncool a form of consent coercion?

It seems that even in alternative communities, sexual politics haven’t really been that alternative. Patriarchal narrative reigns supreme. Men tend to be the ‘gurus’, and as it turns out, gurus still like their cock sucked. Generally, by young women.

Libby told me story after story of being a vulnerable young woman whose body men felt entitled to.

‘I was staying in a communal area and one night there was a man standing on my pillow, looking down at me in his underpants. He said: “sorry, I thought this was my bed”. I was really upset and the man that came to help me hugged me – and wouldn’t unhug me. An older guy there later said ‘you have to look at what you did to manifest that’. I took that on. Every time a guy crossed my boundaries, I wondered what I did to make it happen.’

This is the ultimate in victim blame. When spiritual double-talk suggests that your ‘energy’ authored someone else’s inappropriate or illegal behaviour.

In ‘sexually free’ communities, who does that freedom serve? Libby felt that her sexual freedom as a young woman was constantly impinged by the entitlement of older men.

‘I was having a shower in a hippy house and this guy came in and jumped in the shower with me naked, and started laughing under the guise of being playful and free. I got out and thought… he just wanted to fuck me.’

She tells stories of the partners of friends jumping into bed with her, of some offering to help her with some work, but instead showing her hardcore porn, and consistent within this narrative was that in some parts of the ‘spiritual’ community women who won’t consent are considered to have something wrong with them.

‘I had dinner with a friend who was running a spiritual rite of passage program and it was clear he wanted to have sex. I told him I wasn’t interested. He said “Libby, you have too many boundaries and you don’t trust people.” I wasn’t 18 anymore. I got so mad I told him “fuck off, I’m not playing your mind games.”

Libby told me her story because she believes there are still many vulnerable young women who don’t have the inner strength or awareness to say ‘No’ and be fine with it. Some may be traumatised and say ‘Yes’ out of patriarchal conditioning. ‘I have been on so may dates where I say “No No No” and they beg, and I eventually say “Yes”. I call it consensual rape.’

Consent is not an app, or an ad. It is a conversation. And if you are a man reading this, worrying about if you’ll ever have sex again if women feel entitled to say ‘No’– that is your privilege speaking. We will let you know if we want to have sex. You can ask. We can say ‘No’. But you might be lucky – we may even say ‘Yes’.

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  1. Mandy Nolan displays the same ignorance of men as most females do. Consent to have sex is consent, once a male has his penis inside a woman it is far too late for her to change her mind. As a woman I know this to be a fact.

    Having sexual intercourse is not light getting your nails or hair done. It is an extremely intimate and personal thing, before anyone gets to the penetration stage, they must be damn sure that next stage is where they wish to head. If in doubt, then DO NOT HAVE SEX.

    • This is actually legally wrong. If a woman changes her mind during penetration and a man does not stop it is non consensual which means it is rape.

  2. Thank you Mandy yet again for your straight shooting no nonsense much needed conversation starter.
    As a 50 something sexually active female I have been date raped, consensualy raped and simply raped a few times during my lifetime from around my mid 20s up until only last year.
    I’m not a prude and not a slut, just a trusting genuine outgoing individual who has finally only NOW (I know, slow learner) will have absolutely nothing to do with men.
    And no it shouldn’t be like that, but it is.
    And quite frankly I have far better orgasms on my own than what majority of men poorly attempt to achieve.

    • It’s the story of most of our sexual lives! The more we have these uncomfortable conversations, the more we start to educate men, and the more we educate ourselves that its not ok

  3. victim blaming creeps are endemic in the “spiritual” world of Byron/Mullum.

    bush doofs are the worst for middle aged creeps hanging around looking for vulnerable drug fucked young women.

  4. Mandy re Mariannes comments above, is anything BUT ignorant. Mandy you should be a psychologist , your analysis is spot on & you say what many women are afraid to say. Men throughout the generations have felt entitled to women’s bodies and so the bullshit & deliberate coercion ( more often abuse) continues. Women have been conditioned to please men for thousands upon thousands of years. THUS SAYING NO IS OFTEN DIFFICULT FOR WOMEN ESPECIALLY YOUNGER WOMEN, where culturally male dominance reigns supreme. The elephant in the room here is male entitlement as Mandy so brilliantly articulates. By the way……….EVE was also framed.

  5. Yes, there are creeps in every community. And it seems that the communities that promote themselves as being virtuous – religious, spiritual, alternate, traditionalist, etc – can be the worst of all.
    Good column Mandy. And extra points for not singling out *white* males.

  6. Mandy Nolan why do you support the continuation of the “nude” beach where a proliferation of dick swinging male creeps have colonised the dunes and foreshore. You have supported the continuation despite knowing that many women and the police want the beach to be closed due to the numerous reports of sexual assault on unsuspecting females by “patrons” of the “nude” beach.

  7. Mandy who is our wannabe lawmaker, wants to introduce a new term in criminal law..” consensual rape”.
    She will have them in stitches if she ever gets to Canberra.


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