Consent Through Shadows at International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers Event

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December 17th was the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers

To mark this date, Big Susie’s held a film screening and open mic night at This Ain’t Hollywood. The organizers asked folks planning to attend the event if they would bring their own sex positive performances

A group of four women decided to be brave and try out an idea they had been floating around for a while now about putting on a performance of sexy consent.

The decision came out of an observation that talking about good consent often comes in instructional format—Ask questions! Check in! Out loud!—but rarely in the form of sharing actual examples

They created a sexy consent-filled body shadow-puppet show about making out and having sex, and tried it out for the first time last night

Here are some reflections from anonymous performers A, B, C and D!

What was the performance about?

Performer A: This performance was about consent and how it can be supersexy and fun! We showed consent in a couple different scenes.

Performer B: I think that performance was about how consent can really enhance a sexy-experience. It doesn’t need to be a chore — it can be superhot to put words to our desires.

Performer C: It was about being brave and about creating more public examples of positive, healthy sex.

Performer D: To me this performance was about turning that bullet point list that outlines what consent is and what it is not into real life words and actions. To me, this performance was about removing the privacy tape from around the topic of consent. To me this was about showing people examples of something that should have been openly discussed in my grade ten health class in that portable where all we discussed in detail were the proper spellings of sexually transmitted infections.

Why did you decide to do this?

A: I wanted to do this because I’m so FRUSTRATED about the dialogue around consent a lot of the time, how it’s this scary thing you have to do to not get in trouble rather than something that can be fun and fulfilling and exciting. Also, I wanted to kiss my babe friends.

C: The women in the performance have spent a lot of time and done hard work to figure out consent within a society that doesn’t give much space for that. It’s no small thing, and I’m proud of us for committing to figuring these things out in our own lives and together!

D: I decided to do this because I realized that I had never seen real life examples of these conversations. Up until this point I has only heard long lengthy definitions. Also, the women I worked on this project with are people that I consider connoisseurs of consent asking. Many of the ways that I have learned and adapted my own language of consent is owed to the countless conversations, intimate interactions and resource sharing it have experience with these women. I knew that what I have learned from these women was something that others should have the opportunity to experience as well.

How did it feel? What feedback did you receive?

A: Planning the scene felt really good. I was giddy and happy and couldn’t wait to show people our skit. I felt really shy right in the middle of it, I could feel myself blushing. I was worried we would offend people because we weren’t professional enough. After, I felt relieved and proud. I feel really proud now. After the performance, folks said they really liked it. They said that it was the right amount of cheesy. One person said it was sexy.

B: It felt scary being on stage, but I was glad that we had had time to practice, because sinking into the role felt easy once we started. It felt awesome to help create something really positive, to act out super sexy verbal consent, because that kind of dialogue is almost entirely absent from the sex scenes we’re all familiar with in movies and on TV. (ugh!)

C: It felt amazing to plan for this performance. We sat around and shared what ways we’ve received and given good consent. Just talking about that was huge: we have this amazing collective vocabulary for talking about our needs, likes, dislikes, desires, fears, wonders and wishes!

D: This experience was scary but allowed me to find a part of me that was really brave. Letting people into the sexy moments of my life isn’t something that I do very often. But, I knew that this was important to share and model for myself and for others. I think my favourite moment of this experience was talking on the phone with my acting buddy about what was okay and ways to modify the things we might not feel okay doing while acting…we actively sought consent for this play on consent, and that was pretty cool!

Two people mentioned that they would have liked to have seen how men having sexy interactions could navigate consent–specifically men having sexy times with other men and trans men, since these examples are often not modelled or talked about.

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