Consent not coercion, romanticising abuse

kateleth2014[Image description: A pair of hands are bound at the wrists with red rope that then encircles them in a heart. Credit: Kate Leth 2014]

As the release date for ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ gets closer and closer, there are a lot of people nervous about the negative repercussions that this story will create. The two main issues being the story’s poor portrayal of what a BDSM relationship is and how the abusive, controlling nature of the main character, Christian Grey, is normalised and even romanticised. The producers are advertising this film as a ‘romantic’, with its release date around Valentine’s Day, reflecting the franchise’s appreciators who see it as nothing more than a bit of risqué, taboo fun. When in reality it is an emotionally and physically abusive relationship romanticised for a day that is meant to represent love and intimacy.

A healthy BDSM relationship not merely involves communication, but realises that it is paramount to a fulfilling and consensual role-playing scene. The Submissive and Dominant would both engage in a conversation of what the submissive wants to receive, what their soft-limits are (something that they have hesitations about but places strict conditions on with specific informed consent relevant to a situation) and what their hard limits are (things they will not enjoy and do not want to engage in under any circumstances – what is off limits). The Dom(me) may discuss what they’re willing and not willing to do and they will both agree on a ‘safe word’ for either of them to use, particularly, only because they will be in the more compromising position, for the submissive to use if they feel uncomfortable, scared, unsafe, unhappy, are in pain and/or they want to stop. Anyone engaging in consensual role-play would then immediately stop and move into the ‘after-care’ period of a play scene, which will vary for each couple, depending on how intimate they are usually, but could involve things like cuddling, talking, soothing, letting the Sub have silence and space but ultimately letting them know that they are there for them and there in a caring capacity.

Abusers use anything they can in order to create an ‘excuse’ for abuse. Christian Grey uses the traumatic experience of his childhood to justify his actions, using coercion and scare tactics to make Anastasia engage in sexual acts she isn’t comfortable with. He also manipulates her emotionally and financially to gain control in every situation. This is in no way a healthy representation of any relationship, let alone a BDSM relationship. What is worrying is the number of people who will go and see this film, with their curiosity for BDSM whetted by the books, and think that that is acceptable behaviour, or the other half of serious viewers who will have even more reason to believe the myth that people who engage in BDSM are all traumatised, mentally damaged or ill or need saving and that that’s their reason for engaging in it. From what I can gather from the film’s trailer and others’ reviews, the film strives to suggest that if Christian and Ana could just have a loving, ‘vanilla’, relationship all their problems would be solved. Guess what? People who engage in healthy BDSM can have and are having loving relationships built on trust, affection and respect.

This film is going to create damaging repercussions because it will give men who want to find proof the reason they need to argue that women do enjoy being dominated over, and that women should submit, sexually and emotionally to a man’s needs. There will be men who will try replicating scenes, some to women who asked them to go to the cinema and watch it with them, but some who will give the woman they enact them on no choice – exactly as Christian does. In America, a campaign has been started called ’50 Dollars Not 50 Shades’, urging people to donate money to domestic abuse survivor’s shelters, rather than giving their money to the Fifty Shades franchise. This is because a lot of people are acutely aware of the negative impact this will have on abusive relationships. If you want to explore your curiosity towards BDSM play find the community of kinksters in real life around you, sign up to an online Fetish community forum or social media site. There you can find people who can engage you in informative conversations and experiences of healthy BDSM play. But just because this film is the only mainstream representation of BDSM anyone has ever really seen, don’t think that that’s how it’s done. Don’t support this representation of a manipulative, abusive, relationship.  

 

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Reclaim the Night Southampton!

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[Text: Southampton Reclaim the Night, A march to end gender-based violence and sexual harassment. November 29th, 2014. Meet Guildhall Square 7pm. Rally, march, sing, shout, chant and dance through city centre. Finishing at Friend’s Meeting House, 1 Ordnance Road SO15 2AZ. Welcome to ALL gender identities and sexualities.]

We’ve been busy working with other local groups organising a Reclaim the Night March in Southampton. Marching against gender-based violence and sexual harassment the event will be in Southampton this Saturday the 29th November. All genders welcome. Visit our facebook event here for more details or email the event organisers at  reclaimthenightsoton [at] gmail [dot] com

Please share far and wide. We hope to see you there.

