Asking consent shouldn’t be a problem in the BDSM and alt-sex communities. It shouldn’t be a problem anywhere, but the fact that kink events continue to face the issue of people grabbing without asking (or even transgressing previously negotiated boundaries) is especially poignant to me. One of the things I found most attractive about the kink culture — back in the days when I was learning about it from On Our Backs, Susie Bright books, and the alt.sex newsgroups on Usenet — was the idea of negotiated consent to do things that would otherwise be “bad.” I especially loved safe words. The idea that you could agree to signal when you needed to cross from fantasy back into reality symbolized everything that I loved best about the kink movement and the peer education movement that was coming up behind it.
But safe words — and in many ways, the ethos of consent that was so enlightening to me at the time — have become uncool among large segments of the kink communities. Safe words — and the negotiation that comes with them — are seen as the province of newbies and kink tourists, and that’s a problem.
Fortunately, there are people who have been pushing back. One of them is adult star and activist Maxine Holloway.
I’ve known Maxine for years, and even though sex radicalism sometimes seems to be hanging on by its fingernails in San Francisco, she’s one of the people that still gives me hope that the city’s tradition of combining perversion with politics will live on in the age of Twitter and Facebook. In 2012, I wrote a piece for the SF Weekly about how she and other cam workers at Kink.com were fighting for fair wages. She herself got canned from the porn giant for trying to organize the workers. For those of us who love combining blasphemy and sex, she’s recently become known for doing Mormon-themed porn as “Sister Rose.”
Maxine is continuing a campaign that she started last year to promote consent at Folsom Street Fair, which is coming up on September 27. Last year, she and other activists passed out bright yellow stickers and temporary tattoos reading “ASK FIRST,” like the one below:
Maxine herself says better than I can why Ask First is necessary. In an article for the Eros.Com blog, she describes the precise events that inspired the campaign when she took a box full of her used panties to sell at Folsom in 2013:
I arrived to find a sea of attractive, kinky people, performers, and spectators. I tingled with excitement as I wove through the heavy crowds with my friends. Pushing through the crowds of people I suddenly felt a hand on my ass. I turned around and it was gone. A few minutes later, I felt another hand on my breast. I whipped around to see a group of men laughing and hurrying away. I tried to shake it off and continued on. As I navigated through the masses this continued to happen over and over and over. I know I was giving the public permission to interact with me by engaging and selling my underwear, but I didn’t agree to be touched or grabbed by complete strangers. As the sun set, I was hurling curse words at entitled grabby men and protectively covering my chest as I walked by strangers. I went from feeling like ‘Best Dressed Pervert’ to feeling violated and unsafe.
Public sexuality is a huge part of what makes the Folsom Street Fair exciting. The SF streets proudly display elaborate BDSM outfits and kinky acts as a form of sexual expression and community. But there is a big difference between celebratory exhibitionism and voyeurism – and a free-for-all. All too often consent gets erased in sexualized environments. When this happens it is no different than the prehistoric victim blaming that if a hemline is too short — they were “asking for it.” Just because someone is dressed sexy, or is engaging in sexual behavior – does not mean that it is an open invitation for everyone. Consent needs to be given and received, just like in any other environment. Unfortunately when abuse happens at kinky events it is often shrugged off as “part of the deal,” and non-consensual behavior seems to be on the rise as these events grow larger.
I’ve heard much worse stories than this. Maxine’s story isn’t something that’s unique to Folsom, or even San Francisco. It is, unfortunately, a big problem and a persistent one.
This year, Folsom themselves have been kind enough to help out by donating an entire booth to Ask First. Maxine and friends still need money to cover the expenses of printing the stickers and tattoos, the materials to build the booth itself, payment for a photographer, and various other things. All told, they expect to need $2,475 for the day.
This is where we — the Godless Perverts community — come in. Ask First is running a crowdfunding campaign to get that $2,475. As of right now, they’ve made 44% of their goal, and it shouldn’t be hard to help them make it the rest of the way. If you’ve got a few bucks, throw them into the Ask First fund to remind kink communities to life up to that great ethos of negotiated consent that made them so attractive to me and many others.
I have to admit one thing right up front: I haven’t given money to this myself yet. The key word is yet. As of right now, my bank account is so low that I’m afraid if I so much as breathe on it, it’ll go right into overdraft. When my paycheck comes in (hopefully tomorrow), I plan on sending some cash straight to Maxine Holloway and Ask First.
If you want to know even more, check out Maxine’s video below explaining the whole thing in detail.
Source: ASK FIRST | Indiegogo