Tag Archives: consent

SlutWalk Chicago Highlights

7 Jun

The Women’s Movement is BACK, baby! What an exciting day.

For those of you who have not yet heard about SlutWalk events popping up all over the world, these are marches protesting sexual violence and particularly the use of slut-shaming and victim blaming to justify sexual violence, rather than holding perpetrators accountable. Yes, there has been some controversy. See my previous post or Jessica Valenti’s wonderful Washington Post for more information on the debate around SlutWalk. See this for more on the ideology behind the Chicago event.

Ok, so while the weather reports warned of thunderstorms, thousands of protesters of all ages, races, body-types, backgrounds and genders gathered in Thompson Plaza in Chicago on Saturday, June 4 to march against sexual violence, against victim blaming, against slut-shaming and FOR women’s rights. The weather stayed sunny– and HOT– and it made me wish I was as scantily clad as some of the other activists around me. Yes, some were in lingerie, bikinis, and short skirts– people were dressed in all different ways, including at least one woman who marched in a hijab. I wore jeans (a very sweaty mistake) and a t-shirt reading “ASKING is the first thing I do with my mouth”. Others used bare skin as their message board to the world, writing things like, “This is not an invitation to rape me” or, more simply:

This woman was very nice. We chatted about sunscreen after the march.

Here are some things that I found really exciting about SlutWalk Chicago:

1) Holy MEN, Batman! There were tons of them, and they led cheers in booming voices that went a little something like this: “Gay, Straight, Black, White! All unite for women’s rights!” Heart-warming.

2) We ran into the Avon Walk For The Cure and sisterly love abounded!

We loved each other! Sisterhood!!

3) There were kids at the march.

Her sister's sign read, "I DARE U TO CALL ME ONE."

4) I wish I had caught this on video: A bus driver saw us, read our signs, beeped a funky rhythm and fist-pump danced at us until her light turned green. We fist-pumped right  back. It was awesome.

5) Most polite protestors ever. Sample conversations:

“Oh, excuse me! I didn’t mean to invade your space!” “You’re fine!” *warm smiles*

“May I take your photo? I love your signs!” “Sure!” “Thank you!” “You’re welcome!”

Speaking of signs, there were some great ones! I give you the beautiful, strong messengers of SlutWalk:

Blurry but I love it: "Just because I have BIG TITS doesn't mean I want to FUCK YOU!" Say it, sister!

Chanting: "Hey hey! Ho ho! Sexual violence has got to go!"

Powerful. "Nobody asked me what my rapist wore." This sign struck me the most deeply.

Haha I LOVE this one! Summing up the sex-positive messaging in SlutWalk.

Yeah, we've had ENOUGH!

No more victim blaming!

After the march we heard speakers, slam poets, and even a (hilarious) ! (My frequent readers know how I love female comedians…)

Other highlights of the speeches, for me, were from the Chicago Metro YWCA with her “chat-sy about consent” which we could start practicing now “or, you know, forevs” as well as an organizer (whose name I didn’t catch- did you? Let me know!) from the . Emily’s talk was empowering, silly and sexy as she discussed my favorite topic: consent! From SWOP, I learned a lot about how sex workers face additional challenges from law enforcement in reporting rape, and also that many cities have or are considering creating laws that would allow law enforcement to assume a person was soliciting based solely on what she is wearing and where she is standing. Alarming!

I was too tired to attend the after party and after-after-party, so I got a Slurpie (7-11s everywhere in Chicago!) and took a nap. It was a sexy fun day, and I ran into some organizers planning to bring SlutWalk to my hometown of Madison! Stay tuned for more info on that as it becomes available.

I’d love to hear your comments/questions! And remember:

“Women’s rights under attack? What do we do?

STAND UP! FIGHT BACK!”

I teach to kids, and they can be soooo interesting to work with sometimes…

One kid in my class is a very smart, talented and charming little guy who sometimes forgets that he is bigger and stronger than the rest of the kids. He means well, but he has a habit of manhandling his classmates rather than using his words (we are working on this). Today, he was playfully grabbing one of the girls and she yelled,

“Stop touching me!” He didn’t listen to her, so I told him,

“Hey– You need to listen to her words. She is asking you not to touch her so now it’s your job to respect that.” Again, meaning well, he patted her on the shoulders saying,

“Sorry, sorry!” I stepped in again,

“She just asked you not to touch her, so touching her more is not the answer.” Inwardly I was smacking my own forehead thinking, “Geez, is this kid ever going to get it?” I looked up, and he was holding a sparring helmet above her head (to help her put it on) and, bless his little heart, he looked her in the eye and asked,

“May I?”