Southampton Transgender Day of Remembrance Candelight Vigil

TDOR banner

7.30 p.m., Thursday 20th November
The Edge, Southampton SO14 0BH
Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) is an annual international event to remember all those around the world who were victims of, and lost their lives to, transphobic violence.
We are gathering for a candlelit vigil where the names of trans people (or people perceived as trans) who have been killed throughout the world in the past year will be read out. This will be followed by readings and a collection of donations for two local trans charities, Breakout and Chrysalis.This year’s vigil is being held at The Edge in Southampton. Staff will let you in via the main entrance if you explain you are there for the vigil. There is disabled access via ramp through the side entrance.

The Facebook event is here. Please share widely with anyone who might be interested.

People of all genders, races, colours and abilities are warmly invited to this remembrance event. Please email hampshirefeministcollective (at) gmail.com or comment in the Facebook event if you have any questions or would like to share a lift/meet up with others in advance so you don’t have to travel to the event by yourself.

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS, RECLAIM THE NIGHT: A ZINE ABOUT GENDER-BASED OPPRESSION & SEXUAL VIOLENCE

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[Image description: A black and white photograph by Francesca Woodman. Image shows a woman from the waist down sitting on a wooden chair, naked expect for a pair of Mary Jane shoes. The chair is set on bare floor boards where a black imprint/ shadow of a body can be seen lying at her feet.]

[Text in image: Hampshire Feminist Collective: Call for Submissions: Reclaim the Night. A zine about gender based oppression, sexual violence, & fighting back in a hostile world. Send poetry, visual art, essays, stories, letters & ephemera to hfczine@gmail.com by 30/09/14]

Possible topics include:
– ‘talking back’ to street harassment
– personal accounts of survival
– rape culture & the media
– the meaning/role of self-care in ending gender-based oppression
– intersections of sexual violence, race, & prisons
– sexual violence in ‘radical’ spaces
– the role of capitalism in perpetuating gender-based oppressions
– intersections of illness and violence
– past reclaim the night memories
– compulsive (hetero/)sexuality
– feminist parenting
– white-washing of anti-rape campaigns
– healing as a male survivor
– histories of trans women’s resistance to sexual violence

SEND POETRY, VISUAL ART, ESSAYS, STORIES, LETTERS & OTHER EPHEMERA TO HFCZINE@GMAIL.COM BY 30/9/14

Are you still there..?

You may have noticed that we’ve been quiet – we’ve got fewer new blogposts, we’ve not run events for a while, and we haven’t used our mailing list recently.

We’re still really passionate about keeping HFC going, about feminist campaigning, and about educating in Hampshire and beyond. But it’s not always easy.

We’ve been struggling with finding a meeting venue – we had to leave our previous venue in Winchester as we were no longer able to afford it, and have not yet found a suitable replacement. If you know of a cheap, accessible, quiet venue with transport links, in central Hampshire, please let us know.

Sometimes other life stuff gets in the way. Active members move to another county or country, or have changes in work or family situations. Sometimes people get ill; we have a lot of members with mental and/or physical health problems or disabilities that can fluctuate, meaning they have less time or energy available.  Possibly feminists with an intersectional outlook are likely to be juggling other oppressions.

With this in mind we are aware that community support can make a real difference to people. Community building is essential activism, but is often overlooked or dismissed. HFC tries to provide safe spaces, which can provide respite from everyday micro-aggressions. As a group, we are starting to recognise that our activism does not always have to be traditional campaigning or protest but can also be providing support networks and mutual aid.

We’re going to start organising low-key socials. Once a month, every third Thursday of the month, in Southampton. We’d also like to hold socials elsewhere in Hampshire; we are aware that recently we have been quite Southampton-centric. This is partly because the majority of our active members who were spread throughout Hampshire have either moved out of the county or have moved to Southampton. We still have some members in other parts of Hampshire however, and are keen to hold more events elsewhere.

If you’d like to get more involved, get in touch. Suggestions to improve HFC are welcome, but new people getting involved with the running and organising are even better. However, if you haven’t got the time or energy to get involved with organisation, we’d still love to see you at a meeting or social, or even interacting with us online.

Our first social will be at the Art House on Above Bar Street in Southampton, this Thursday 17th April from 7pm. Some of us will be doing knitting, drawing or other crafts; do bring craft things if you’d like but it’s definitely not essential!  This is the facebook page for the event.

Our next meeting will be on Sunday 4th May, venue to be confirmed.

