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”.
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.