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Making Popcorn with Rob Ford

You may have heard of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s embarrassingly tone-deaf utterance earlier this week.

Oh, which one? I know, it’s hard to keep them all straight. This time I’m referring to “It’s no one’s business what happens in my office.” May I remind you he is THE FUCKING MAYOR OF A MAJOR CITY. I’m pretty sure it’s literally every Torontonian’s business what happens in his office.

Unfortunately, this statement is very much in the spirit of the way Rob Ford has governed city affairs since he was elected Mayor. It’s sort of ironic, considering his history as a councillor of slamming the Miller administration that preceded him for a lack of transparency.

With that in mind, I thought I’d use Mozilla’s Popcorn tool to create a round-up of all the times in his mayoral tenure that Rob Ford has made good on the statement that “It’s no one’s business what happens in [his] office,” set to the tune of Yackety Sax (the only song capable of truly capturing the spirit of his mayoralty).

Popcorn lets you grab bits of video, sound, images, and other web content to create a layered timeline (with due cred to the original creator). Since I screencapped all the headlines I used, I made sure to capture the source, date and author (where applicable) directly in the image. Try using Popcorn to make your own round-up of times that a terrible politician has embarrassed their constituents, evaded accountability, or pushed through decisions harmful to residents.

Mozilla helps me re-imagine “REAL Women of Canada”

REAL Women of Canada's website
REAL Women of Canada’s website
REAL Women of Canada website w/ LGBTQ2SGQ* couples
What REAL Women of Canada’s website would look like if I had my way

I’m excited to announce that I’m working with amazing open-web organization Mozilla to user-test some of their webmaking tools. A big part of Mozilla’s mandate is to give web users to the tools to not just consume web content, but create it themselves. They have a whole suite of tools you can use to create and remix content on the web, and today I took my first crack at it with X-Ray Goggles. X-Ray Goggles is essentially a browser plug-in that lets you see and fiddle around with the source code for any website you visit. You can apply any changes you want to the source code of an existing website, and publish your finished product. The tool doesn’t actually hack the website itself, but produces a duplicate of it on a Mozilla server with whatever changes you apply.

My shit-disturbing tendencies led me to instantly imagine how I could use X-Ray Goggles to stick it to bigoted organizations, using their websites as my canvas. The first one that came to mind was thinly-veiled hate group REAL Women of Canada, which advocates for a Canada where only straight, cis people have rights, where the only “real” families are heteronormative ones, where abortion is not legally accessible, you get my drift. The kind of organization that relentlessly wields the phrase “family values” as a weapon to oppress others. To give you a sense of how extreme REAL Women of Canada’s view are, they recently spoke out against Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird’s condemnation of anti-gay laws and practices in Russia (here’s a quick primer).

News coverage of their jaw-dropping position on this issue kept referring to REAL Women of Canada as a “women’s organization”, which I suppose is technically true in the sense that the organization is made up of (a narrow subset of) women. However, the designation “women’s organization” kind of glosses over their atrocious support of practices that fly in the face of basic human rights and freedoms. So I used X-Ray Goggles to fill their website with images of LGBTQ2SGQ* couples and families, and replace their ridiculous bigot links with links to news stories and organizations that highlight the importance of human rights for ALL Canadians (and all people). Take a peek at my handiwork! You can compare it to their real website here, but don’t give them too many clicks, ‘kay? And why not try your own X-Ray Goggle project to tackle an issue that matters to you?

Today is the International Day of Protest for LGBTQ rights. If you’re in Toronto, bring your voice to the movement by attending tonight’s #TOwithRussia rally!

Is this justice for Rehtaeh?

Last week we saw major developments in Canada’s ongoing response to the death of Halifax teenager Rehtaeh Parsons: two men were charged with making and/or distributing child pornography (of Rehtaeh), and a new piece of civil legislation was introduced to address “cyber-bullying”. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure how I feel about either one of these developments.

Firstly, I despise the term “cyber-bullying” and would like to kill it with fire. It is so conceptually broad as to be meaningless, it infantilizes behaviour that adults are just as prone to as kids are, and it depoliticizes social aggressions that are often quite political indeed (think sexist harassment like slut-shaming, harassment of gay or gender non-conforming people, or harassment of low-income kids for things like wearing hand-me-downs). I agree with Jesse Brown, who would “rather have laws against specific crimes, rather than against vast swaths of vaguely defined human behaviour”.

