There have been numerous posts about the issue of consent on DDP. This is not surprising given how horrifyingly common sexual assault is and how pervasive rape culture can be. Hopefully by now many people have been exposed to the idea of positive consent: it’s not enough to just stop if you hear a “no,” it’s also necessary to check in and receive a clear, preferably verbal “yes.” However, being committed to a culture of consent requires another responsibility: recognizing the implicit power dynamics that are present in all relationships.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Disrupting Dinner Parties is intended as a space where discussion, even disagreement, lead to a fuller understanding of issues. Like all our posts, this article represents the opinion of its author, not of “DDP” as a monolithic entity. In fact, this post generated heated discussion among the editors, which you can see in the comments section at the bottom of the page.
Long ago, when I first started dancing, my local scene was full of non-consensual touch*. Friends told me terrible stories of how they had been groped, grinded, ass-smacked, neck-nuzzled, or even licked non-consensually on the dance floor. I was shocked, but believed wholeheartedly. I had seen a fair share of these behaviors with my own two eyes; however, from outside the dance-partnership, I had no way of knowing whether it was consensual or not.
Ok, so you’ve worked on your refusal skills: you’ve practiced saying “No” or “Stop” –with a supportive friend or to random objects in your house like a pillow or the siracha bottle.
Nevertheless, you are still worried about your ability to stand your ground and say “No” to a real person, in a real situation, where you really want to lay down your boundaries. Why?
Perhaps you are afraid that this real person (I’ll call them the “seeker”) won’t respect your ‘No’. They may hassle you, call you names, or behave in some other stupid, cowardly, hurtful manner.
“Ok,” you tell yourself, “that’s gonna be unpleasant, but I can handle it. That hypothetical ‘seeker’ is obviously a freakin’ asshole. I would obviously have the high ground. I’d be able to hold and defend my ‘No’.”
But what if instead, upon hearing your refusal, the seeker says something like, “Y’know… you aren’t being reasonable here”?
Maybe it’s the fear that our “reasoning” or “fairness” will be challenged that really keeps us silent. We’re afraid we may have to defend not only our boundaries, but our very selves as sane and rational.
Sometimes it goes even deeper. Sometimes we ourselves have internalized the idea that it IS unreasonable to expect our boundaries to be respected in certain situations.
This questioning of whether our boundaries are “reasonable” or “appropriate” is far more complex and insidious than simple disrespect. Rationality, the very ground on which you stand, is being attacked. This is what I like to call a patronizing argument.
Content note: This post mentions emotional, physical, and sexual violence. There is also some text beneath the jump that may not be safe for work.
For whatever reason, I’m often the go-to person among my friends for advice with sexuality and relationships. I don’t mind; I view it as an opportunity to spread the word about the benefits of open communication between romantic and sexual partners to all of my friends. One sticking point, though, that makes my friends hesitate to communicate more openly is the fear of rejection.
Take for example my close friend Evan, who told me about a bad breakup he had.
“Sexually, the relationship was very dissatisfying for me,” he said. Continue reading
content note: discussion of ‘almost’ sexual assault
In NO (Part 1), I talked about how my mother taught me to assert my boundaries when I was I was a little girl. She taught me to say “No!” or “Stop!” loud and clear, with a straight face and a deep, firm voice as if I was talking to a misbehaving dog. When I grew up, it clicked that I could apply this loud, forceful ‘Dog-voice No’ to asserting my sexual boundaries. Furthermore, I took the principle of using firm serious body language and removed the loudness to create what I call the ‘Soft No’—a more palatable, but still potent I-mean-what-I-say signal.
Fortunately, I haven’t had to use the Dog-voice No or the Soft No very often. I am lucky enough to have spent most of my life surrounded by people that listen to my words. Nevertheless, every now and then my boundaries are overstepped. As promised, here’s a few examples of when I have used the Dog-voice No and the Soft No in sexual situations:
calling in, cartoons, chimamanda, chris kluwe, colonialism, comics, consent, feminism, friends, gender performance, girl geeks, marriage equality, mental health, MRAs, people first, poly, Queer, sexism hurts men too, sexual assault, ted talks
Happy Monday, Disruptors! Here are some things we’ve been reading and thinking about!
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie talks about feminism from the perspective of African and Nigerian culture:
This is a description of what it’s like to report a sexual assault. [as the author states at the top: “There may be some triggers around sexual assault, victim blaming, and incompetent police officers.”]
An NFL punter was fired because he refused to quit speaking out in favor of marriage equality in Minnesota. It made me angry that they fired him, but mostly it made me happy that he was willing to be harassed at work and even fired rather than stop speaking out. This is what using privilege for good (his sway with the public) and solidarity actions (even when there’s a cost) look like. Gratitude.
This month in Sexism Hurts Men Too: straight white men don’t have any friends.
Queer poly triad buys a bed off of craigslist. Bridie says, “Funny, sweet, gave me #feelings.”
We’re wishing farewell to 2013 with a look back at our five most-viewed posts of 2013. We’ve had some great ones! Drumroll, please…
5. True love doesn’t wait
In this powerful post from last March, Rosie clearly lays out the connection between virginity culture, sexual violence, and abuse:
When you divvy women into “respectable” vs “sexual” categories, you have a huge congregation of women who you’ve labeled ’not respectable’ and ‘for sex.’
4. Pass the disc, hold the sexism
In her post from last June, Stevia writes about having to do “something crazy like laying out while catching the disc in my teeth” just to get her male teammates to take her seriously as an ultimate player:
I can’t tell you how often someone has called me up and invited me to play because “we need you, we’re short on girls.” I can’t tell you how often people have assumed I’m only at a game because they thought I was dating a close male friend on my team. I’d love to feel valued as a player, but—Oh what’s that? I have a uterus? Great, let me hop on the field so you can adhere to league policy and let you give gender diversity lip service without you worrying about really being inclusive to women.
