Yes Means Yes

I’m not proud of have snatched the mic from a 4’10” elderly church mother, but it had to be done.

Our Sabbath afternoon symposium on sex trafficking had been well attended by members and non-members with a good cross section of ages and genders. During the Question and Answer time, people stood up at the roving mic. Some asked for more information; some shared thoughts on the presentations. But then Sis Black* stood up. She began, "I just can’t feel too bad for some of these stories. I mean the way some of these young girls dress, they’re basically just asking for--". Sorry Taylor, I had to pull a Kanye. There’s no way I could let her perpetuate that craziness in my church! No. No matter how you dress, you are not “asking for it” unless you actually do ASK.

The Yes Means Yes movement and subsequent laws(now passed in New York, California, and Michigan) are long overdue: . Essentially, Yes Means Yes is the re-doctrination of our society to understand that sexual consent means actually giving the other person an enthusiastic yes. This doesn’t necessarily mean jumping up and down (although that could be a possibility); “enthusiastic” here is simply to differentiate willing participation from begrudging non-resistance. I have counseled with countless people—young and old—who have carried around guilt and shame for their own sexual assault. “I didn’t fight him”; “I shouldn’t have been there”; “it was my fault for giving off the wrong vibe” are among the excuses I’ve heard over and over. I’ve even counseled young men who have become confused about their sexuality because they became aroused during a sexual assault or began to question their orientation because they "must've wanted it" even though they were forced to have sex. There are too many people who have convinced themselves that it was their fault for being raped: what they said (or didn’t say), what they wore, where they were…

This is an unsurprising belief given the fact that we frequently tell young people stories with morals like, “if Johnny had been at Bible Study instead of the party on Friday night, he wouldn’t have gotten shot”. And of course, the idea that “your guardian angel/the Holy Spirit leaves you when you go to [insert 'unholy' place here]” is a belief that is ubiquitously taught in our denominational culture. This is such bad theology on so many levels…but I digress. Suffice it to say, it’s difficult to disabuse rape victims of their shame if we continually blame victims of other violent offenses because of their choices to go to the night club, dance hall, movie theater, etc.

But what makes it even more difficult to dispel these notions about rape is our reluctance to discuss sex at all. Some might say that sex is the domain of conversations within families. But if that is where the abuse is happening, then how is that a reliable source? And what about those homes that may not be abusive but where the family has been taught the same misinformation generation after generation?

Our churches should be where people find emotional and spiritual healing. Unhealthy sexual experiences are definitely an area where healing is necessary for many of our congregants. Furthermore, our silence on various issues allows people to come up with off-the-wall understandings of what we believe. I had a conversation with a non-Christian the other day. He challenged that the church believed in marital rape based on I Corinthians 7. This is a skewed interpretation of the passage. It would seem that the "problematic" verses, in his mind, are verses 3-5. The admonition that spouses belong to each other was uncomfortable for him. However, we see the true meaning revealed in other texts where Paul uses similar imagery. Seeing your spouse as "one's own body" (Ephesians 5:28-30) is supposed to evoke consideration and submission, not selfishness and oppression. Furthermore, even in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, where Christians are told that "you are not you own; you are bought with a price" forced compliance is still not implied. Even as it relates to God, there is volition in obedience: even God doesn't force our actions. Similarly, 1 Corinthians 7 does not suggest the violation of free will. Paul’s advice to not “deprive” each other is spiritually and psychologically sound. There are far too many people who withhold sex from their partners as a form of punishment. Any psychotherapist would counsel against that behavior for couples that want to maintain a healthy relationship. However, nowhere does he counsel the wife to forcibly take what is not willingly given nor the other way around. In my conversation, I made the analogy of teaching children to share. While parents tell their kids that they ought to share toys with siblings and friends, in no way does that excuse or give license for another child to steal what is not offered. If a person steals something that they were not given, they are a thief. If someone forces you to have sex with them and you haven’t consented to it, they are a rapist. Even if that rapist is someone you’re married to. That may be a foreign concept to some, but I encourage you to review these 7 illustrations that have nothing to do with rape that demonstrate the importance of consent: (be advised that there is 1 expletive used).