Secondly, I have a very basic problem with civil legislation as a response to revenge porn or online harassment: it costs money to sue someone. Sure, you might find a lawyer who’ll take your case pro-bono, but the likelihood of incurring high costs means that only those who can afford justice really have access to it. Our criminal justice system is already deplorably selective about who can access justice (see, for example, the astronomical overrepresentation of indigenous and Black people in Canadian prisons), but at least if you’ve been the victim of a crime, you don’t pay money for your legal representation. This is one reason why I’m a bigger fan of a potential Criminal Code amendment (proposed by Dartmouth NDP Member of Parliament Robert Chisholm) than I am of dealing with the problem in civil court.

This proposed legislation would make it a crime to share intimate images without the subject’s consent. The legislation needs some work (in my humble, non-legal-expert opinion), as it currently places the burden of proof on the accused. If the accused cannot furnish evidence that they obtained consent from the subject, their intent is automatically deemed malicious and guilt is assumed. In past posts I have argued for just this kind of legislation, and there is a certain beauty to its open-and-shut-ness, in that it would circumvent all of the gendered character judgments and “he said, she said” (emphasis on the “he said”) that influence court decisions about sexually-charged crimes. But at the end of the day, I can’t advocate for legislation that merely circumvents the biases and bigotry of our criminal justice system (you know, the same ones that pervade our broader culture) at the expense of the rights of the accused. We need to tackle those biases themselves, not find ways to sidestep them.

This brings me to my ambivalence about the arrests. While Rehtaeh was still alive, she and her family sought justice by attempting to press charges against Rehtaeh’s alleged rapists for sexual assault and child pornography. The RCMP’s re-opened investigation did not result in sexual assault charges. They did, however, charge the alleged rapists with making and distributing sexually explicit images of Rehtaeh during the incident. The RCMP’s decision to press charges on one crime and not the other suggests that they felt the evidence was too murky to conclude that Rehtaeh did not consent. Meanwhile, Rehtaeh was allegedly vomiting out a window while one of her attackers raped her, and our current laws indicate that a person cannot legally provide consent while extremely intoxicated.

That is rage-inducing, but it is also indicative of the culture in which our criminal justice system is embedded and serves to uphold. We have national columnists (to whom I refuse to link) slut-shaming her in death, if that’s any indication of how our culture tends to understand consent when a survivor was intoxicated at the time of the attack. Why would our justice system be any different, even if our laws explicitly spell things out differently (*sob*)?

So I can, quite frankly, understand why the Parsons family wanted to use any tool available to them in our broken system to try and find their own version of justice – including charging the attackers with child pornography, despite the fact that her non-consent (not her nudity or sexuality writ large) was the crux of the violation. That said, I think it sets a precedent that may create problems down the road. For example, imagine a minor’s consensual sexting is discovered by a horrified parent, who sees child pornography charges as a way to punish the kids involved and clamp down on youth sexuality in general. Also, what if Rehtaeh had been 18? Capturing and distributing that photo would have been just as morally abhorrent, just as damaging. This is why I think the legislation proposed by Robert Chisholm fills a necessary gap.

Realtalk though: this legislation wouldn’t be necessary if our culture learned to understand sexually-charged violations in a more equitable and just way. If law enforcement officers, lawyers and judges didn’t build their careers in a culture steeped in sexism, they might quite easily interpret revenge porn as a form of criminal harassment (a law already on the books in Canada). As we saw recently in the case of an appropriately-named former MP’s assistant, Cody Boast, some law enforcement officers and judges already do draw those conclusions. But too many people inside and outside our criminal justice system are quick to blame the subjects of the images for consenting to their capture in the first place. It is this underlying mentality that needs to change. Otherwise we’ll just have another new selectively enforced law on the books.

That’s why I’m glad to see that, despite its shortcomings, the civil legislation in Nova Scotia also includes interventions at the level of the public education system. While those have their own problems (Jesse Brown has some great analysis therein), I appreciate the marriage of legal and educational interventions. To introduce the former without the latter would be putting the cart before the horse. What our education systems really need, though, isn’t a “Cyber SCAN investigation unit” – it’s frank discussion about consent, respect and privacy in sex and relationships (online and offline), and how societal systems of power impact these dynamics on an individual level.

