Safe Space isn’t about Consent

“Danger Do Not Cross”, a performance of mine from a few years back. Photo by Sarah Paterson

If we intend on creating safe spaces (especially for women and minority people) to explore our sexualities openly, we have a lot of work to do. When I say “we” I mean everyone, but I especially mean all men, people who aren’t minorities, and those who have more privilege within their minority communities than the people they are sharing space with.

Everyone loves sex and kink and parties, right? It feels so good! A room full of oxytocin, adrenaline, and dopamine gets only more intoxicating the more people are added to the mix! And of course you have thought ahead, of course you have considered who to invite and not invite, you’ve written your party rules and sent them out for all to see. Consensual play is one of them, in fact you have it BOLDED in the email sent out to everyone: CONSENT IS SEXY — CONSENT OR GO HOME — CONSENT OR BANISHMENT FROM THE FOLD!!!

But do you mean it?

Do you? Are you willing to put your body and this idea between predators — especially those predators who are people you know well — and the victims and/or survivors who they have harmed?

As mastermind of this environment, as host/co-host/producer/involved friend/moderator/Dungeon Master/partygoer… are you willing to involve yourself (maybe painfully) in the processes of teaching friends, keeping in check, mediating, cutting ties, working towards remediating those people who fuck up, being supportive and attentive to those who’ve been harmed in your space, and choosing between close friends who you’ll completely and unequivocally support? Are you willing to put the notion out there that your group/party/event stands up for and gives resources first and foremost to people who deserved to maintain their autonomy, and consider a violation of that tantamount to violation of the event itself and your own reputation? Are you ready to not only kick out, but detain and question those who have abused your open space and vulnerable friends? Are you willing to be vocal about your commitment to survivors of assault and their needs over the reputation of your event or a perpetrator’s privacy? These questions are ones you should not just kneejerk say “of course” to.

Close your eyes and imagine throwing your best friend out of your house and having to mediate clearly and firmly their ban on your events because they molested someone at the party — someone, perhaps, you don’t even know, or someone who you don’t personally like that much, someone who you think is loud and obnoxious, or overly sensitive in general. Now try again, this time run through your mind what it will be like having to do these things with someone who is very useful to you, someone who is a good client, who has given your community many resources, who owns the property you’re using, who pays your rent, who has some type of power over you in the non-party world. Are you sure you have the stomach to act steadfast in honor of a victim in your safe space still?

Safe space isn’t about consent, it’s about the shape and resilience of the container itself.

It is unfortunate that to experience our sexualities and sensualities we often need protection and safeguards in place to allow us, for just a moment, to let go of the walls we’ve built up over the years and past abuses. It is only honest to acknowledge that at the moment we do let go we are vulnerable. We are vulnerable to people without boundaries, without socialization surrounding sexual boundaries, without clear thinking, and without respect. Vulnerable to people who drink too much, who are on drugs, who have decided to drug someone else. We are vulnerable to peer pressure, to bullying, to force, to surprise attack. We are vulnerable to grabbing, staring, and invasion of personal space by people who don’t think casual touch is worth asking about. We are vulnerable to a slew of things we haven’t considered possible, much less the ones we knowingly brace ourselves against. If you want to create safe space for this vulnerable and fragile process of letting go, you must also be actively involved in the aftermath when molestation (unfortunately too frequently) occurs.

How do we do this?

Let’s talk about that.

Safe space is about listening. Let’s look at that from the ground up for a minute. It is because we do not listen to our victims that we become predators. Perhaps we have not been listened to ourselves, and so that practice has become a habit we perpetrate on others. Perhaps we aren’t listening because we have blocked our sensibilities with the unbalancing reality of inebriants. Perhaps a million other reasons, it doesn’t matter what they are in the end. It is because there is a dearth of listening that we have gotten to this place of frequent abuse to begin with.

The perpetrator of an assault is not listening to their victim. We, as community and responders to the situation, must first and foremost be willing to listen to victims and survivors. This, of course, means we need to listen to women. We need to listen to black and brown people and others who aren’t white skinned. We must listen to queers, transgender folk, and to sex workers. We must listen to people who are in shock, angry, tearful, overtly emotional, quiet, afraid, reactionary, and confused. We must to listen to them about what they’ve experienced and their needs, and we must learn to action around their words first.

This means we must be quiet. We must be willing to sit in a corner and hear what is being said, and we must learn to untangle our own fears, personal triggers, “yeah, buts”, and agendas from what we’re being told is needed in any given moment. We must not decide that because we’ve been through this before that we know what to do. We can let those experiences inform us, but we must listen to the people in the moment that is happening right now in order to be present enough for responsible action and actual help.

