Oh, Please do Come in

James Bowman in National Review writes:
Pre-feminist common sense suggested that a woman who comes alone to a man's hotel room late at night has already consented to sex with him, but on the all-or-nothing principle so dear to ideologues everywhere, feminist orthodoxy insists that the adoption of this rough-and-ready but extremely useful guide would be tantamount to saying that a woman who has slept with other men not her husband, or even who dresses provocatively has already consented to sex. And the feminist interpretation of the law is now almost uncontested in the courts. No means no ? even though no one else hears it, even though everyone knows that it may mean yes ? because feminists want to reserve to women the right and freedom to be indiscrete.
The brilliance at NRO continues to shine forth unabated. Perhaps there is a generation gap here. Or perhaps Bowman is so irreperably lascivious that he cannot conceive of the possibility of having a woman to one's hotel room late at night for the purpose of a conversation, splitting the cost of Titanic on pay-per-view, a drink, or just a little innocent positive-sum smashface.
Bowman conjures in imagination this conversation:
“Why don't you stop by my room for a drink? A little nighcap and a chat?”
“Why yes. That sounds nice.”
. . .
[Woman crosses threshold. Door closes. Man grabs blouse and yanks, sending buttons flying, exposing feminine undergarments. Pushes her on to bed.]
“I know what you're thinking you dirty minx! Poppa's gonna give you the what for!”
Yes, clearly, she's asking for it.
We should thanks Bowman for his elegant reductio of “pre-feminist common sense,” ably exposing it as a vehicle of a retarded moral and sexual sensibility.
It is undeniable that “no” sometimes means “maybe,” or “yes, but try harder.” And that “yes” can mean “I'd rather not, but 'no' doesn't really seem worth the trouble,” or “yes, but I've now changed my mind, so please stop.”
This can be confusing, no doubt, because sexual emotions and intentions can be confusing. Such is life. It's a matter of interpretative context, and our duty as morally decent human beings is to develop a sensitivity to context that allows us to understand the intentions of the speaker behind the utterance.
If my wife of twenty years wants me, her husband, to pretend to be a burglar who breaks into the house and rapes her, then adamant and strenuous “no”s are required by the performance. And my husbandly duties in turn require I brazenly dismiss her protestations as I handle her roughly. On the flip side, if one's smitten, bashful, and drunken date tentatively, uncomfortably, and meekly assents to a sexual suggestion, then there's a good chance she'd say “no” under more chemically and emotionally favorable circumstance, and a gentleman will decline to press forward, despite her nominal consent. Even if she has come up to the room.
This, I believe, is common sense, both pre- and post-feminist. Bowman should look under the cushions, or behind the dresser, because he's lost his.

Author: Will Wilkinson

Vice President for Research at the Niskanen Center