stop right now. thank you very much.

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this blog contains triggering content regarding abusive relationships, mental illness and personal trauma.

the tattoo is an acronym for ‘be good to yourself x’ as a reminder i have perhaps unwisely placed somewhere I don’t get to see often enough for it to be effective. my twenty-eighth year wrapped up recently and a fucktonne happened in that year – the best and worst – but looking back it was characterised by a strange resurgence of feeling past my prime, and feeling somewhat unimpressed with how i was turning out, although as the year progressed there was unfathomable achievements and risks paying off. so my attitude toward myself needed significant adjustment. and this blog is about that.

the last song to play at Consent Festival – unquestionably the biggest and happiest of those achievements – was ‘Voices Carry’ by 1980’s new-wave band ‘Til Tuesday. It’s a song about an abusive relationship, and a need to be heard, and to be loved. After a day of incredible accomplishment by the team who made the event happen, and a deeply personal sense of gratitude for the dream that I had somehow coming true, it didn’t feel like the most serendipitous final song to be playing as we celebrated our successes. At best it was ironic that a song about abuse and silencing should close a day of community exploring what consent means in different contexts and different embodiment. Over the days that followed I unwelcomely couldn’t get the song out of my head – it haunted me and I couldn’t figure out why I was not only obsessed with it, but feeling catharsis in listening to it over and over. After coming down off the back of such a massive undertaking on top of completing a Master’s degree, family tragedies, cancelled opportunities and having to accept a great deal of help to survive as I lost one job with none to follow it, I took two weeks away for contemplation and discipline, during which time I realised that the reason the song felt so powerful is because the relationship in the song is not unlike the relationship I have with myself.

“he wants me / but only part of the time / he wants me / if he can keep me line”

I know I’m not alone. So many people hear songs like this about relationships and discover the relationship it reminds them of is internal, inescapable, infinite. It was a heartbreaking discovery when my mind turned within itself and cried for a halt to how brutal and cruel I was being in my efforts to meet the expectations I have of myself. A dear friend made similar remarks to me some months ago about how perfectionism and ambition had mutated into a deeply unfair interpretation of what I “should”, what I “ought”, what “by now”, what “when I”, and how much of my worth I place on the doing, not the being, which is far closer to 100% than is healthy or helpful to me or the people around me. mindlessness, in the form of mindless pursuit, mindless panic, mindless distraction, mindless desperation, mindless escapism, mindless existentialism, it all leads to misery. my attempts to be more mindful as I spent the last days of my twenty-eighth year incarnated this way led to the exposing of so many Pandora’s Boxes in my psyche, and my inability to avoid them or externalise them as I would normally due to being on a meditation retreat allowed me to see some patterns. namely three key foes to my mental health. maybe you’re familiar with them, and how they stand between you and an equal, respectful, joyful relationship within yourself.

FURY
it occurred to me that I am angry. not necessarily at anything. but over time I’ve stored up frustrations and fumes, indignation and injustice because to express these things in public can label you a whole bunch of things I was scared to have attached to people’s impression of me: instability, aggression, unprofessionalism, and even masculinity. the thing is that when you don’t address things, when your anger doesn’t do its job of affirming your boundaries, it doesn’t dissipate over time. It absolutely lurks and compounds like lightning in a bottle. you take it out on yourself at every turn because it’s the easiest place for your anger to go. And technically you’d rather beat yourself up than risk hurting anyone else – although it’s likely they can tell you’re keeping your honest feelings from them and i wonder if approaching being mad about something, if addressed vulnerably and respectfully could actually generate more intimacy than privatising your reticence until it becomes rage and resentment and eventually ruins all your relationships. “you claim that I’m a handful when you show up all empty handed / the way you say you love me like you’ve just been reprimanded”.

FEAR
the role of fear and fury in my life is a bit of a chicken and egg equation. they go hand in hand. there is much in this world i know i at times decide to fear: dying alone, the dangers of the modern world, causing upset or offence, sex, and of course the two big ones: on the one side failure, and on the other success. long have i feared making a ‘decision I couldn’t take back’, which is the result of being traumatised and summarily blaming oneself for being in ‘the wrong place at the wrong time’ and ‘getting yourself into that situation’. but as much as we fear failing at what we try, there is far too much comfort in the familiarity of failing and the ability to both vindicate and vilify yourself simultaneously, beating yourself senseless and believing it’s the best way to learn from your experiences. except at the same time you know failure is the most potent key to success. but success means continuing to gamble, and being willing to have things to lose. the understanding goes that when afraid, people exhibit the fight, flight or freeze response. the thing is a fight will eventually dissolve, and flight will result in some landing somewhere, but freezing can go on forever, stasis and stillness and stuckness can last a lifetime. “and i know you can’t tell me / so I’m left to pick up the hints, the little symbols / of your devotion”.

