Sexual Harassment at a Sex-Friendly Event.

I recently was invited to attend the Perth edition of the ever-popular sex-friendly event, Sexpo. I was there as part of a group educating about, and sometimes demonstrating, the fetish side of things. I attended the event over the course of two days, and found the crowd to be largely respectful and genuinely interested in learning, even if it wasn’t “their thing”.

"Consent Comes From My Word" by Eric Parker. http://bit.ly/152iX9P

“Consent Comes From My Word” by Eric Parker. http://bit.ly/152iX9P

What took me by surprise, however, were the occasions where sexual harassment was displayed by members of the public against members of our group and against myself. Now, you may think that it was naïve of me to not expect such occurrences at this type of event. I say to you, that sexual harassment is never okay. It’s not okay in the workplace. It’s not okay at a restaurant. It’s not okay in journalism, and it sure as hell isn’t okay at events celebrating consenting adults enjoying their sexuality.

The first instance I experienced was when I had just finished displaying some techniques to the crowd. I had been consulting with the person who was acting as crowd control (we were drawing rather large crowds and we were being rather vigilant on the “no photos” policy). I was having difficulty hearing something they were saying, so I leaned forward, over what happened to be a piece of furniture designed for spanking. A member of the public who just happened to be walking past, came up behind me and struck my backside with such force that my feet actually left the ground.

The BDSM community places a big emphasis upon consent. I had not consented to being hit. I did not know I was going to be hit. My mere presence at this particular place did not constitute consent. When I turned around and confronted the young man in question, he looked shocked that I would take offense to him doing something that I had not consented to. While he eventually apologised, hastily and perhaps in the presence of the male counterpart of our group, it was not a heartfelt apology. He didn’t look remorseful for his actions, and he still had a deer in the headlights look about him, like he honestly had no idea where he had gone wrong.

Is this the “rape culture” I have heard about? I wouldn’t go so far as to say that. I think that it is definitely a sign that we need to educate everyone on appropriate behaviour, and what exactly CONSENT is and is not.

If you took this situation out of the context of a sex-friendly environment and put it perhaps in a restaurant, it would still be non-consensual abuse. Say I had gotten up from the table, my dinner guest said something, I couldn’t hear so leaned over the table to hear better. It is my bet that the entire restaurant would stop and look if some random person walking by smacked my backside. I would be willing to bet that that person would be escorted out of the restaurant. I would bet that I would have been asked if I wanted to press charges, should I feel the need.

While I thank the other members of the group I was with for backing me up on the issue at the time, and for making sure I had calmed down and was alright, the attitude of security when being told the situation, and of other crowd members was shocking.

 

The second situation involved a lass who had engaged in activities with her partner that had placed  her in a state known as “sub-space” (you can check this term out here). She was safe in the arms of her partner with a friend nearby for support, as she regained her composure. She was being held in a loving embrace and she was smiling happily with her eyes closed. Again, a member of the public came up and suggested she’d had “had a good f**king and she must have “been a go-er” and maybe someone might “give him a go later.” The person in question had been drinking, had caused a fuss previously, by making completely inappropriate remarks about latex attire a member of the group was wearing (the outfit in question was of a socially-acceptable standrd, were it not for the fact it was made of rubber). We had asked that the man be removed from the venue as he was harassing people who were watching and learning. He was not and returned later to create the previously mentioned scene.

I would have assumed, and perhaps that is my own failing, that such an event would want to keep the space as friendly without being over-friendly as possible. Sexpo is known for its female-friendliness, but I have not necessarily seen this premise upheld by the security crew hired to staff the event. I don’t know the company involved, but I have to say, from a personal viewpoint, I did not feel very secure with them around, and was infinitely more at ease with men from our group (including some I had not met before that evening). When the obnoxious man in question was finally asked to leave by security, it was some time after we had been suggesting he move on as he was causing distress to a few of our group. Again, sexual harassment is never alright or excusable, regardless of how much you’ve been drinking.

Let me say, here and now, sexual harassment and sexual abuse are never okay – regardless of the setting, regardless of the occupation of the person being abused, regardless of your attitudes to BDSM. Consent is King and you are not allowed to touch another person or enter their personal space without it.

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#cmtygames101

I was fortunate enough this week to attend Western Australia’s first ever Community Games 101 workshop held at Perth’s SpaceCubed, run by Curtin lecturer, Dr. Kate Raynes-Goldie.

It was an intensive two-day workshop, so there was little time to dilly-dally. After a gentle icebreaker exercise to get to know the other people in the room with us (a useful exercise when you’re going to be creating games with them), we stepped up and started making our first game, based on the Race to the End model.

