Saturday, June 26, 2010

(the) Power (of love)

"You still don't get it. It's not about right. It's not about wrong. It's about power."**

And the thing about power is: those who have it do what they can to keep it.

Is it a stretch to say that every social movement in history was rooted in power struggle? I'm not enough of a history-buff to confidently answer that question. But I think it's a reasonable hypothesis. And, if it has all come down to power, I think we need to reassess our goals.

The Anti-Rape Movement taught us that sexual violence is about power and control. It's not about right and wrong. It's about people with power demonstrating how they intend to keep it. So if the Pro-Consent Movement is about gaining power, what will prevent us from replicating the choices of our oppressors as our movement succeeds? After all, memories are short and the movement is long.

Therefore, we need to be purposeful in stating that the goal of the Pro-Consent Movement is not to gain power. Rather, it is about spreading love. It's about learning how to love to the best of your ability, and helping those around you to do the same. It is about treating yourself and others with care and respect. We can only truly change the world if we stop playing by the rules of our oppressors. Rather than fighting to take what they have, let's teach them to value what WE have. It's as simple as being kind to yourself and kind to your neighbor. Easy-peezy-lemon-squeezy...

well, kinda...

To close, I leave your with a little Huey Lewis. Soooooooo gooooood!
Have a pleasure-filled day!

** Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Season 7, Episode 1.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Moving from "Anti-Rape" to "Pro-Consent"

Lot's of people who, according to legal or social definitions, have been raped don't call themselves rape survivors. In my years as an anti-rape activist I've heard more stories of this nature than I can count. And this used to frustrate me. The way I a saw it, every person who refused to call rape "rape," held back those who called it by name (and arguably, when you're within the "anti-rape" movement, that is the case).

But I see things differently now. I think individuals can and should define their own experiences. If you don't feel comfortable calling what happened to you "rape," by all means, don't! I can name about a million reasons not to, after all: it's painful, you're likely to not be believed, friends/family/legal & medical staff may blame you, if you were engaged in any sexual activity prior to the assault (especially if you identify as a woman) you may be disregarded as a "slut," "whore," or as "asking for it" -- just to name a few. Not to mention that plenty of people experience what's legally defined as rape without feeling traumatized by it.

I'm not trying to dissuade folks from coming out as survivors. If you want to come out, kudos to you! That is some brave shit!! But I'd like to call attention to the problematic nature of hinging a movement on individuals' ability to call an experience "rape" in a culture that tells survivors that it was merely "bad sex" and that if is was indeed rape, it was probably the victim's fault (their sexual history, dress and/or level of intoxication will likely be looked to as explanations).

We need a paradigm shift.

Let's start by finding some common ground:
Can we all agree that you should only engage in sexual activity with someone who wants to engage in that activity with you?


Okay, good. (Phew).

If you're in agreement then you are in favor of consent. And if you're in favor of consent calling yourself part of the "pro-consent" movement shouldn't be too much of a stretch. Using the language "pro-consent" doesn't necessitate survivors to come forward. All it asks is for you to have consensual sexual experiences. Period. And who doesn't want to do that?! One of my favorite Sexual Violence Prevention researchers Paul Schewe has wisely pointed out, if you engage in consensual sexual practices you'll likely have "more sex," and "better sex." Amen, brother!

Call your experiences whatever you like, but please know that not saying "no" is not the same as saying "yes." When it comes to our bodies and sexuality we have the right to be heard and respected. American culture does not support open communication about sex and sexuality so it's likely you haven't practiced enthusiastic consent in the past. But it's easy to start: if you're not sure if you have consent, just ask! (Thank you Jaclyn Friedman). By engaging in enthusiastic consent that is active, ongoing and mutual you are doing your part to end sexual violence and probably having a great time while you're at it! Everybody wins -- what's not to love!?