FANTASY
a couple of years ago now during what would prove to be a terrible yet transformative time, I wrote a poem with the line ‘I don’t want to die full of ideas’. I can be angry with myself to the point of imagined violence, and I can render myself immobile with fear of the consequences of expressing myself, but this third enemy is the most insidious because it feels good to dream, to revel in the pleasure of ideas and creative imaginings. I don’t need to grow in terms of my sexual journey because I can dream up a love like I hear in the songs. I don’t need to run the risk of making the art when I can just picture how it would work and how good an impact it would have if I did it. I don’t need free myself from my self-imposed shackles if I just live in the delusion and reputation of being an impresario of some innovation, but not necessarily excellence or follow-through. recently an artist I know called me ‘ephemeral’, to mean that I am a joy that comes and goes so quickly from the worlds I touch, and I’ve heard that from many mouths. Comparisons to Glinda the Good or Mary Poppins, ‘he comes and sprinkles his fairy dust and its’ fantastic and then he’s off somewhere new and exciting’. it’s a compliment that cuts both ways, and while I need to see the good in it and follow the flow of the universe, I also need to find space and consistency to deliver what I dream. “now there’s no point in placing the blame / and you should know I suffer the same if I lose you / my heart will be broken”.

they say relationships take work, for all that they should come naturally, and the longer you know somebody the easier it is to fall into habit and harm. well you’ve known yourself your whole life, so make of that what you will. these three foes of fury, fear and fantasy each putrify my presence within myself and on my own behalf. they manifest as disordered eating, PTSD symptoms and angst, mania, vagary, inability to commit. they need interrogating and the space to voice their purpose so the unfinished business can be managed. As much as I detest quoting Sex and the City, there’s no way I could make the point without plagiarizing, and so my philosophy about relationships truly realizes that “the most exciting, challenging and significant relationship of all is the one you have with yourself”.

so as I turn twenty-nine my gift to myself is a renewed pledge, a strengthened vow to cherish myself body, mind, spirit in the spirit of forgiveness, compassion, fulfillment. and a happy fucking Valentine’s Day to boot. wow. twenty-nine. “so glad we made it / look how far we’ve come my baby”

Big love.
B.

 

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why it’ll never be #MenToo for me

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there is a reason I have imposed the rule on myself ‘no twitter before my self-esteem kicks in‘.

because when I see this hashtag it irks me some, but that’s OK we’re all different and we have different ways of communicating things. and when I see the “what about the men?” posts it causes me a fair bit of discomfort because to me this isn’t a competition, but that’s OK there will always be a need for the more inflammatory discourses to create attention. but when I see a post saying that if people don’t retweet or donate or mobilise around the “#MenToo movement” then that’s sexist, and demonstrates abandonment of men who’ve survived sexual trauma, well I find myself compelled to defend myself as an involuntary member of that group.

but before I do that, I’d like to remind readers that there are countless women who’ve written about this in different ways from perspectives other than mine to whom I credit how mine has developed, and if you click on their names you can – nay should – read their hard work, both written and lived. Van Badham. Clementine FordEmily Reynolds. Lea Rose Emery. Elizabeth Brico. Laura Hartnell. and of course the movement’s founder Tarana Burke.

Now, back to bullshit.

To me, #MenToo will always represent a society-wide need for men to wrestle women’s liberation from their grip and assume ownership in their initiatives of self-empowerment. That impression is mostly derived from many such posts and advocate accounts always feeling the need to pitch their purpose in opposition to the experience of women, “men get abused too!”, “why don’t men get”, “where’s the men’s movement?!”, “it’s harder for men to disclose”. I believe to pitch men in this homogenised way is the same as #NotAllMen – talking about men as an idea, as a collective noun, as a supreme incorporation.

I recently heard Tracey Spicer speak about how #MeToo affected her career and conviction to investigate sexual harassment and abuse in the media industry that so drew her in as an aspiration, only to dash her dream by demeaning her and exhausting her until finally turfing her out when she had the nerve to become a mother. That hero of a human woman stood up to some of the most powerful people in the world, and now helps other people do the same. Men and our allies need to be energised by that, not alienated by it because Tracey is a woman and we are not. Tracey being a woman is not an excuse for us not to tread the path she and many women before her wore in for us to follow. Men deserve the joy of following, of supporting, and women deserve the power of being followed, and supported. And not just white women like Tracey we can relate to, but women we can learn from and grow by the influence of. Women like Nakkiah Lui, Carly Findlay, Sally Goldner, Nayuka Gorrie, Emele Ugavele, Ayeesha Ash, Mama Alto, Ilana Charnelle, and Phoenix.