This is your usual board-based type of game where all the players start somewhere and have to finish somewhere else. We broke into two teams and came up with very different results. Strangely enough though, both teams had a game mechanic wherein the board and rules changed. Perhaps that was because, as adult players, the “usual” board games is boring for us? Either way “Space Crash” and “Switchboard” both ended up going through the conceptualising stage, on to the prototype stage within a couple of hours. Just before lunch on day one, both games were ready for play testing. Now, that’s nothing if not incredible. From thinking up the rules and mechanics to making the game in a few short hours is an incredible feat for a group of people who had little knowledge of each other before entering the room, and had maybe not created a game before.

We play tested each others games, debriefed as “real game developers” would, and thought about how to iterate our games to come up with something better and fix the bugs.

We then popped outside and played a game of Gargoyles. For those not familiar with this game, take a look. No props, except for team designation bands, just people in a space playing. What could be simpler?! The inherent learning in this game is all about proximity and overcoming the fear associated with entering another person’s space to overcome a problem, namely getting your team to win. There are also lessons about collaborating and teamwork in a small space of time.

Heading back inside, we thought about the various reasons that had brought us to the workshop. Breaking, again, into two teams, we began brainstorming community games that would satisfy a general consensus of our interests.

Day two began with a short presentation by Kate of what a community game could look like, how it could work, and what it brought to the community.

We also played a game about the creation of a game, aptly named “Metagame”. Players are dealt a series of cards, with a pile of potential props in the centre of the table in front of them. Players take turns pitching a rule, utilising the instructions on the cards they have been dealt (points awarded as per the cards if theirs is the successful rule as voted by the other players). Rules cannot created a paradox, illogical loop or an otherwise unplayable game, then the universe is destroyed and the game is over. Needless to say, there was laughter as people pitched their wacky rules.

We then formed back into our teams from the previous afternoon, and continued working, brainstorming and prototyping, our games. By just before lunch, both team had working prototypes of their community games.

One team had come up with a local area narrative collection or challenge game, utilising QR codes and a “treasure map” of stories to collect in a specific area of a local council’s jurisdiction. Aimed at promoting local area awareness, it was customisable and adaptable for various events and end goals, all the while promoting knowledge of the immediate area and its people. Designed to make residents aware of the local history, local businesses, and local features, it seemed to me to be an wonderful way of gathering families together to explore their streets and go a little outside of their comfort zone to do that exploration.

The Zombies Are Coming! I Need To Get To Know You.

The Zombies Are Coming! I Need To Get To Know You.

The team I was part of came up with a collection-based game as well. Breaking a real space down into zones (in this case the various areas of the SpaceCubed collaborative space), players had to gather stories under the premise that the players were a crack force of humans. Being briefed at HQ, they then had to go out into the space and collect stories, feelings and re-enact random acts of kindness in order to develop a map of the humanity in the space. Those approached who didn’t want to take part, or who refuse to play along, were dubbed “Zombies”.

Aiming to reconnect people with the stories in the space they are occupying, and forcing human face-to-face interaction in an environment where people may well feel they are there to work on their own project, alone, we felt this was a fun and safe way for people to realise that we are edging towards a state of aware zombie-ism.

After being being run through each team’s games (and running our team’s game within the space), we then debriefed and got feedback to iterate the games and make them better.

So, what is a “community game”?

A community game is a space of play where in the community is engaged, rather than isolated, and where the Magic Circle of play has an embedded goodness in it. It fosters, instead of cutting, community ties and educates “under the radar”. By this, I mean, the lesson is not the objective. The lesson is incidental and may well not become apparent to the player until well after the games has ended.

So, what did I take away from the whole experience?

All those times I have been playing a board game or a card game, and I have thought “This could work so well in an urban space”, I now have the tools and knowledge to make that happen. All those times I was sitting wondering how to get kids to think about recycling or the environment in a way that wasn’t the same old boring ways that are taught in school, I can now make that happen. Any time I was sitting in a public space thinking everyone is so set in the routine of “look down, keep walking, rush rush rush” I now have the tools and knowledge to subvert that in a way that will make people smile, look up and realise there is something else going on in their world if only they would stop to smell the roses (stay tuned for that game! *lol*).

At then end of the workshop, we all realised that this was something that needed to happen in Perth. The community-game community is strong elsewhere, and has brought so much to other places of the world, that we thought it was high-time Perth joined in the game.

Stay tuned for more details on what community-gaming events are happening around Perth. If you would like more details on community games, let me know in the comments below. Have you played a community game and want to tell me about it? Cool!

Melissa won the Curtin University Department of Internet Studies scholarship to attend the Community Games 101 Workshop. The workshop was presented by Atmosphere Industries and sponsored by Curtin University, in conjunction with SpaceCubed, the Film and Television Institute (W.A.) and yelp!.