#sheparty is the best party

Sometimes feminists on Twitter use the #sheparty hashtag to host live-chats about a wide variety of topics. Yesterday, @jarrahpenguin (Vancouver) and @OpinionessWorld (Boston) co-hosted a two-hour #sheparty and invited me to be a special guest for the first hour. From 3pm-4pm ET we discussed revenge porn, which anyone who follows my blog knows is an issue of major importance to me. I mean I’ve only written about it, like, 30% of the time.

Our discussion about revenge porn covered legislative responses to the problem (in Nova Scotia and nationally, as well as in New Jersey and Florida), as well as steps that parents and teachers can take to address it with youth. If you’re new to the topic, this discussion was a fantastic introduction. Don’t fret if you missed it, because you can always count on me to Storify these kinds of things for future reference! Here’s a recap of the #sheparty revenge porn discussion. I also encourage you to check out @tootwistedtv‘s Storify of the 4-5pm #sheparty discussion, which focused on feminism and (dis)ability.

Twitter, rape threats and garden variety misogyny

As you can imagine, I have THOUGHTS and FEELINGS about the campaign of rape threats against Caroline Criado-Perez and Stella Creasy, and Twitter’s response. I’ve been mostly (blessedly) off Twitter for the last week and a half, so I haven’t said much on the matter, other than this tweet on July 27:
Screen shot 2013-08-06 at 6.41.18 PMFor the uninitiated: feminist advocate Caroline Criado-Perez ran a campaign that convinced the Bank of England to put a single freaking woman besides the Queen on a banknote. If you’re somehow not shocked that this landed her on the receiving end of a barrage of rape threats, surprise, you might be a Woman with an Opinion on the Internet.

Rape (and the threat of rape) has always been a go-to silencing tool among misogynists. They run particularly rampant online in part because the internet offers distance as well as access to people well beyond one’s immediate social circle. A man who feels ineffectual and deprived of personal power in his own life can feel a consequence-free rush by inflicting sexually-charged verbal aggression on an empowered woman he doesn’t know. Thanks, internet!

Or at least, so far it has been mostly consequence-free, but that is beginning to change. Two of the Twitter users who threatened Criado-Perez are under arrest. Twitter UK published a blog post outlining their responses to the situation, including the much-discussed “Report Abuse” button and updating the Twitter Rules to reflect a firm stance on abuse. Changes to the rules are welcome. That sends an important message to Twitter users and the business community about online violence, and may give some in-platform recourse to users under attack.

Shakesville details some of the problems likely to arise from the “Report Abuse” button, mainly that “one-click reporting systems are almost always automated to some degree and are already widely abused by trolls on Facebook and YouTube” (it was a favourite tactic in the campaign against Anita Sarkeesian, for example). Even a more hands-on moderation system can’t solve the problem, unless the company’s culture and training acknowledge the reality of gender-based violence. The Facebook Rape campaign provides a rich and recent example of a large social media platform whose moderation system was devoid of a gender lens. Many Facebook moderators categorized graphic depictions of violence against women as “humour”. This is unsurprising – our culture is steeped in that kind of messaging, why would we expect Facebook or Twitter to be immune?

Honestly, I feel our culture has the greatest potential for change if misogyny is out in the open. That doesn’t mean I feel remotely safe in a space saturated with it, or that I don’t want platforms like Facebook and Twitter to do what they can to make their spaces safe for all users. But misogynists have always been around, and in the same or similar numbers as we see now (though now we, regrettably, call them “trolls” – my thoughts on that here). They used to reserve their hatred for partners, colleagues, family members, one-off encounters and maybe the occasional letter-to-the-editor. Now misogynist hatred is diffused across many targets, near and far. It’s mundane. It’s time-stamped. Screencaps provide evidence difficult for a “devil’s advocate” Facebook friend to refute. I want this garbage out in the open air and sunlight where it can be referenced and challenged – because it’s there regardless. This is garden variety misogyny.

Labour MP Stella Creasy, who supported Criado-Perez’s campaign, has called for greater coordination between Twitter and law enforcement to help users under attack. I also believe law enforcement has an important role to play in curbing online rape threats and all other forms of violence against women, and that we must continue putting pressure on them to do so. But here’s the rub: institutional and technological interventions will always reflect the beliefs and values of the culture that shapes those institutions and the people who work with them. It’s why police forces, colleges, Twitter, etc etc etc do such a crap job of holding accountable the perpetrators of gender-based violence, online and offline. And they’ll continue to do a crap job of it until our culture takes this shit seriously and looks to the perpetrators (not the survivors) for change.