Tracey spoke about something else that irks me: the idea that is often woven in to delineate men’s and women’s experiences that acts of sexual violence are on a spectrum, and some behaviors are worse than others. There’s even a pyramid that did the rounds recently, and though I agree with it to a certain extent, I am wary of anything that affords any ground to the argument that some behaviors aren’t as bad as others. The act is relative to the person whose body and mind that act is committed upon, and how they respond based on their experiences past and present is no less valid regardless of the act. This pyramid lends itself to stigma that would mean someone feels enough shame to believe that when their family member grabbed them “all in fun”, they should suppress their feelings because being gang-raped would feel worse. If the pyramid is suggesting that being asked to show a car full of men pleasuring themselves in a car “the lips your mother never kissed” is as damaging and as harmful and as reprehensible as if those men pulled you into that car to force you to do what they had demanded, then I personally see that as valid.

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Coming back to the topic at hand, I’d like to tip my hat to Terry Crews. A physically powerful man of color who has worked through unimaginable prejudice already to enjoy reasonable cultural capital. At an event he attended with his wife, a man who believed himself to be more powerful than Terry in terms of industry clout, decided to molest him in public. Terry Crews recently testified to the US Congress about this! His story will make massive positive change to how this conversation involves men, and it will also do good things for women. He’s a personal hero of mine. Here’s the best bit: to my knowledge he has made no mention of his manhood qualifying him differently, nor has he called for a “#MeToo for Men”, and when he tweeted out his story he didn’t even feel the need to use the hashtag!

Men don’t need a movement, because in general everyone already moves for men.

I don’t agree with the idea that because the attention is focused on women (for now), men have a hard time of it – I do believe men feel harder done by when it happens because our experiences contrast so starkly to the freedom of movement we unwittingly enjoy everywhere else. The idea that men are suffering from neglect at the hands of women who’re occupying the resources that support their own suffering infuriates me no end. It is heartbreaking to see survivors pitted against one another, and taking their pain out on each other when the community of survivors is all we have when it comes to empathy, and being believed, and moving forward. Women have worked – are still working – 24/7 to receive the bare minimum of care and recognition we now have available, and male survivors should be thanking them for it, not bitterly complaining about how they feel ineligible to get in on the action. I’m reminded of when, being an eldest child, I had to ask, and remind, and plead, and work and proves myself worthy of an allowance, and the instant I got it my younger siblings were insistent they receive it too, and in the name of equality they did. I was furious – they were half my age, hadn’t had to do any of the work I did to implement an economic system of domestic reward, and yet here they were reaping that reward and, naturally, squandering it on lollies while I invested mine in my flair for scrap-booking. Which conveniently brings me around to how being gay figures in all of this.

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The trouble with the “not all men” argument is of course that it absolves us of responsibility. In the same way that if we blame the victim, we’re condoning the rape of someone else who fits the behavioral bill, when we other the men who rape, we acquit and even endorse the men who don’t look the part. Harvey Weinstein became the fall guy because he was powerful, and rich, and also slimy, and behind-the-scenes and in-the-shadows and no-one liked him. No-one was invested in him being “a good guy”. Spacey was a tougher case, people did like him, and if he hadn’t thrown the entire gay community under the bus to save his neck he might’ve got away with child molestation and statutory abuse – but still a lot of the narrative was “I always thought he was a bit weird”. Then they came for Morgan Freeman. The guy who we trust so much he gets to play God. We’ll see how that plays out. Gay men don’t fit the mold of the man we think of who assaults or harasses or rapes women, but for all we may be exempt from the stereotype, that doesn’t mean we should remain naive or indifferent about leading by example, and continuing the message that sexual violence isn’t about desire, it’s about power.

When Eurydice Dixon was walking home from her job as a comedian, a young man attacked, raped and murdered her. Afterward, police felt it pertinent to remind women to be aware of their surroundings, have their phone on them, and a whole lot of other advice that isn’t what I hope we see more of. And yet Larissa Bielby, Katherine Haley, Alicia Little, and no such statement – their murders dismissed as “misadventures” and “incidents”. I want to see those police looking unwavering right into the lens of the camera and saying “whoever you are, we will find you and you will be punished to the full extent of the law, and if you’re a man out there who believes themselves capable of sexual violence, or has considered violence against a woman in their life, seek help immediately”. That’s certainly the message I have.

We’re all fighting the same battle here, and it’s a battle against human nature itself, which is why it’s a battle we will fight our entire lives; and fight we must.

B.

if you have concerns for the safety of people around you, or ever considered yourself seriously capable of abusing anyone imminently, please contact 1800 Respect, White Ribbon, or Lifeline 13 11 14. or 000 if an emergency.

 

my gender is cowardice.

