Author: Isabella Rotman, color by Luke B Howard
Publish Date: October 2020
Publisher: Limerence Press
Catalog ID: ISBN: 978-1620107942
Author website: https://www.isabellarotman.com/
By Mae Czerwiec
It’s practically public knowledge by now that 1 in 6 American adult women has been raped or sexually assaulted in her lifetime (RAINN). Until recently, most consent training and sexual assault legal phrasing has relied on a “no means no” standard; that is, if someone says “no” to a sexual activity, it should immediately be stopped. However, more and more, sex and consent educators have been striving to replace “no means no” with “yes means yes” — the idea that only an explicit “yes” indicates consent to any sexual activity. This model is known as affirmative consent, and hopefully a thorough understanding of what that means can help to change the statistics on rape and sexual assault in the U.S.
Leading the charge is artist and sex educator Isabella Rotman. She may already be familiar to readers, having published Not On My Watch, a guide to sexual assault prevention and intervention, and You’re So Sexy When You Aren’t Transmitting STIs, a safer sex resource, both of which appear on college campuses nationwide. She’s also the co-author of Wait, What?, a middle-grade graphic guide to relationships and bodies, written with Heather Corinna, the founder of Scarleteen (a sex education website made for teenagers and young adults), and is a longtime collaborator with the platform.
In her latest comic guide, A Quick & Easy Guide to Consent, Rotman’s proficiency in sex ed and delightful drawing style shine once again. Sergeant Yes Means Yes, the comic’s plucky nonbinary narrator, leads both the reader and fictional couples of all genders, races, and orientations through the ins and outs of affirmative consent. They begin by walking through the author’s own definition of consent (prefaced by appropriate warnings that Rotman is neither all-knowing nor a qualified legal or psychological resource) and depict an ensuing conversation between a couple on their understandings of consent. Sarge addresses questions about what constitutes sex and provides helpful conversation starters and quotes from other sex educators to add clarity and credibility to Rotman’s message. Having answered all of the initial couples’
questions, Sarge adventures on to a local bar, where they engage with other couples and discuss barriers to consent. Finally, Rotman even goes so far as to address consent in kink, which is uncommon in many more general consent resources.
Isabella Rotman doesn’t just educate her audience about consent in her Quick & Easy Guide to Consent, she also has characters tell their stories, and allows the character she’s designated as authority to engage with them, acknowledge their stories, and answer their questions with firmness and clarity, but also with compassion. This guide is non-judgmental, no-nonsense, and provides rebuttal to any objection that may come up surrounding the question of consent. It’s inclusive and understanding while still acknowledging the deep harm and trauma caused by sexual violence. Miraculously, Rotman even finds ways to inoffensively inject humor, making her writing seem more conversational than preachy and allowing for a very accessible and readable consent journey.
I picked up this cute little book at my local queer-owned sex shop, which has its own library section that includes several different guides to consent. However, its relevance and relative tameness for the intensity of the topic (there are no graphic depictions of sexual violence or lists of horrifying statistics) means it would find a home in many libraries, especially on college campuses, where I can see it as required reading. If everyone took the approach to consent for which Isabella Rotman is advocating, we could really start to see sexual assault statistics decline.
Mae (Maddie) Czerwiec, 21, is a junior studying biochemistry with minors in Health, Humanities, and Society and Bioengineering at the University of Notre Dame. Mae hopes to one day have a career in prosthetics, and she has an additional interest in biomedical humanities and ethics. She is a longtime reader and advocate of graphic medicine, particularly those works addressed to a young adult audience.