Rape culture is all around us, right? Excuses for sexual behaviour in which one person’s desires are constructed as all important and the point of view from which an encounter is judged, and the other person’s ability to name what happened as unacceptable are undermined.
Setting rape up as something people “deserve” when they behave badly. Blaming, women in particular, the person who is raped because they drank something/wore something/said something/did something that made it inevitable that someone else would choose to force them to do sexual things they didn’t want.
Making fun of consent as something that is “for pussies”.
The Facebook page of Wellington’s under reconstruction “gay” venue, the Ivy Bar, offered up taking photos of “tradies” to their Facebook fans. When one fan suggested that if they were going to take photos of “tradies” and put them online they needed to have said “tradies” consent, another made the comment above – not only unchallenged by Ivy as hosts, but liked by them.
Consent is certainly for women. And for men. And for transpeople. And for intersex people. And for those for whom those categories do not feel quite right.
Making fun of consent anywhere is concerning, and it happens far too often. Making fun of consent in a venue seeking queer custom, part of the queer community, shows a devastating lack of attention to one of the saddest outcomes of homophobia, biphobia and transphobia – sexual violence.
Queer people experience sexual violence because we are queer, as hate crime. And we experience sexual violence, just like straight people, within relationships and hook-ups, because some of us choose to over-ride consent. The reasons for this are complex – to do with gender rules which say that men always want sex, so how can they say no? Gender rules which tell women that asking for the sex we want makes us sluts. Rigid gender policing which constructs some kinds of bodies as deviant and wrong, invoking shame and lack of entitlement around being treated with respect and care. Homophobia, biphobia and transphobia teaching us that there is something wrong with how we desire.
Trans* people experience higher rates of sexual violence than anyone else, at 50%. Indications are that other queer people also have high rates of unwanted, coerced and forced sex – sexual violence. For non-heterosexual secondary school students in New Zealand, one in three have been touched in a sexual way, or made to do sexual things they do not want to do – again, higher than rates for heterosexual students.
So Ivy Bar – epic fail. Treating consent as optional in a queer space dismisses many of your patrons’ experiences. Describing consent as “for pussies” has the delightful added bonus of denigrating women’s bodies to support your very own brand of rape culture.
It’s hard enough to name queer experiences of sexual violence, and that work, world-wide, is only just beginning. We could do with insiders in the queer community not shutting it down. I’ll be avoiding Ivy, when they re-open, until they can do better. Feel free to let them know what you think.