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remember kisschasey? that’s where it started.

it was the first year of school, so we would’ve all been five years old. The way the game works is that girls get a head-start then the boys take off to catch and kiss a girl each, after which the pursuit reverses, with the girl chasing the boy to kiss him back. No-one was sure whether I should be on the boys’ team, or the girls’ team. No-one, including me. Many of the girls were my friends, so I naturally wanted to be pack with them, and I certainly didn’t want to kiss them. There would never really be a decision about which side I was on, the game would usually just begin because the problem was too complicated for five-year-olds to resolve. Once everyone had taken off running and giggling and feigning disinterest in being kissed, I would at some point run into the boys’ bathroom and hide in a cubicle, imagining that someone was coming to kiss me. Looking back writing this, I realise the game has not changed much. Not for the negotiation of courtship and consent between men and women, and certainly not for me.

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Growing up in the 90s when being gay was still only discreetly cool in the upper echelons of celebrity-shadowing, being called “gay” or “faggot” wasn’t common but being called a “girl” as a form of denigration was frequent. The way I walked, that I wore my hair long, my mannerisms, the things I liked, and of course my choice of friends didn’t do much to deter that harassment.

When I was three, the childcare staff told my parents I’d been put in time out for losing my temper at a girl who had dared to wear a gold dress from the dress up box which was indisputably “mine”.

As young as twelve I fell into such a dislike of my body’s gender presentation I began binding myself in too-small underwear and by fourteen I had considered self-mutilation.

At home, wearing dresses continued right through to mid-adolescence, when I took a brief hiatus – that’s a lie, I continued to shop from the women’s side of the Cotton On for many years, but dresses were out for a while until I started wearing them again a couple of years ago and went public with a high-waisted skirt and a beard. I’ll to this day regularly say things like “I’m more of a Divinyls gal”, or “I don’t vote Liberal, I’m not that kind of girl”. I’ll never baulk at being referred to in the collective noun of “ladies” or thought of fondly as “one of the girls”.

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What’s it all about? Over the years I think the hard times might have given me cause to cling desperately to a vision of myself that didn’t lose their innocence so roughly, and that sincere sense of self I possess is easily encapsulated by that stereotype of sweetness, sixteen-ness, stillness of girlhood.

As recently as last year I’ve hit patches where thinking too deeply about my gender identity causes me too much confusion and sorrow to continue – and I confess that one of the biggest factors in backing out of this thinking is my conflicted feelings about how many social challenges I’ve been socialised to believe and have witnessed myself that trans and gender-diverse people face; in finding love, in succeeding in the workplace, in achieving whatever physical actualisation of their gender they desire, in receiving healthcare, in being able to travel. My gender identity is informed by my fear of losing something I didn’t think I had: male privilege. My gender identity is informed by my fear of what my loved ones would say, how they would adapt. So, I find myself thinking that my gender is terror, my gender is cowardice.

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My gender is constantly in a state of conviction, being bartered back and forth between fierce femininity and penile privilege. Sliding along the spectrum in one direction because I’m not masculine enough for manhood, then scaling along another slant because I respect womanhood and gender diversity as experiences I do not live and wouldn’t do the disservice or disregard of appropriating any further than colloquially. I am under no false illusions that this is a to-ing and fro-ing I’ll live on the trajectory of for a great deal of time, if not all my life.

Here’s where I’m at now. That in my thoughts about gender, I still feel room for choice and that is what sets several of the incredibly brave and beautiful humans I have been given the joyous gift of knowing apart in their experience from mine. For many of them there is not choice, there is simply the fact of who they are outside the double-edged sword of male and female; the inherent knowledge of difference and a resonance with alternatives and terms of identity I have yet to feel for anything other than “man”.

I grew up in a time where being transgender was a way to describe someone who was moving or had moved from one side of the binary of male and female to the other and once there that person was still known as either – being trans was not its own identity far as I knew then. Within a decade I find myself trying to comprehend what being tri-gender and enby means when I’m still stuck on what being a man means, and how I occupy that.

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Every time I step into darkness to battle with the binary, I have continually emerged male because I cannot get past believing that’s my fight; I feel it’s important for those like me to challenge and broaden what manhood is and wish to lead manhood forward out of toxic masculinity further from the patriarchal systems we are tightly bound to because its built from our gender presentation. For men to develop a compassion, and an empathy and a freedom to explore the roots of being men beyond clothing or interests or sexual exploits, that’s an image of men I want to perpetuate. I don’t want to leave my manhood behind, I want to make more of it, I want manhood – how it’s understood and talked about to adapt to include my kind of expression. To me, it matters to be a good man, and it matters that I identify as male as a means of demonstrating the room for diversity therein.