AudreLordeSelfCare

HFC’s stance on Reclaim the Night Portsmouth

Hampshire Feminist Collective will not be attending or promoting Reclaim the Night Portsmouth and here is why:

We are an intersectional feminist group that was set up to specifically provide trans* positive feminism in Hampshire. A few of our trans* members used to be involved in Solent Feminist Network, but were frequently made to feel unsafe by transphobic comments and feminism displayed by a few members. Whilst we acknowledge that these members do not represent the whole group, we openly challenged SFN regarding their stance on transphobia and were disappointed with their response. They denied that there was any problem within the group, claimed that transphobic comments were not making the space unsafe, deleted our public debate, banned the person who had raised the issue and refused to take a clear stance on transphobia. I feel we need to reiterate the last point: They do not feel that transphobia and cissexism are so vile that they need to declare themselves as, at least, trans* allies. Solent Feminist Network are one of this year’s organisers of Reclaim the Night Portsmouth and until they make it clear that they are a trans* positive group we will not be taking part or recommending that our members attend. It is not enough for them to say trans* members are welcome to fight for women’s liberation, we are still waiting for them to publicly state that they are against transphobia and cissexism.

Disclaimer:

We are aware that an organisation is comprised of individuals and that the event in question happened a year ago. As we do not interact with Solent Feminist Network we do not know if their stance on trans* people has changed and we are aware that not every member will have the same view. It may be the case that a change of members has taken place and they have consequently taken a more intersectional stance. We agree with the principles of Reclaim the Night Portsmouth and are sad that SFN’s involvement means that we cannot endorse the march.

Trans* feminist symbol

Trans* feminist symbol

Celebrating Bisexuality Day 2013! [Or: float on your fluid sexuality magic carpet wherever you darn well please]

Living in this age is not particularly easy for those whose attractions and desires fall outside of what I’m going to call the sexuality-binary. People are freely accepted as straight*with no question. In fact, as a society, we’re conditioned to believe that everybody is straight until told otherwise. Recently, there has also been a huge move for gay rights, and being gay is also accepted in society, with gay marriage having recently become legal**. What isn’t so widely accepted, however, is bisexuality. This is when a person can fancy people of ‘either’**** gender. From both the straight and gay communities’ perspectives, being bisexual can have a big backlash, with many assuming that bisexual people are “greedy” or “sex crazed”. Not only that, but women get a huge amount of  the “she’s only bisexual so that men think she’s sexy for kissing women when she’s drunk” mentality, especially from (you guessed it) men.  And when it doesn’t come from men, it comes from women’s internalised misogyny, which in turn comes from (again) men.

So the sexuality-binary is about as real as the gender-binary, in that yes, there are those that are strictly straight or gay, but there are those who float between those two ends of the spectrum somewhere on their fluid sexuality/gender magic carpets fancying whoever they darn well please because, let’s face it, you’re allowed to fancy whoever you darn well please. Many people follow the Kinsey scale of sexuality, which allows for more fluidity of sexuality but really breaks things down into percentages [i.e. a wee bit heterosexual / mostly homosexual]. Whilst this allows for a bigger range of sexual orientations, it’s still a little bit trans*phobic, because, well, where are the other genders on this scale? The point of the matter is, most of these scales work in such a way as to focus the attentions of how straight vs how gay someone is, which is really not okay considering some people might want to work on a scale that considers how bisexual they are [the only real option on this scale is “Totally!”]. Within this society, so much focus is on the binaries, which really isn’t fair on those who operate outside of said binaries.

One of the huge issues faced by those who are bisexual is that they are often less likely to come out of the closet because of stereotypes pushed upon them by the aforementioned gay and straight communities. A study in the LA Times showed that  “Only 28% of bisexuals have come out because of stereotypes […] that they’re sex-crazed or incapable of monogamy”. This is obviously entirely unfair, because just like every other person ever, bisexual people are great. The real unfortunate thing is that there is so much stigma around bisexuality. So much, in fact, that bisexual people don’t even have their own word for what they are, that doesn’t actively insult them. Heterosexual people can refer to themselves as straight, and homosexual people can refer to themselves as gay. They have their own words! Bisexual people only get a shortening of the original word: bi, which people in the other groups have too.

Really, what is trying to be said throughout is that bisexual people are much more amazing than society gives them credit for, and we should love them just as much as we love everyone else. We should be celebrating them just as we celebrate everyone else of different sexualities/identities/everything else ever that makes people as super and diverse as they are.

* The fact of the matter is that we live in a heteronormative society, unfortunately

** Yes, this is progressive, but when it comes to trans* people the legislation is lacking. Or rather, appalling.

*** Note: not especially trans* inclusive, the term for being attracted to all people of all genders is pansexuality.