This scratches the surface about how to create a safe space for open sexuality, but it’s the most important tool we can learn to use I think. Also:

  • Have an experienced sober Dungeon Master or two committed to being present where there is play.
  • Have Moderators or Party Officials who are introduced at the beginning of the party and available to be pulled aside at any point to be talked to if someone is feeling uncomfortable or if something that needs to be dealt with happens.
  • Have an opening circle where participants introduce themselves quickly, or at least have the host address everyone and lay out the rules and expectations of the event.
  • Consider having a cut-off time for arrivals. This works great if you have an opening circle as everyone can be expected to participate. Even if you don’t though, closing the door and sealing the space from outsiders, intruders, or people who are coming late and possibly inebriated helps control the space itself.
  • Make your parties sober and commit to throwing out anyone suspected of being under the influence, or have a “If you’re too inebriated to drive, you’re too inebriated to consent” rule.
  • Have “no play” zones where no play is happening (the kitchen or wherever food is is great for this) so that people who are feeling uncomfortable or triggered or needing a time out or to escape someone’s attention in a play space can comfortably exist without question about why they aren’t playing.
  • Have a plan clearly in place about what to do if something happens. Know how the situation will be dealt with, and who is commited to deal with it.
  • Have a buddy system in place where everyone at the party comes with another person, with the understanding that if your buddy gets thrown out you do too no matter what is going on. This helps create accountability in terms of people only inviting people they think will be responsible, but it also ensures that if someone is kicked out for being drunk hopefully their buddy isn’t. Ask that people check in with their buddies throughout the night…
  • Have a committed designated driver or sober crew at the party who can bring people home or to safety or simply be more aware when they see odd behavior.
  • Have people at the party who are trained in how to deal with an assault when one occurs.
  • Have a follow-up plan for victims and perpetrators already in place.

These are only a few suggestions.

Consent can only happen once someone has deigned to ask for it and decided to listen. Consent is a popular word and an important practice which feels like a row of shining stars: THIS PERSON IS SUPER CONSENSUAL, A+++! It is not, however, what creates safe space alone. Of course, we must get positive enthusiastic consent to play. But first we have to ask questions, we have to listen, we have to be willing to accept responsibility for what is happening around us. We must listen to people we aren’t used to listening to. We must learn.

Play On My Friends,
~ Creature

Please support my work on Patreon. For one time donations click here: Support the Artist 
~Thank you.

Public Service Announcement

Photo by RADskillZ Photography 2013

You do not have the right to:

  • You do not have the right to anybody else’s body but your own. Ever. Period.

Because this principle so frequently seems to need a list of reminders about what it means, here goes.

You do not have the right to:

  • Grab my ass without my consent.
  • Grab my pussy, tits, or any other body part you haven’t asked to grab and been given the go ahead about.
  • Stick your fingers, genitals, sex toys, or any other object in any of my orifices without my explicit consent.
  • Tell me your fantasies about me unless I ask you to, or I consent when you ask for my permission to share them.
  • Tell me your sexual/sensual/kink fantasies which don’t include me unless I ask you to, or I consent when you ask my permission to share them.
  • Threaten me, act passively aggressive, act plain ‘ol aggressive, bully me, peer pressure me, or any other form of not accepting what I’m telling you when I turn you down or let you know I am disinterested in your advances.
  • Drug me without my knowledge.
  • Take advantage of me when I’m not capable of consent due to any form of drug, alcohol, or emotionally/psychologically dissociative condition.
  • Restrict my ability to leave a situation if and when I chose to.
  • Ignore me or continue on when I tell you to stop.
  • Restrain me in any way so that you may continue on when I have told you to stop.
  • Remove a condom or other barrier method without my knowledge, exposing myself or yourself to any number of health risks including pregnancy. This takes my autonomy and my choice away from me, and it is a form of rape.
  • Make sexual advances on people who are underage if you are an adult.
  • Shame me for the choices I make for and about my own body.
  • Shame me for the sexual and sensual partners I choose to engage with consensually.
  • Shame me for the sexual and sensual activities I engage in with consenting adult partners.

No, this list is not exhaustive.

No, I don’t care if it’s an orgy or sex party or there are multiple people within arms reach who are also getting sexy. All of the above realities still apply.

You do have permission (not a right) to:

  • Touch the person who invited you to join the orgy/sex party/multiple-people-getting-sexy-space, BUT only in the ways you’ve negotiated, and continue to negotiate permissions with them. You must ask before you touch anyone else involved in the scene or nearby. If you want to touch, you must negotiate first.
  • Do the things we’ve negotiated doing in the way we’ve negotiated doing them.

