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By Nancy Schwartzman, “The Line” Filmmaker
posted originally http://whereisyourline.org
Last week, over 100 New Yorkers (and a few strays from New Jersey) crowded into Gallery Bar to watch THE LINE and hear from a kick-ass group of panelists, including: Erin Burrows of SAFER, Joe Samalin of Men Can Stop Rape, and Ignacio Rivera, trans artist, poet and educator. Thanks to everyone that came out and gave their voice and support!
Folks crowded up to the bar and sat along the wall for cushy seats. We give extra love to those who sat on the concrete barroom floor. Julia Weis and Meredith Villano, of Paradigm Shift hosted the event and got us the Time Out critic’s pick for the night. I was extra nervous to present the film to the home-town crowd, but was rewarded by watching the story work as a catalyst to bring folks together to talk about consent, accountability, and creating a real change in our communities and bedrooms.
After the film, I answered questions – and to my delight – fielded one from the bartender, proving that everyone has a stake in the conversation. He wanted to discuss the socialization of men, and how we applaud male promiscuity, and judge the same behavior in females. I bounced his question to Joe, who could address the work being done by men to challenge male assumptions and socialization.
Joe mentioned that even doing this work personally and professionally, his gut when watching the film, still ran to victim blaming and doubting it ‘was rape’ first.
Even as I KNEW that wasn’t the case, and knew it was socialization, I couldn’t help but go to that place of questioning (you) and getting defensive.
I asked him later about using the film in his work as an educator:
The film helps us frame sexual violence not ONLY as a women’s issue but men’s issue, and it helps us address the nuances of mens responsibility as a whole/group for the violence committed by a not so small small minority of men. My dad (bless him) actually pointed out that I should have also mentioned that we don’t want to ‘other’ violent men, that we are ALL educated/socialized to be violent, and all have that potential.
Erin Burrows explained her work as an activist with SAFER and their unique campus-based perspective:
We can prevent sexual assault through a strong communally shared and agreed upon definition of consent that accounts for a wide range of sexualities, and that a definition of consent must put the onus of obtaining consent on the initiator, and insist that silence, a previous or current relationship or consent to a previous sexual act is NOT consent.
She emphasized that a strong sexual assault policy for a contained community, such as a college campus, must hold people who violate consent accountable through a fair disciplinary process.
Ignacio Rivera really called out the idea of privilege and reminded me that the personalis political. They discussed the importance of harm-reduction, non biased and non judgmental approaches to assessing risk, communication and best practice for sexual health. The concept and practice of Risk Aware Consensual Kink (RACK) and Safe, Sane & Consensual (SSC) were cited as examples, and were new terms for a lot of folks in the room, myself included. Ignacio made clear that we can all learn from the queer, kink and BDSM communities when we talk about consent and sexual behavior.
Melissa Gira Grant asked the question about how we could respond to the topics raised in the film and during the panel that address the needs of the queer community. Erin responded that a movement for sexual assault policy reform must come from a broad coalition of students that is sex-positive, trans and genderqueer inclusive, and accounts for the intersectionality of multiple identities and how that impacts a person’s experience as a survivor of sexual assault. Ignacio underscored their point about taking cues and lessons from the complexities of consent from within the kink and BDSM communities. I chimed in that we’re planning on shooting some short videos to accompany the educational package of THE LINE that will include these discussions and perspectives.
Audience member Kalimah Priforce spoke up:
I am a victim of rape. When I was two years old, my mother was giving me a bath. I slipped and fell, and was bleeding. My father punished her, and raped her. My brother was born of this rape, and I buried him 18 years later. Men need to stop this violence, because we are all effected by it.
After a bleak political week, including an escelation of the war in Afghanistan and the voting down of marraige equality in New York State, hosting and provoking dialogue about creating more sex-positive education, conversations and communities, was a big, bright spot. What are some other ways you’d like tocontinue this dialogue?