The fear I speak of is the same that paralyses me in moments where I’m in an environment where men become rowdy, or sexist, or any multitude of behaviours I know it’s important I stand up to. Somewhere inside me I yearn for their acceptance but I fear their predilection for communicating with violence or abuse. Men need intervention, not attention. I remember how positive a change I saw in men when ‘metrosexuality’ became popular, and how bitterly disappointed and ashamed I felt when the backlash came and not since have I witnessed any such valuing of self-care or sensitivity in men in Western cultures. But I’m not giving up on men yet, I’m not giving up on being a man.

Though I continue to grapple with what part prejudice plays in precluding me from being the person people ask or assume I am, what I’m sticking to is that though it may be cowardice that keeps me a man, it could be courage that drives me to change what that means.

images by Corie Shannon. insta @corieshannon.

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this is me begging.

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this blog comes with a trigger warning. 

this is me begging. for what it’s worth.

Eurydice Dixon is a person. And at the same time, she is not. She is more than a person. She is now a meaning. She is an impact.

I work not ten minutes’ walk for where this woman was found. And as people came in that day she was the unnamed name on everyone’s lips. The found woman. The dead woman. And she was  a whisper around my office that I could not give my full attention to. Because so long as she was a whisper? So long as she was a rumour? Then she was not real, then she was a story. Then she was a cautionary tale. She represented a horror I could hide from, ashamed and ignorant.

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Now she has a name. Eurydice Dixon. Now she has a face. And the minute I saw it, and heard it, my heart broke. Because she’s one of us. One of us weirdos. One of us artistic humans trying to change the world with laughter and enterprise. One of us promising, potential, pure people who could have been more someone than the someone they were. As a friend of hers cripplingly said “she had time on her side”. Another has confirmed her last text before enduring the unimaginable was to report she was almost home. She might’ve been a lot of things, but the thing she was that really mattered was that she was alive. She was one of our team. She remains one of our team. And in that pain I discovered how I had become desensitized, because no woman is just any woman; every woman who we lose in endemic proportions matters equally when their lives are lost at men’s violent hands.

I did what I think any reasonable person would do after they hear about someone they might have met, might have had the joy of seeing really change the world for the better be struck down by rape and murder.

I got roaring drunk.

I’m a man. I’m a man who doesn’t understand men. I’m a man who cannot comprehend why men would force their penis inside another human being and then kill them. Earlier tonight I sat in a bathtub moaning in pain, confused and spitting out bile onto my own penis because I cannot bear the truth. I seek no pity. I’m just making clear where I’m at because I’m hoping men might read this and feel sick. I’m placing all my bets right now on men one by one realising that you cannot blame autism or mental illness for the way we’re manipulated to perceive women’s worth. I’m telling all men that this is on you, because I’m a man and it’s on me.  I’m desperate to say the thing that will stop men in their tracks. I’ll say whatever it takes.

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My fellow men. This is me begging. Begging you to imagine how it would feel if it were done to you, and then – knowing how horrific it would be to feel and remember for the rest of your life – don’t joke about it, don’t consider it, don’t fantasize about it, and DON’T DO IT to someone else. If it’s about needing to be sexually gratified then there are other ways to access that than hurting and forcing someone. If it’s about the perverse excitement of forcing someone then please don’t take that pornography seriously because it’s not real. If it’s about hurting someone on purpose then you need to seek help and insight from a medical professional and there’s no shame in doing that, seek counsel. If it’s about being an incel then I don’t know what to tell you except if you refuse to see woman and non-heterosexual human beings as human then I challenge you to remove all bitterness and shame from your thoughts and actions before you think or act. If it’s about power, then I assure you there is no crime considered more cowardly than that which you are considering committing.

And if you’re sitting there reading this thinking “I’m a man too and I would never do that to someone”, that’s not the end of it. Tell your friends off, call strangers out, report the content, unsubscribe from the channel, call the watchdog, attend the vigil, listen to the experience, acknowledge that there are things you don’t know and seek educating. There is never nothing you can do.

gofundme
https://au.gofundme.com/princes-park-victim-fund

Women shouldn’t have to live a life where their whereabouts are policed by needing to check in with friends. Women shouldn’t live in fear. Men shouldn’t live in privilege.

There’s that part of the comic book, where Batman or Wonder Woman or Black Panther or Chalice goes home and think about those who did not survive. Those they could not save. That’s how I know I’m feeling right now. Like we weren’t fast enough, or strong enough, or loud enough. Like there was something we missed, and now we’ve lost an innocent human being who was just walking home from work. We failed. Eurydice was and remains part of that battle to make this world safe. And that moment Batman or Wonder Woman or Black Panther or Chalice go home and realise they’re not a superhero at all? That’s how it feels. That’s what it feels like to cry in your bathtub with the shower running, making inhumane drunken sounds from the depths of your soul in agony. That’s what it feels like to cancel your comedy show in honour. That’s what it feels like to fight the urge to call every woman you know to make sure she’s safe right now.