I was thrilled! I wanted to cheer, “And that’s how kids can practice talking about consent!” but instead I beamed at him and reinforced the behavior with a,

“Good asking!”

Kids are all up in each others’ space, as a general rule, and it’s mostly in good fun. It’s important for us as adults to set the standards, however, that both kids and adults need to ask before they touch and listen to the answer. If kids practice respect, they will grow into respectful adults.

Body Language And Consent

23 Mar

Thomas from wrote an excellent explaining new research that demonstrates that a non-verbal no is as clear as a verbal no.

This is particularly important when we consider the trauma response to sexual assault. An assault triggers the fight, flight or freeze response. I know I talk a lot about fighting, as a martial arts instructor, but the reality is that in that moment of intense stress, many victims freeze. Just because someone does not fight back does not mean that they gave consent. It also does not mean they deserved to be assaulted or were responsible for the attack in any way. Yet, in the few rape cases that go to trial, the most common defense is to assert that the encounter was consensual. This defense often focuses on what the victim did not do (ex. fight back, say no clearly or loudly or believably enough, etc.). Unfortunately, what they did do (in terms of non-verbal communication) would be hard to recreate in court. This new research is just one more piece of evidence supporting the fact that victims should be believed and that creepers know exactly what they are doing.

Rape? Or Rape-ish?

4 Feb

Last week women’s rights activists rose up in firm opposition of a as part of the No Taxpayer Money for Abortion bill. The overwhelming response was effective in that the from the bill.

The issue in short:

The bill limited federal funding for abortion to victims of “forcible rape” or incest, or cases in which the mother’s health was in immediate danger.

Why this is a big deal:

The term is unclear, but suggests that certain kinds of rape– statutory rape, rape of a person with a cognitive disability, drug or alcohol facilitated rape, or many instances of date rape– don’t really count.

THIS IS PART OF A DANGEROUS PROBLEM.

One revealed that only 12% of undergraduate students whose experiences fit the legal definitions of rape identified themselves as rape victims. The same study showed that 84% of college aged men whose actions would be legally classified as rape said what they did was “definitely not rape”.

While rape may have a variety of legal definitions, I use ‘s definition in my classes because I find it to be the most clear:

Rape: Vaginal, oral or anal penetration without consent. This can be with a penis, finger or other objects.

Consent*: A clear and freely given yes, not the absence of a no.

*If a person is under 18, mentally handicapped, or intoxicated (with alcohol and/or other drugs) beyond a certain point, they are not legally able to give consent to sex.

There is no gray area with rape. No matter the circumstances, it is defined primarily by a lack of consent.

I’ve been so upset about this issue, and I know others find it upsetting as well. To leave you on a lighter note, I’ll share this link to the commentary by one of my favorite feminists, .

If you are a woman and you go out dancing, you will likely feel the need to watch your back– literally.

The scene: You are dancing at a bar or club with your friends, having a great time, when all of a sudden you feel someone has creeped up behind you. A man is “grinding” his, ahem, pelvis, into your, ahem, rear end. Sound awkward? Alarming? Disgusting? That’s because it is!! And this happens more than you might think.

Just yesterday I overheard a conversation between two young women describing exactly this.

“…Yeah, we were having so much fun dancing! But then this creepy 40 year old man came up behind me and started grinding on me– well, actually I didn’t see him because I wasn’t gonna turn around and be like, ’Hello!?’, but then my friends pulled me away so it was ok…”

Two main points stand out to me about this.

First, I’ll address the men (and some lesbians, you know who you are):

It is NOT OKAY to touch someone without their consent. It is NOT SEXY to have a stranger “grind” on you without your consent. Finally, GRINDING IS NOT DANCING, and although it can be fun, you should probably get to know someone before you grind your junk on them. Call me crazy.

If you want to impress/charm/romance a woman, or even if you just want to get a woman to notice you, the above strategy is not the way to go. You need to learn how to do 2 things: 1) Dance and 2) ASK someone to dance. Just as I was getting worked up this dancing issue, I was fortunate enough to chat with one of my best friends who had a refreshingly different experience. This young man who she has been flirting with was at a show with her, and he walked up to her and he said, “Do you want to dance?” What a man. He won BIG points for that one. And then, if this wasn’t clear, they danced. They did not “grind”. Don’t know how to dance? Take a class or learn from a friend you trust. It’s a natural form of human expression, and anyone can do it.