Our church needs to come to the point where we are comfortable talking about various aspects of sex without making it seem like something to be ashamed of. After all, sex was created right along with Adam and Eve, marriage and the Sabbath—pre-fall—God declared it good. We ought not allow society’s corruption of God’s creation make us feel squeamish about these discussions and, in the process, inadvertently perpetuate incorrect ideas and values about sex. There are too many people who need to be set free from their self-blame. And, without fail, those who are most judgmental and harsh towards others are the people who are most in need of liberation from feelings of shame about their own pasts. Their own unresolved hurts cause them to victim blame and spread their own pain to other people. I would not be surprised if that was one of the drivers behind Sis. Black's comments. If so, I hope she one day feels comfortable enough to speak with someone and become set free from her own pain. In the meantime, I’m guarding the mic.


Courtney Ray is a native New Yorker who ministers in the Greater Los Angeles Region. She is an ordained pastor serving in Southern California Conference.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Interesting that it was an old woman, not a man, who stood up to make the comment. I agree that it’s inappropriate to blame the victim. There is never any justification or excuse for sexual abuse of any kind. However, somewhere we’ve dropped the ball in not clearly articulating principles of modesty and decency to our young ladies. We explained to our daughter early on, that how one dresses can have a major effect on the kind of boys who will be attracted to her. Those who dress provocatively send the wrong message, and can expect to attract a certain kind of guy. That doesn’t mean they’re “asking for it,” nor does it excuse any inappropriate behavior, of course, but why tempt them? The Bible is clear: Thou shalt not curse the deaf, nor put a stumblingblock before the blind, but shalt fear thy God: I am the Lord. Lev. 19:14. And I don’t’ think that principle was limited to the Jewish theocracy.

Marianne Faust said, “urging the victim to forgive before the perpetrator had been urged to repent is wrong.” I strongly disagree. Jesus prayed “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Those about whom Jesus was speaking had not yet recognized any need of repentance, and some of them never did come to that place. We are to forgive, no matter the attitude of any perpetrator; because, while we were yet sinners, Jesus died for us. Forgiveness in no way minimizes the seriousness of the crime. It is simply the Christian thing to do.


I like this attitude. We tend to be soft and tender in the face of injustice. How often have I heard that the Pastor urged the victim to forgive even before the perpetrator has recognized there was something to forgive. Forgiveness has its place, but we are to call that craziness by ist name first. Rape is wrong and so is adultery. Don’t try to make it any less wrong by pointing to the victim’s faults.


Finally, so refreshing reading my first ministry sermon articulate by a woman ordained pastor. Indisputably, there are more out there! Yes, I loudly hear bold cynicism belly laugh at me right now as if I had just arrived from Mars…saying, “Where have you been!” The last 50 years? Here in America…never had I sat in SDA churches Sabbath morning services all those years taken once by a woman ordained pastor. I need to drive down visit SDA churches under the wings of Southern California Conference soon. Pastor Courtney Ray keeps up the good sermon. Oh, if I may add to your “Yes Means Yes” To the men/males since the tragic Adam and Eve being expelled from the Garden of Eden, “ What part of “Stop Means Stop” 21 Century stop signs is confusing you?

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I am consuming much college related material right now in an assist to my seventeen year old grandson who is college bound next year.

The recent rape trial of a teen at an elite prep school should be consciousness raising for all young males.

It appears secular college campuses are rampant with rape. Hopefully our Adventist colleges, where drinking and drug use is less, do not fall into this category. Maybe Spectrum should do a survey.

Interestingly, the Adventist pastor who was defrocked for rape, the darling of the ultra conservative Michigan Conference, still maintains on his website, a diatribe against homosexuality. Go figure!


Sis. Black was doing, what many are doing when it comes to “morals” … she looked for an answer that would make sense to her. The ironic thing - she was mistaken in a rather unexpected way. It is not the “low and behold” kind of young women, (i.e. those who like to “show off” their attributes), but rather the timid, shy, “grey mice” that easily get victimized - they don’t put up much resistance, they won’t tell anyone, they often believe in submission (not the mutual one of Eph 5:20, but the “headship type”)…
Yes, we do need to talk about morals, we need to talk about seduction, we need to talk about the effects of clothing, we need to talk about means to portrait healthy self-esteem, but NOT in this context of shared blame for sexual violence - it would indeed be factually misleading … and morally wrong.


Hi Marianne,

I dont know what the proper process is in such situations, but I do wonder, should we wait till the perpetrator has recognized something to forgive? If we do, we may be waiting for the rest of our lives. One of the main reasons I would want someone to forgive is so that they themselves would be released from the cancer growing inside of them called anger and hatred.