But at some point we will get up. And we will dry off. And we will put the suit back on in the morning. And be Batman, or Wonder Woman, or Black Panther, or Chalice.

Because we know Eurydice Dixon means far more than giving up now.

A vigil will be held Monday 18th 5.30pm.

If you are a man with concerns for the safety of the women in your life, please connect with support through a service like White Ribbon or Mensline. I’m begging you.

consent IS about you. and the Spice Girls.

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this article comes with a trigger warning for discussing sexual violence.

The last time I was ever on Grindr, I got this message:
“I’d love to rape ur penis with my arse”
I responded “As someone who has been raped, I really hate people using that word so casually”
Then I got blocked. Then I deleted the app. Then I had a cup of tea.

Consent is a topic I find unites many people when they are willing to engage in conversation around it, but typically makes men uncomfortable. That may be in some part, speaking recently, due to #MeToo and #TimesUp giving voice to women who have experienced sexually harassing and traumatic events in what appears to be endemic proportions. Even before these movements though, discussions of sexual assault or rape perpetuated a pattern of women who can’t defend themselves against men who can’t control themselves. Mainstream media narratives, unforgivably lenient sentencing, and the current presidency of the United States of America have cemented this stereotype around the world. Where great strides have been made, backlash has brokered back ground, and outside of heteronormative discourse, silence continues to dominate and dismiss victims. Not only gay men and women, but also trans people, people born intersex, prisoners, trafficked people, recipients of foreign aid, single-sex private school children and many more examples outside those we hear most about.

Speaking into my own primary community of gay males, who are often thought of synonymously with promiscuity, I’ve found there is still much to learn and myths to be busted about how we approach sex in a respectful and safe way. So I’m going to attempt imparting wisdom with the help one of the world’s universal languages: the Spice Girls.

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Consent isn’t sexy
You know what they say about throwing the baby out with the bathwater? Don’t. What I find most people mean by this is that having to instruct or talk someone through sex, isn’t sexy. I can appreciate most people want to enjoy sex the way they’ve been brainwashed to enjoy it: post-verbal passionate pornographic moaning & groaning where each person is perfectly attuned to the others’ wants and needs, hits their G-spot on the first go and ejaculates within enough time to get sweaty, but not odorous. Now with someone you’ve slept with many times, built trust between and created an instinctive communication around? Sure that’s a reasonable expectation. But a guy you’ve only met once or twice, haven’t ever seen in full light, who you’re not even sure speaks English as a first language? It’s not fair to expect that person to know instinctively and intimately how to satisfy you without communicating.

Consent during sex isn’t as complicated as we’d like to believe; being caught up in our own enjoyment or nervousness during sex can make us less able to notice or interpret the other person’s signals, and being afraid of rejection can make us unsure of how to communicate during sex.

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You only need consent for penetrative sex
Once on another gay dating app, someone I’d been talking with for a while asked me to come over for some shared nudity with casual intimacy and I made the decision to ask “are you healthy?”
This is an insufficient question. He provided an insufficient response: “I’m on PrEP”
I said that PrEP only covered him for HIV, asked when was he last tested for any other STIs and let him know I would still prefer to use a condom.
He never replied. I felt bad for not waiting to have the conversation in person. Then I had a cup of tea.

Something I didn’t know about consent when I had my first sexual experience (aside from everything because they don’t talk about that stuff in Sex Ed), was that it only applies to the situation you believe you’re in. For example, ghosting, the practice of putting a condom on to gain consent to engage in penetrative sex then removing before actually penetrating, is rape. Plain and simple. Similarly, having sex with someone whom you have told you’re sober when in fact you’re on drugs voids their consent, as does saying you’ll use lubricant but not using it in case you lose your hard-on. There’s this attitude that you only need to put a condom on at the point of insertion. There’s also an attitude that you only need to put a condom on as an alternative to pulling out. There’s an assumption that saying yes once covers you for whatever happens in the next four hours. It doesn’t.

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Isn’t consent implied if he sticks around?
An Australian Football player made waves back in 2010 with the statement “When will you learn! [sic] At 3am when you are blind drunk & you decide to go home with a guy ITS [sic] NOT FOR A CUP OF MILO!”. There’s this idea, particularly among men, that the key to absolution from any compassion or consideration of another person’s engagement in intimacy is that they can put their hands up between you, say “Stop! I don’t like it!” as they were taught to back in kindergarten and then everyone will part ways as friends. The truth is that pretty much all of us would like to feel like we have the power and the right to do as Amber Rose saidIf I’m laying down with a man, butt naked, and is his condom is on, and I say ‘you know what, no I don’t wanna do this. I changed my mind’, that means no. It doesn’t matter how far I take it or what I have on. When I say no, it means no”. I’d even go a step further to if I say “ouch”, or “wait”, or “gently”, or “try this”, I should be able to expect any of those things to ensure you check in on me, and care about my response, and respect my enjoyment as much as your own without judgement.

