Consent culture has been at the front of my mind for a while now. I read constantly about bodily autonomy being challenged as it pertains to reproductive rights or disability. I watch in horror as people talking about free speech violently attack people for being antifascist, for being Black or brown, for being women. I see people making excuses for Trump and Cosby and War Machine, men who have used toxic masculinity as a stepping stone to popularity. I see articles condemning callout culture for being too toxic, ignoring that all of our options currently are toxic, that for sustainable accountability to exist, we need to care more about a complex understanding of consent than we care about punishment.
As I look toward releasing my first book, Ask: Building Consent Culture, I find myself thinking about how badly we need things to shift.
In my years as a sex educator, I delved deeply into the discourse about consent, abuse, and accountability. I founded a website (now offline) many years ago, ConsentCulture.com, to explore issues of boundary violation within alternative communities, and was horrified to receive, on average, hundreds of emails a month from people who had been assaulted and didn’t know what to do.
I found myself disheartened reading about rape culture, which brings up a lot of really important issues but so often doesn’t offer any solutions to what to do about it. Many discussions of rape culture seeks to blame sexuality for the world’s ills, rather than power dynamics (particularly white supremacy, capitalism, and patriarchy).
We have a proud sexual assaulter in charge of our country. People are debating whether slipping a condom off during sex is rape or just a “sex trend”. Videos show toddlers can understand consent, yet college campuses can’t define it or protect it.
We need things to change, and we need them to change fast.
Consent culture is a challenge to and push against rape culture. It centers itself around moving towards consent, rather than avoiding rape. I started working within the construct of consent culture because I wanted to help create something better, something that didn’t offer THE solution, but did signal boost many potential solutions as a way of transforming us as a society into doers rather than just observers. I wanted to create a book that wasn’t filled with inaccessible, academic language, something that would shake things up and lead us to question why we’re putting up with our boundaries being crossed every day. I wanted to help guide the future.
Another real issue is that many books about rape culture a) focused on sexual consent exclusively and b) were written almost exclusively by white, cis, middle class women. I wanted to move the conversation forward, to expand that conversation to include Black folks, brown folks, indigenous folks, trans folks, nonbinary folks, and other marginalized populations that rarely get a place at the table. I wanted to talk about how the ways we treat consent in places outside the bedroom — places like schools, or jails, or hospitals — informs how we treat consent in relationships.
So I curated Ask: Building Consent Culture with those goals in mind, and I believe I’ve created a book that will change how we discuss consent. It’s coming out in late October from Thorntree Press, and features a foreword by Laurie Penny (Unspeakable Things), an afterword by Carol Queen (The Sex and Pleasure Book), and writing from such diverse writers as Virgie Tovar (Hot and Heavy), Roz Kaveney (Tiny Pieces of Skull), Jiz Lee (Coming Out Like a Porn Star), and many more.
See what we have in the photo above? Two very different viewpoints, at opposite ends of the spectrum.
On one end, you have consent culture, an intersectional and diverse book that values people’s voices, seeks to signal boost the marginalized, pays trans people and POC decently. A fundraiser trying to encourage people to be kinder and more respectful of each other, trying to raise just $5000 towards that goal.
On the other end, you have “NO SAFE SPACES”, a documentary that seeks to humiliate and hurt people for asking for that respect, especially in public places, made by two rich white men, already having raised $114,000.
This is why consent culture needs societal support. Honestly, society as it stands now is against the idea of a consent culture — it flies in the face of allowing capitalism, white supremacy, and patriarchy to go unchecked. We see it in how many violent racist acts (especially against women) have been happening, over and over again, since a rapist was declared President. People who joyously violate the boundaries of others are celebrated.
We have to fight back. But no one can do this alone. We need to be talking to friends, family, coworkers, anyone we feel safe having this discussion with. Not just people we feel comfortable having this discussion with, mind, but people we feel *safe*. We need a paradigm shift, and we need it soon. Help me build it.
Ask: Building Consent Culture is crowdfunding for a book tour until June 23rd, so you can sign up to help that way and score some sweet perks as well. Want to help spread the consent culture word, but can’t donate right now? No problem! Here’s some other things you can do:
- Share this campaign with your friends, coworkers, families, lovers, strangers on the street! Indiegogo has their own share tools you can use as well for social media
- You can also preorder the book on Amazon, or add it to your Goodreads “to read” shelf
- Follow me, Kitty Stryker, on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to be kept up to date on any giveaways upcoming
This movement is vital for our ethical advancement and we need you — an army of lovers cannot fail, as Rita Mae Brown would say. We’re in this together ❤