Name a song that talks about consent in a positive light. We’ll give you a minute. Or an hour.
Cut to the chase and listen to “Get a Yes,” a song by Sad13 that stresses the importance of consent without losing the innate charm of pop music. The song’s chorus—“I say yes to the dress when I put it on/I say yes if I want you to take it off/I say yes for your touch when I need your touch/I say yes if I want to”—makes it clear how easy it is to make sure partners are on board and how it doesn’t have to lose its natural sex appeal in the process.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that such witty, well-worded music comes from Sadie Dupuis, the woman behind the Sad13 moniker as well as the singer and guitarist of Speedy Ortiz. Only here, as Sad13, she drops the gritty guitar in favor of bedroom pop, drawing attention to 8-bit drums and twinkling synth while singing about topics pop music, and music at large, need to start addressing.
“There’s more of a culture of preventative awareness now, but that often comes on the side of women being taught to care for themselves or look out for themselves,” says Dupuis. “I think the onus gets put upon women instead of the people who are likely to perpetuate sexual assault—and we need to reach a level of education in regards to that which is missing, especially the importance of consent and sex for pleasure.”
But Dupuis doesn’t stop there. On Slugger, she’s making sure every type of action is clarified. Emotional abuse is just as damaging as physical abuse, and she offers up songs that can let listeners realize they need to ditch an abusive relationship if they’re in one.
“[The emotional abuse] I address on the album is something I didn’t feel comfortable addressing until a few years later. There’s a sense of shame that comes with it: You may feel like you should have been stronger or smarter. There can be a great sense of relief, though, in knowing you’re not alone in that,” she says. “It’s never the fault of the victim and sometimes that’s hard to remember in the heart of it.”
And yet, that’s not the only thing that Slugger makes accessible for listeners. Something she wasn’t expecting to address so in depth is her sexual orientation—though she’s happy it’s come up. Dupuis identifies as a panromantic demisexual. For some, that’s a mouthful of words that mean nothing. Demisexuality is an identity on the asexuality spectrum that people have varying definitions for. One of the prevailing ones, and the one she identifies with, is that you don’t experience sexual attraction—or if you do, it’s after the foundation of intellectual or emotional attraction. “Some people who are demisexual aren’t interested in having sex, or they will say panromantic instead of pansexual because that spans the interest of romantic attraction instead of sexual attraction,” she clarifies. As for the pan- prefix, it indicates an inclusion of all genders.
“When I found out, I started crying, like, ‘Oh shit, I’m not a weirdo,’ and I think that’s a really common experience,” she says. Talk to those who identify as such and that’s clear. The gray area demisexuality spans can confuse things for those who feel that way just as much as those who are trying to understand it. “When I first started identifying this way to friends, they would tell me that it meant I wasn’t meeting the right people,” she says. “In high school, when friends would talk about how hot a guy was, I could objectively relate to it, but I could never look at someone and flip out because they’re beautiful. It was confusing.”
Dupuis has been out for five years, but she’s only recently been asked questions about it in interviews. By discussing it, she’s raising awarness, which, in turn, allows others an opportunity to reflect on their own identity and possibly discover they identify as such, too. It’s a common sexual orientation, but the extent of demisexuality’s flexibility and spectrum makes it difficult for those who identify as such to feel confident in their orientation.
“I’ve had a lot of people hit me up saying they had no idea about it but now are crying because, up until discovering this term, had no idea it was an actual orientation. They just thought something was wrong with them,” she says. “It’s still an issue of visibility. Many people who don’t identify this way are only just now learning about it. Actually, many people who do identify this way are only just now learning about it. It’s hard to have a misconception about demisexuality when you don’t know what it is to begin with.”
Thankfully, that could change soon. With people becoming aware of their own identity, so are the forms of media that represent them. Dupuis tells me that Jughead from the popular comic Archie was canonically have said to be asexual. The CW plans to run an Archie show that’s “Gossip Girl meets Twin Peaks,” and apparently Jughead is represented that way in the show, too.
“One of the Sprouse brothers from The Suite Life of Zack and Cody is playing him,” she says excitedly. “So that means they’re using a teen idol to make asexuality more visible! I think that’s so awesome. It comes out in January, but I’m already so obsessed about it.”
We’ve got a feeling she isn’t the only one. A major broadcast television network gave a yes to an asexual character. There are bound to be plenty more yeses to come, this time for a different type of representation to get physical.
SAD13, VAGABON, EMILY REO, TOLD SLANT. WED 12.14. MIDDLE EAST UPSTAIRS, 472 MASS. AVE., CAMBRIDGE. 7PM/18+/$10. MIDEASTOFFERS.COM