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Someone on twitter made a comment that there’s a spectrum of behaviour, and that being catcalled, being groped and being raped are very different things in terms of how consent works. My response to that was that consent is like a joke, if no-one is laughing, it’s not a joke. It’s only consent if everyone is on board. If you feel taken advantage of, or coerced or traumatised, that’s valid and real. Then I wrote this blog. Then I had a cup of tea.


(this blog was not authorised by the Spice Girls)
Another great read on this topic ‘The But of Butts’.
take a peek at Project Consent for more information.
I talk plenty about consent in BURLESQUE BY FORCE which is showing in Adelaide Fringe Festival February 24-27. Tickets available here.

 

the bride wore bitter

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Dearly Belittled…

We have voted here today…

Yeah, I know.

One week ago. I haven’t cried about it. Not once. I confess I’ve been almost entirely indifferent because I can’t get the questions out of my head; what if this whole public vote regarding our rights was for something we actually needed? While the right hand’s distracting us by dangling this carrot, whose is the left shaking? How, when nothing has changed, we just know more precisely what we already did for both better and worse, can we be celebrating?

And of course, the million-dollar question: why don’t I feel anything?

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Don’t get me wrong- I voted, I messaged people, I jumped on a phone bank, I social media spammed, I cross-examined colleagues. I did it for every individual couple I knew who want to feel that equality, who don’t want to live with the tension of difference guiding their lives, who want to be who they are outside the crucible of prejudice. I thought I wanted that too – but this “debate”, this plebiscite, this invasion of my privacy, this sick indictment on the country I call home – of all the things it did both dreadful and disastrous, it also made me realise something.

I have power. More power in that crucible, than outside of it.

This isn’t true of everybody, I don’t think. We weren’t all built to disrupt, nor should we be. That’s what the right to live in peace means. Quinn Eades, who has swiftly stormed up my list of heroes, made mention of something in a keynote at the Australian Homosexual Histories Conference this past weekend. That there is now classified a condition beyond Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, called Total Human Devastation Syndrome. Those words struck and split every pane of glass that protects me from the horror of the world so I can still step out in it. Total Human Devastation. What a world, what a world. Where love is cause for political debate and discrimination. I realised that I’m numb to more than I’m comfortable to confess, because the momentum and enormity of the world we live in now on a constant stream-feed, has taken me beyond exhaustion and disappointment. I’m not so despicable as to say I’m totally devastated by humanity. I am so despicable as to say I have no idea what to do, and where I know I could start, I’ve not. Not yet. I’ve been preoccupied by – and as – propaganda.

My life, my love, my rights are not a brand.

I’m asking you to understand that the ends did not justify the means. For me, and many, this has been a disaster. For some people, it was the last straw. Not everyone got to celebrate YES; some died waiting, others died fearing. The prejudice has been activated – the people who voted NO? They’re pissed, and here’s where we’d better clue in quick: they’re coming for our kids. Ground has been gained on marriage, but education is not a privilege or a luxury or a decision. Education is a necessity. That 38% are going to work harder than ever to ERASE, ISOLATE, and IMPLICATE us in whatever way will diminish the freedom to be themselves that young people are already compromised in.

Christmas Day. Ten children gather around the tree, while their respective, and respectable, parents look on. Nine of the children receive ten gifts, one from each family. One child receives six, because four of those sets of parents have decided they have the right to disable equity. Is the child grateful for the presents they did get? Absolutely. And they’d better be, because for a child to declare their observation that they had been unjustly treated would be socially unacceptable. Should the child have a tantrum, and show their anger about being discriminated against, well that’s just disgraceful.

So I might be a disgrace. I might be an ingrate. I’ll tell you what else I am. Unprotected. Fashionable. Observed.

I’m also alive. Which is more than I can say for myself were I to have been born in Chechnya, or Russia, or Chernobyl, or Beirut, or in one of the many nations from which I might’ve fled for safety and found myself held in detention just off the mainland of where I was born. But I can get married. Thank goodness.

Never mind the fact that I find relationships difficult to manage as someone who has been sexually assaulted in such a way to irrevocably damage my sense of trust and safety, and physically injured me permanently, though circumstances were not clearly warranting of recourse. I’m holding out for more than one miracle here.

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So please. Continue loving your fellow lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, asexual, queer, and questioning. Do it more, and more fervently. DO NOT throw your YES posters away, stay identified as an ally. We need you now more than ever, for the sake of what future approaches. Please also understand and respect that some of us may not be as excited as you are, but that doesn’t mean we’re not still together on this one. Still fighting. Still family. ‘Til death do us part.