Indeed, to be like Christ is hard. The first time I watched this 3 min clip it brought me to tears:

Gary Leon Ridgway (born February 18, 1949) is the American serial killer known as the Green River Killer. He was initially convicted of 48 separate murders and later confessed to nearly twice that number.


This may be too off the main thread of this article however, I believe it to be relevant to the tenor of the article, open discussion of matters of human sexual behavior.

Provided our recent public pronouncement of being an endemically rape oriented culture how is it always the fault of the male involved when heavy amounts of alcohol are consumed by both parties? What I mean by this is if it is the case that a woman, who is inebriated cannot give consent, then why is intoxication not a defense for the male?

I suspect there is the real possibility this question could be perceived as some sort of attempt at justifying rape and blame shifting. However, I assure you it is not. The question is prompted by the fact I am the father of both a son and a daughter. Consequently, I do a lot of off-line theorizing about possible scenarios they may encounter in their lives or in the lives of their friends.
Any thoughts on this question would be appreciated.


The best advice for your teens is to instill in them your love, confidence in them and their self worth long before they become teens. Remind them that only a few minutes indiscretion could jeopardize their life plans. This is for girls and boys.

If a boy impregnates a teen he will be legally responsible for that child’s support until that child reaches the 18th birthday. A pregnant teen has a much lower chance of finishing high school and college may not be in the picture at all.

Esteem and confidence is taught in the home first of all, as teachers and church have far less influence. Both sexes when they are studiously planning toward their future life are far less apt to be a victim.

The teen prostitutes of either sex which are trafficked, are often runaways from abusive families, often where they were molested and without work or places to live and food, they become easy targets for pimps. Watching a few TV programs on sex trafficking, the girls often get hooked on drugs to hide the pain of their position and it becomes a vicious cycle. They fear revealing the name of their pimp (who takes all their money) as he likely will beat them unless they are given protection.

What, if anything, has the church offered for these child victims?


Courtney Ray, I’m in disagreement here with you. A couple of points.

  1. Not entirely sure why this article is on Spectrum. It starts taking about sex trafficking, moves into legislation that is affecting college campuses and focuses on scripture that would appear to me to about mostly other subject matter. You note the person at the mic had a comment (she’s asking for it), but don’t really address why that comment isn’t or shouldn’t be a part of activity at SDA churches.

The article in the referenced in the Washington Post was written by someone who clearly supports pre-marital sex and is okay with a hookup culture. If Ms. Ray believes similarly, then she should state she does (or does not) as the article referenced does.

  1. I disagree with the “Yes means Yes” legislation. Note, I do not support extra marital sex. But since we are talking about this legislation, here are my issues:

A. In Calif. at least, this is only in effect on college campuses. So the legislation concludes that consent is only important for one slice of the population. That makes it discriminatory.

B. “No means no”, is effective and covers the issue. If an individual does not want to participate in an intimate encounter they are under no obligation or compulsion to do so, changing it to “Yes”, doesn’t significantly change that position. Those arguing for “Yes” say that it eliminates/reduces forcing sex, especially when alcohol is involved or the other person is otherwise in no position to say no. I disagree as existing legislation already covers the inability to say no.

C. “Yes” can be equally interpreted in various ways as can “No”. Did the person agree to kissing? To groping? To further forms encounter? Will they be required to provide evidence of such? A video tape with witnesses at each escalation by both parties attesting affirming a desire to continue? Does a, “that feels good”, constitute an affirmation to continue?

D. While “Yes” doesn’t in my view give the participant more protections on the front end, it does give the other person involved more liability afterwards. What happens if (for example) a young couple engages in intimate behavior and then afterwards, one of them decides it was more than they wanted and claim the other person violated them without their affirmation? That still happens today in a “No means No” society, but this will ensure that the burden of proof is on the other foot. If you can’t prove that the other person said Yes, throughout, you are now ruined. You’ll be kicked out of school, potentially tried and convicted of a sex crime, forced to register as a sex offender for life, ruined for life, potentially because of an encounter where there was some confusion, or because the person changed their minds later.

I’m not for coercion of intimate behavior. But, it’s possible for the pendulum to swing too far and this legislation in CA does that. I say that all the while having a HS daughter graduating this year and I want her to be safe and make good choices.


Christian (not just SdA) churches ARE where people find psychological manipulation.