You do have the right to:

  • Ask me if I want to know about your fantasies which include me.
  • Ask me if I want to know about your fantasies which do not include me.
  • Ask me how much I’ve had to drink or how inebriated I am before negotiating with me, touching, or playing with me.
  • Check in frequently about whether what we’re doing is ok, still ok, enjoyable, if I’d like something different, etc.
  • Ask me for what you would like.
  • Ask me whatever questions you have about how I feel and what I need (unless I’ve asked you not to).
  • Let me know that you respect me and my wishes and you don’t want to coerce me (if that is indeed the truth).

Did you notice how most of these things involve asking?!

Yes, there are a lot of ways to verbally and non-verbally negotiate. HOWEVER, if you non-verbally communicate about what you’re doing, and later on someone let’s you know you fucked up, that’s totally on YOU for not gaining the enthusiastic “yes” consent before moving on.

If someone says yes to a thing and then part way through they change their mind and say no, it’s on YOU to stop and listen and check in and make sure you’re giving that change of consent the space it needs to be respected, acknowledged, and appropriately acted on.

This has been your daily reminder that asking for consent, pre-negotiations, and talking about sex frequently (and hopefully eventually more and more fluently) is the way to a happier, sexier, more empowered, and less fucking stressed out and abusive nation.

These guidelines also help you not be a rapist. Take responsibility for yourself and your actions. Don’t be coercive. Don’t be a rapist.

Play On My Friends,
~ Creature

Please support my work on Patreon. For one time donations click here: Support the Artist 
~Thank you.

Courage

My dashboard garden is back and I’m so happy to watch these beautiful creatures grow!

I feel really great in my body these days. I wish I’d known sooner what hormones could do for me. The experience of enjoying my physical body in the mirror and under my own fingertips rather than feeling trapped in it and persistently worried about how I look IS AMAZING!!! Seriously, I had no idea daily life could be like this. I think T is lifting a lifelong fog of depression and anxiety off of me and I’m very thankful for it.

To everyone who ever point blank told me to my face that “they just see me as a girl”, or “I just seem more femme rather than butch to them”, or that “I just look better when I dress girly”, or that “I’m not a tomboy b/c tomboys don’t wear dresses”, or any other reinforcement of the female femme ideal — which is already constantly crammed down my throat by the rest of the world (and to which I don’t usually choose to interact with face to face): You are a huge reason I didn’t get here earlier. I need you to know that. I need you to know that not because I want to tell you you were wrong, but because I want you to consider the weight of pressuring others to be as you wish them to be. It hurts to be told you can’t be who you feel you are. It is a painful lifestyle to persist holding a line you’re told to hold which feels wrong, and some of us are good enough at holding on, that we really need friends and to have role models who see us for who we are and who give us permission to let that line go.

I sincerely apologize to anyone if my words or actions have ever made them feel small about their identities or wrong about sharing themselves with me. It’s never been an intention of mine. I haven’t always understood as much about how my words affect each person I’m speaking to, and I know I’ll make mistakes in the future too, but I want to know when I do. I want the opportunity to reconsider the meaning of my actions. I want to be better than my mistakes.

I roundly thank everyone who has seen me and believed me and accepted me as I’ve journeyed and evolved and learned to articulate myself over the years. Without you I would still be desperately wanting things I didn’t feel I deserve to get (which is on me, but you all really helped me out a lot).

As I write, acknowledging this feeling of happiness I’ve been feeling since starting T, I want this moment to be a reminder to consider the impact of our very human desire to label others — especially to their faces — with labels we’re comfortable with rather than the labels someone else tells you they want to be labeled as. Almost every single bit of information we take in in this world is gendered, racially loaded, ableist, and constructed to tear our individualities down for the benefit of a privileged class. We can (and must) change that by considering one another not as objects, but as individual creatures with vibrant internal worlds which we will never be privy to the full intricacies of without asking first, without believing the answers we receive, and without caring to wonder more deeply about who we’re interacting with in the first place. When someone tells you who they are (and who they are not), consider believing them immediately before questioning what they’re saying. Consider asking questions about how that works if you aren’t sure you understand. Consider trusting people who gather the courage to tell you something about themselves.

Love from my glowing, growing, vibrant garden inside, and as always —

Play On My Friends,
~ Creature (Crea)

Please support my work at Patreon. For one time donations click here: Support the Artist 
~Thank you.

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