3. Got Consent? III: FetLife Doesn’t Get It
In the third installment of his 5-part series exploring consent in the kink community, Lunas tackles the role FetLife (like facebook for kinky people) plays in creating and supporting rape culture. He also provides a list of ways to take action.
The story of FetLife’s lack of respect of consent, privacy, and personal autonomy is an important one for all kinky people to know. But it also represents a fascinating case study for anyone interested in privacy, transparency, and rape culture on the Internet.
2. 4 Reasons Why, Actually, You Cannot Touch My Hair
Dominique’s post from last June was inspired by the performance art exhibit pictured above (SPOILER ALERT: the women protesting next to them has sliiightly less welcoming signs). In it she responds to all the people who want to touch black women’s hair.
Like, why? Why do you want to touch my hair? I implore you to deeply ponder this every single time you are about to ask to touch a black woman’s hair. Do you think it’s mystical? Exotic? Are you trying to test and see if it will leave scratches on your fingers? If you think it’s beautiful by all means, please say that, but you don’t have to touch it while the words come out of your lips.
1. Modeling Consent
When she wrote it in September, she was a lowly guest poster, but Rebecca has since become one of DDP’s editors! (I’m just kidding about guest posters being “lowly”–they are awesome and you should become one.) In this post Rebecca shares a happy, sexy story featuring dancing, nudity, makeouts, and good use of consent:
But our dance connection was growing into the sexual realm. I felt it happening. The dance was over, but neither of us walked away– those chills were running all over my body, begging to grow wings. Our faces were close together, breath in sync and heavy– it was that perfect moment, the one they capture in all the movies. I knew it was coming. That classic, dreamy, first kiss. And then something truly miraculous happened.
“Rebecca, I’d like to kiss you” Continue reading
This is a guest post by Silver Longjohns.
The one time I have dressed up for the opening of a movie was for Serenity in 2005. I went with a dozen costumed friends. I was Christina Hendricks’ ambiguously-named character. My favorite was my “two by two” friends in white lab coats who had swiped blue latex gloves from chem lab and thumb-wrestled for our cameras. We also had Kaylee with a parasol; two Inara’s in various finery, and someone had even knitted the Jayne hat. The one black guy in our group of majority white friends is a devout Christian and went as Shepherd Book. Our Zoe was a white lady and wore that signature disconcerting string of leather as a necklace.
Full disclosure: I was embarrassed to be out in public dressed up and I would never have done it alone. However, the time was right – as a stalwart Joss Whedon fan, I was delighted he’d done a movie, and the feeling of belonging in that group of fellow fans was very powerful for me. Even as I fretted about how our costumes set us apart from other folks in the theater I relished the opportunity to publicly fly a shared nerdiness flag.
So I’ve had a longstanding loyalty to Joss Whedon’s work, and I’ve been glad to see him gain more recognition. But my latent feminist tendencies have developed quite a bit over time and there’s a lot I wish Joss would do differently. In a fit of Netflix-enabled nostalgia I did re-watch Firefly recently, and because there’s been so much discussion recently about Joss Whedon and feminism, I’m sending out here some of my current reactions to Firefly. They’re somewhat popcorn style, focused on the lady characters, gender, sexuality, and romantic relationships. I should also acknowledge that it is particularly egregious that Firefly takes place in a future where everyone speaks Mandarin Chinese but not a single actor appears to be of Asian descent. Joss’ characters generally are not very ethnically diverse; it is a problem, y’all. Others have written on that before, though, so I won’t unpack it here. (Also, I only took two years of Mandarin but in Firefly their Chinese is terrible.)
Firefly disappointingly barely passes the Bechdel test, but I’m relieved that in the limited conversation among Kaylee, Zoe and Inara, they are unequivocally supportive of each other (River I’ll get to later). The sex positivity allowed to their characters is also simply delightful (Zoe and Wash get all sweaty and adorable together! Kaylee hooks up with a guy in the machine room because engines turn her on!) However, I wish Kaylee and Inara presented better models of communication about romantic needs.
content note: discussion of situations analogous to sexual assault
I vividly remember the day my mama taught me the concept ‘No means No’. At the time, it had nothing to do with sex.
How did my mother teach me skills to reject unwanted sexual activity without ever talking about sex? She empowered me to assert my boundaries.
I was 7 years old, and I was wrestling with my brother. Despite the fact that he was only 4, we were a pretty good match in strength. Throughout the time we were playing, I was saying “No!” and “Stop!” playfully, in a giggling high-pitched voice, with a smile on my face.
But then, my brother really started really hurting me.
This post is inspired by a conversation I had with a male friend regarding the subtle difference between “I’d like to kiss you” versus “Can I kiss you”.
“It’s too bad,” I said, “but, ‘Can I kiss you?’ just isn’t sexy. It implies a lack of confidence. And I’m attracted to confidence! What can I say?”
“Yeah, but you say you hate arrogance, right?”
“I can’t stand it! It’s such a turn off.”
He was getting noticeably frustrated. “But they are basically the same thing!” he fumed, “Both are ‘believing in yourself’! Just sometimes people perceive you as arrogant. It’s really about knowing your audience more than anything.”
I disagreed, but I couldn’t put a coherent argument together at the time. Still, his comment got me thinking, “What is the difference between confidence and arrogance?” It’s true, both words embody a strong belief in oneself, but arrogance makes others feel bad, while confidence is inspiring.
(This post is a team effort with my friend Jeff. We’ve discussed everything together and agreed on everything presented here. While most of the post comes primarily from my voice, there’s also a section where Jeff is the main speaker. This will be denoted with bold. )