Now for the women:

It’s not your fault that men are doing this these days, and we shouldn’t have to constantly be on guard, but if this happens to you (and it can happen to anyone, it has happened to me many times), you have the tools to address the situation.

Remember the woman I overheard? “…well, actually I didn’t see him because I wasn’t gonna turn around and be like, ’Hello!?’…”

My question to her– why not? What’s the worst that could happen if you turn around and say, “Hello!?”

This shouldn’t be our responsibility, and I wish things were different, but as it is– if you do nothing when a man does this to you, he learns the lesson that it is okay for him to do this to women because there are no consequences of any kind and his little friend gets some over the pants action out of the deal. Now he will go on to do this to other women, because it worked out pretty well for him the first time.

More importantly, how does it feel to stand there and let this happen? My guess is it leaves a lot of women feeling helpless, embarrassed, disgusted, and more. Can you imagine a different reality? What if it looked a little more like this?

Man creeps up behind for an anonymous grind.

Woman: (turns and makes eye contact) “Excuse me?! Do I know you? Don’t you know it is extremely rude to touch someone without asking?!” (walk away)

Personally, I just give ‘em a sharp elbow/eye contact/”Back OFF, buddy!”. Every person is different. To each her own. So think about what seems most natural to you, and if it seems scary to try in real life, practice it in your head or even out loud until you feel confident about what you would say in this situation.

Remember, if someone touches you without your consent and makes you feel creeped out, that is a RED FLAG, even if the person seems attractive in other ways. You can do better. Hold out for the one who asks you to dance.

Keeper or “Creeper”?

23 Nov

85% of sexual assault is perpetrated by a friend, acquaintance or intimate partner. So how do we know who to trust? How can we tell the difference between flirtation and victimization? Here are some helpful guidelines:

1. Flirting feels fun. Creeping feels creepy.

It may sound obvious, but I often see women tolerating flirtation or relationships with “creepers” because they can’t understand why this person makes them feel creeped out.

Reasons we’re surprised they are creepy–

  • They are physically attractive
  • They are friends with our friends
  • They have not seemed creepy in the past
  • They are educated and/or have a good job
  • They do not seem physically aggressive
  • They are charming and complimentary
  • They offer to buy us things
  • Etc.

To put it simply: If it feels creepy, it is creepy. Listen to your instincts and avoid taking this situation further.

2. Respectful people respect what we say with our words AND our bodies.

If someone respects and cares about you, they will not touch you if you don’t want them to. They will listen to what you say, but you probably won’t need to say anything.  Why? A respectful person notices  if you tense up at their touch and immediately pulls away, whether or not you say you feel uncomfortable. Beyond that–they will not make you feel bad or guilty for not wanting to be touched.

Respectful people say:

“Can I kiss you?”

“Are you okay?”

“You don’t have to do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable.”

Disrespectful people say:

“Come on, don’t you like me?”

“What’s wrong with you? Other women like this. Loosen up!”

Disrespectful touch is often used to exert physical control. Examples of this kind of touch include:

  • Leading you around by a hand on the small of your back
  • Holding you in place with an arm around your shoulder
  • Pulling you along by grabbing your wrist
  • Pushing you up against a wall
  • Picking you up and/or carrying you somewhere

These kinds of touch might look like “play”, but the important thing to remember is the context. Does it feel fun to YOU? If yes, then you are fine. If it makes you feel scared, embarrassed, out of control, belittled, or otherwise uncomfortable, then you can be sure you are being disrespected and you deserve better.

3. Healthy affection makes you feel wonderful about yourself. Unhealthy affection attacks your self esteem.

Sincere and caring compliments sound like:

“You look nice/pretty/beautiful/wonderful/etc.”

“I feel really lucky/happy/honored to be spending time with you.”

“You know what I like most about you? You make me laugh/You challenge me intellectually/You are so caring/etc.”

Unhealthy “compliments” are often degrading or controlling:

“Ooh, lookin’ good! I bet you really know how to work it.”

“You can’t wear that in public! All the men are going to want your body, and I want you all to myself!”

The good news is that there are a lot of wonderful caring people out there who will love you AND treat you with respect and caring. Don’t settle for anything less!

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