Well-meaning folks have been telling Criado-Perez to just stay off Twitter, because is it really worth all that trouble in the end, they wonder? FUCK THAT. Pushing opinionated women out of public discourse is exactly what these very small, very loud misogynists are trying to accomplish. We’ve been telling women to shut up about this stuff for long enough. Do you really want to hear more from the world’s misogynists than from its Caroline Criado-Perezes?

So keep reporting rape threats to the police and to Twitter, sure, but we also need to be pushing for the deeper change needed to turn institutional tides. We need to help people who work in these institutions to understand the role that rape threats play in silencing and subordinating women. One way to do that? Women: for the love of everything good in this world, don’t shut up, and deal with jerkoffs however the hell you want.

Things women musicians say to me

A few weeks ago I asked women musicians on Twitter and Facebook for all the silly things folks have said to them, and/or any silly things they’ve observed folks saying to women musicians. It sparked a lot of maddening responses, which I rounded up in a blog post that got cross-posted at HuffPo entitled “Infuriating Things People Say to Women Musicians”.

Initially, they asked if I’d like to re-title my post “Infuriating Things Men Say to Women Musicians”, assuming most of the quotes came from men. But I know all too well (and too personally) how easy it is to internalize misogyny as a woman-identified person growing up in The Patriarchy. Well, now I know, but for a long time I didn’t. It was during that time that I would say things like “I don’t ‘get’ girls, I just get along better with guys”. Sometimes internalized misogyny works like that – turning you against other women. Other times, it turns you against yourself. So I knew it was highly likely that at least a handful of the silly things said to women musicians were uttered by other women.

Today, I met a warm and funny woman who had read the piece. She plays a few different instruments and writes about music, but hadn’t worked on a musical project in a long time. She partially blamed this on a self-defeating, all-or-nothing “if you can’t play like Zeppelin, what’s the fucking point” attitude. As you might imagine, this made jamming with others extremely intimidating for her, and discouraged her from improvising for fear of screwing up. Guys sometimes have these thoughts and insecurities too, for sure, but as you can see from my post, many women musicians face a kind of wall of dismissal and condescension from all corners of their industry.

When she read my piece and saw how many other women were being dismissed and condescended to, she realized that maybe this had something to do with the feelings that had prevented her from diving into a jam. At the same time, she remembered a story her female friend had shared awhile back about putting up posters seeking new bandmates, and getting a bunch of calls from clueless and/or intrusive dudes looking for dates. At the time, she had laughed off her friend’s frustration in a “what a problem: too many dates, not enough time” kind of way. Reading my laundry list of similar micro-aggressions shifted this old anecdote into a new light for her. Commiserating about it with her friend, the two of them felt emboldened and kindled a new musical project together. This story thrilled me to the core.

It was interesting that she used Zeppelin as her example of a sound to aspire to, because one of the comments on my HuffPo piece reads as follows:

This might've made me shed a tear or two.This guy’s remorse for dismissing Nancy and Ann’s own soul-shattering music in favour of covers (though Heart’s Zeppelin covers do rule), and his retrospective appreciation of their own unique sound, really touched me. I couldn’t resist recounting the comment to the awesome woman I met today. She, like me, was visibly moved by it. Before our goodbye high-five, I told her “Girl, you can play like Zeppelin, or you can play like you”.

Feminists + Drinking Games + Hollywood = Drunk Feminist Films

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Did you know I make a web series with some other women called Drunk Feminist Films? If you follow me on Twitter you probably know, because I tweet about it OFTEN and WITH GUSTO. But I haven’t really announced it in this corner of the internet, so boom: Drunk Feminist Films, it’s a thing.

It all started when Gillian G. was struck with a brilliant idea: have a few feminist pals over, watch Twilight and play a feminist-flavoured drinking game (you can find the rules here). I really couldn’t envision a non-amazing way of combining those ingredients, so over to her house I went, along with Amy Wood and Shaunna. After the game was well underway, we couldn’t help but notice a high concentration of zingers flying around the room. On a whim, we thought “maybe we should try this with cameras sometime”. And in that moment, #DFFilms was born.

If you watch mainstream movies, you’re probably aware that representation of women in Hollywood is kind of abysmal. Women characters who actually do things in the story are often non-existent – they’re more like props whose mere presence helps male characters self-actualize. When they do get to do stuff, their characters are often poorly fleshed out cardboard, which surprisingly isn’t that easy to relate to. Drunk Feminist Films is about throwing up your hands and laughing your way through that gauntlet, rather than crying. It’s not really necessary to drink – though we find it dulls our Feminist Sads and ramps up the Feminist Laffs a bit, that doesn’t work for everyone. The important thing is to sit around and crack snarky jokes, amirite?