People become leaders by being able to create followers, and followers are best kept in line by making simultaneously feel that they HAVE to be in the group, and that they have a secret that they must keep hidden. Then the leader can use that secret to publicly embarrass anyone who threatens them.

Since almost everyone raised in an environment where sex is private (including the asexual pastor’s wife in another blog) is embarrassed about their sexuality - an embarrassment heightened by the denomination’s refusal to openly discuss it - that is the perfect secret for holding something over almost every member.

If, instead, one looks into groups such as naturists, swingers, sex workers, sexuality scientists, and some other cultures, one finds that all the embarrassment rapidly evaporates when the secrecy is dropped.

This would rapidly evaporate one of the tools leaders are using to keep any Christian denomination’s membership up.

As for blaming the victim - wrong. It is a problem for the perpetrator and the society. In the Mongol Empire t was said that during this time a virgin could cross the length of the Mongol Empire with a pot of gold on her head and never be molested

That is the ideal for today also. Passing out drunk while naked at a party is not consent to have anything done to you other than the minimum needed to ensure your safety


i think it’s really rude to snatch a mike from an elderly church member, regardless of what they’re saying or how wrong they may be…seniors have earned the right to be heard, and there are other ways to make one’s point…


Old age is never an excuse for bad behavior, etc., and under the circumstances what the elderly church member was saying definitely sounded as if she was “blaming/shaming the victims”. Whether or not this was intended doesn’t matter and the Pastor was correct in cutting short the comment.

Too many rape/assault victims are ostracized and isolated because of the shame that society places upon them and their abusers/rapists carry little- if no blame. This has happened in Adventism in fairly recent times…the victim(s) is in hiding for fear of reprisal and the abuser goes on with his life (ministry). Sound familiar??


Seems the heading should be NO means NO!, tom z


Oh yes, such far fetched irrational thinking with zero validity at all.
Where did they get such warped social concepts? Has that 4’10" woman been more active than one supposes?

These young people never watch TV or movies and keep their eyes constantly on Jesus.

Maybe people get sloppy like those who abuse the one post rule on this forum.

What in the world are you talking about?



Interesting point PaulKevinWells. Maybe there would be a defence if no ‘no’ was given. I’m guessing even without the alcohol, if there is no stated ‘no’ or resistence, that would a form of yes. That is, a ‘no’ is more important than a ‘yes’.

But it’s true. So, what are you going to teach people? A lie? Because it’s more attractive?

Sis’ Black was not wrong, she was just articulating her thoughts in a simplistic way.

And, if you don’t want people to get the wrong message, don’t give them the wrong message. Don’t advertise what’s not available. (Yes, you can wear what you want and do what you want, but be aware that there are consequences to actions. Yes, you should be able to walk down a dark alley at 3AM and not get raped, but be realistic. We do not live in a perfect world, so don’t walk down that alley. And don’t dress in a provocative way because some men are much more likely to act inappropriately if you do.)


Tom and others.
No means No. that is correct.
But the point this writer is attempting to get across is that SILENCE DOES NOT MEAN A “Yes”.
There needs to be a personal, vocalization of a well articulated “YES!” as to what a person wants to engage in.
Holding hands.
Arm around the shoulders/waist, butt tapping.
Anything further.

Question – DOES the Bible say our Guardian Angel stays outside of a Movie theater, a bar, etc? Or is that something we pass along from generation to generation as a Cultural Statement?
I heard my parents say this as a kid, but dont know who they heard it from. Probably some preacher.

Forgiveness is NOT forgetting. As Max Lucado was so aptly quoted — "Forgiveness is unlocking the door to set someone free. Forgiveness helps one to realize that you were the prisoner."
As Jesus said, When we are Free, we are Free Indeed!


If we are to believe that repentance is a gift, then should we not pray that those who do evil receive that gift for their salvation and our peace?
Can we love the unlovely? EGW reminds us that “Only by love can love be awakened”. And “God is love”. That is what the indwelling of the Holy Spirit brings us to.
1 John 9:15 tells us “We know that we are children of God and that all the rest of the world around us is under Satan’s power and control.” That being so, we who have the Holy Spirit can do no less than Jesus and “forgive them for they know not what they do” nor forget whose it is which power they are under. Jesus came to set the captives free. We should never forget where we came from and how we were delivered.
“Forgiveness is unlocking the door to set someone free, and realizing that you were the prisoner” Max Lucado