We have a YouTube channel and a Tumblr that you should follow if you like the idea of four women playing feminist drinking games while watching movies and TV shows including (so far) Game of Thrones, Twilight, She’s All That and most recently A League of Their Own. Last week we hosted a live screening of 21st century classic, Mean Girls, at Academy of the Impossible, to some pretty grool results.

Have any suggestions for movies we should watch next? Let me know in the comments!

Scrubbing racism from the air we breathe

This post contained some reflections on the racist assumptions and stereotypes that laid the groundwork for the unjust verdict exonerating George Zimmerman, who racially profiled and killed teenage boy Trayvon Martin. In the post (after a trigger warning for examples of racism), I admitted to having been in some ways influenced by these awful and pervasive stereotypes, and the horror and shame that this realization induced in me.

I wrote about it because, like many white people, I was afraid to admit this to myself for a long time because on a conscious level I abhor racism, love my friends of colour, and want a world that doesn’t oppress people based on race. I thought perhaps my admitting it publicly would spur other white folks to engage in similarly critical self-reflection, which I think is wholly necessary if we are to truly address our racist culture.

Some preliminary feedback indicates the post did spur that kind of self-reflection. However, it also caused pain for friends of mine, friends who are already experiencing enough pain in the wake of the verdict. I think there may be some value to this type of reflection in eradicating racism, until I have found better ways to share these reflections that don’t cause pain to the people who are oppressed by them, I opted to remove this post.

Things people say to women musicians

My band, Patti Cake, is making a zine for our show this Thursday at the Silver Dollar in Toronto. Since our lead singer Kritty Uranowski is a counsellor at Girls Rock Camp and I am mostly always thinking about feminism (ALL THE DAMNED TIME), I decided to submit a collection of crowdsourced “things people say to women musicians” for the zine. I tweeted this:

Here’s a sampling of the responses I got. Note the frequency with which the word “girls/girl” appears. Also, music store employees? DO BETTER.

“Girls can’t play bass because they’re not technical.”

“You girls must be singers.” – music store employee to women customers looking at mixers

“Do your parents know you’re out with old guys?”

“Let me explain to you how soundchecks work.” – sound tech, who went on to patronizingly explain Soundchecks 101 to a musician with years of experience

“WOW, a girl drummer!”

“So you’re a solo acoustic act, right?”

“Are you the singer?” “No.” “…Are you the keyboard player?” “No.”

“Girl bassists are hot.”

“……..” – the sound of a woman musician being ignored a million times by music store employees

“They make you carry that?!?!” – onlooker to woman musician lugging gear

“You know about amps?! Whoa, you just blew my mind. I love a chick that knows about gear.”

“Oh, you’re IN the band!”

“There’s a girl’s voice on this recording but no girl in the band.” – reviewer about a band in which there is, in fact, a “girl”

“I almost had a show for you with [female artist], but decided against a woman opening.” – booker

“I bet you’re buying the blue tambourine because blue is your favourite colour.” – music store employee

“This headshot won’t work for your poster… You need a body shot!” – agent

“It’s pretty hard to know what this stuff does unless you really study it.” – male music store employee to a trained audio engineer who is also a woman

“I didn’t know girls liked Iron Maiden.”

“Oh, so you’re in the jazz program. Singer, right?”

“You were actually good; I was surprised!”

“You play this?!” – male music repair shop employee re: a woman musician’s guitar

“You must’ve dated at least half your band.”

“We always thought you were waiting for your boyfriend.” – male music store employee when a woman musician asked why she never got any service from them

“Ha! Like YOU could ever sing Zeppelin.”

“Want a Betty Boop strap to go with that new guitar?”

“I didn’t know girls played saxophone.”

“There are no female music producers because women can’t understand the technicalities involved.” “[Names a female music producer]” “She must have had a guy helping her out.”

“I can no longer book you because you want to tour with your baby.”

“Girls don’t play jazz.” – man, to a woman who auditioned and beat a tonne of guys for a spot in the ensemble

“Just shut up, smile and sing, honey.”

“You should specialize. People don’t like girls who do too much.” – man, to a woman who sings and plays a variety of instruments

“I hope you girls know what you’re doing with those covers, the bass parts are hard! I know because I have the tabs book.”

“Are you shopping for your boyfriend?” – male music store employee

If you groaned at least once while reading these, please consider making a donation or spreading the word about Girls Rock Camp or the Resampled music production workshops for women and trans folks (there’s one at the Tranzac this Sunday).

If it’s a coercive conquest, you’re doing sex wrong

You may have heard about a recent Kickstarter campaign for a “seduction guide” that ignited a furious tweetstorm and earned the company some bad press. The manual reads more like a guide to sexual coercion than seduction, though the way our popular culture treats the latter, they may as well be interchangeable.

The author counsels that “personal space is for pussies”, and encourages (at the very least implicitly male) readers to eschew permission and get physical with the women they pursue. “Force her to rebuff your advances,” the author advises, because “Even when a girl rejects your advances, she KNOWS that you desire her. That’s hot. It arouses her physically and psychologically.” Um… okay.

The author has been publishing this material piecemeal on the r/seduction subreddit for years, and thanks to reddit’s boundless enthusiasm for Pick Up Artist (PUA)-flavoured material, his Kickstarter project exponentially overachieved its goal. For its part, Kickstarter responded to the blowback with an apology and a new policy prohibiting any future “seduction guide”-type campaigns from the site. This policy change shows integrity on the company’s part, and was a welcome contribution to the debate. But banning these projects from Kickstarter isn’t going to make much of a dent in the tidal wave of cultural cues that feed PUA culture.

It’s important that we don’t think of “PUA culture” as a fringe subculture, but as a dominant set of cues and practices that socialize young men’s understandings of sex and relationships. PUA culture isn’t just Toronto’s notorious rape advocate Dimitri the Lover or Tom Cruise’s seduction guru character Frank “T.J.” Mackey in Magnolia. PUA culture is also every romantic comedy where a male character relentlessly pursues a love interest (typically a woman, because movies and PUA culture are both preeeeeeetty damned heterosexist), often winning her affections in the end. PUA culture is befriending a person you find attractive with the silent goal of hooking up with them, and getting huffy when your strategy doesn’t go according to plan.

This “playing hard to get” trope is ancient in our culture, and over the years it has had a profound impact on sexual relations writ large. Among other things, it is (at least in part) responsible for the inability or unwillingness of many hetero men and boys to read women’s pretty unambiguous non-verbal cues. This happens at work, on public transportation, in our own homes and the homes of people we consider friends. A totally not-exhaustive list of such cues includes: recoiling from a touch, avoiding eye contact, giving one-word answers or outright ignoring. If you’re making advances on a woman and she is responding in this manner, ABORT THE MISSION.

Better yet, don’t look at it as a mission, because this is not a tactical military operation. It is (one would hope) seeking companionship and/or a mutually gratifying sexual experience. Notice how both of those things involve active participation and enthusiasm on the part of all involved? If participation and enthusiasm from your partner(s) aren’t at the top of your list of desired outcomes, pause and consider why you are making these advances in the first place.

You find this person attractive, yes. Don’t you want them to enjoy their encounter(s) with you, instead of feeling cornered or worn down or talked into it? I don’t think I even need to ask where the fun would be for the person you want to have sex with (spoiler alert: it’s nowhere! no fun! just awfulness!), but what about for you? Is it fun to get it on with someone who doesn’t feel 100% on-board with the idea of getting it on with you? If you answered “yes” to that last question, you may want to reconsider… a lot of things about your life.

I got to thinking about all this because a Very Smart Person on the internet, @mallelis, went on a righteous tweet-rant about non-verbal communication and consent, which you should go read in my Storify. In a nutshell she argues that, while ideally women should verbally and forthrightly communicate their yeses and nos, men should also be taught to pay attention to the many other ways that consent and non-consent are communicated.

For me, it boils down to men and boys absorbing centuries of cultural conditioning to ignore or dismiss women’s sexual and romantic refusals, and only direct interventions to address that conditioning could possibly stem the problem. Research shows that in other circumstances, we typically have pretty sophisticated abilities to communicate and dissect indirect refusals in conversation, and that HMMMM these “misunderstandings” sure do seem to happen a lot in the context of sex and romance! Specifically, “we suggest that male claims not to have ‘understood’ refusals which conform to culturally normative patterns can only be heard as self-interested justifications for coercive behaviour.” Welp.