B.

and for once it might be grand…

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so about six years ago I wrote this poem. and the poem became a song. if you have ever met me you have probably heard it at least once before. because up until this year, it has been my greatest achievement. to have watched a dark moment leave my shoulders where it once held all its weight and find a life its own, as a realised being its own.

I wrote the poem after a particularly heartbroken day where I sat on a beach in Far North Queensland and imagined putting my heart in the water, watching it roll away and emulsify to deliver more to the world over than I believed it could ever do for me. Next minute there’s a teenage girl singing it shakily-with-sincerity behind me in line at Womadelaide.

In the song there’s a lyric that used to be “I didn’t know that to follow your dreams you could lose a little of each”. Following your dreams isn’t just an expression, it’s a real commitment. And it’s been the theme of my 2017. I am sharing how this has worked for me in an effort to engender similar pursuits amongst those who’d read this; who in the same year might have seen reason to abandon hopes in the face of political disheartenment, ecological collapse and breaches of equality at every turn.

your dream isn’t just something you want, or something you think would be great to have, or would make you happy. your dream is more than that, it’s a version of yourself constantly bashing away from inside you wanting to get out. it’s easy to confuse someone else’s dreams or ambitions for your dream, but the difference is that one will be a realisation of everything you know about yourself to be true, and the others’ are just things you will feel esteemed by.  your dream doesn’t have to be big to anyone but you, but reaching it will require a journey only you can feel the vastness of. your dream is entirely unique, as will be your road to it, and the obstacles you must overcome.

your dream has demands, and the longer you avoid them – I’ve found – the higher the recompense. What was once merely frippery and frugality became almost total austerity, anxiety, friends disconnected, hopelessness and gambling your sense of self-preservation – and all the while, an unshakable sense that I was on the right track. When it comes to pursuing your dreams, it’s a volatile balance you must keep between sustainability and instinct.

last year I did all the right things: I moved to the big city, and had the high-paying, doing-good job, and did some rallying and some theatre reviewing. I moved thinking I’d make a packet, conquer my debt and set myself up for life. But I spent every dollar I made trying to make myself happy. I blew every bit of energy I had grasping at old desires. I tortured myself with other people’s needs to drown out the disappointment I felt in myself for having given up so easy. I clung to friends hoping they would vindicate the drama, and the choices I had made or give me an alternative. I let every advantage be taken of me so I had every excuse in the world not to create what I knew I was long overdue to. don’t do this, you guys. it hurts. it’s a kind of starvation. it’s a kind of addiction from which I hope very much to divert you from.

so I took chances. real ones. accepted help from strangers and moved back to Melbourne with no money.
I told a boy I loved how mad I was at what my cowardice had made of our lost opportunity. and my heart stopped being angry as much.
I re-stabilised my relationships with my family. and discovered that will be a lifetime process of exchange and compassion and pride. totally worth it.
I didn’t take the first job I got. I waited until I got the one I knew was right for me. And when I found it, I fought for it. I gambled by asking for it outright.
I climbed back into debt, and sat at the midway point between comfort and purpose. Made peace with the time-frame and the consequences. And didn’t let it spoil my understanding of what I got in it for.
I asked.
That’s the important part. I asked.
For a job and I got it. For payment extensions and the answer’s always yes. For a way to make going to China and Japan happen even though my budget was tight and I went. For a chance to perform in a festival and they said yes. Three of them. For a spot to speak at a conference with a day until program got released and yet they squeezed me in.
I took a long hard look at my “boundaries” and in the midst of being grateful for what they had protected me from, I let them go to acknowledge there was nothing anymore they needed to protect from me – people, experiences, change.
I am trying to harbour less shame. If i get caught in an old lie, I own up to it. If i feel uncomfortable, I amend or change the factors. Little by little.
I worked hard. Sleep I’ll never get back. Constantly striving, and living in the parameters of improvement always being possible. I push myself, and I push the people I bring into what I’m working for.

And now my biggest achievement isn’t the song sung by someone else, although it still brings me joy unimaginable. it’s a story that I have lived a version of, made into a theatre show, that if you live in Adelaide or Melbourne you can come and share in.

And when you’ve lived your dream once, it’s remarkable what you start to flicker inside that you might be able to do after all.

The two key factors in achieving your dream?
Asking. There is no shame in asking, only vulnerability in the possibility of rejection, which we must all love about ourselves. If your approach is earnest, and grateful, and prepared to be willing to accept the answer for what it affords or redirects, you’ll find more often than not it goes a way you don’t expect – which is usually that they’ll say yes. And then you deliver, you keep the conversation going, you negotiate an exchange. It may not be easy, but it is simple.
Giving. As important to reaching for your dream, is taking the time to connect with other people dreaming. Foster collaborations, and shower their gambles, their trials with kindness and encouragement. Allow yourself to be part of a continuous network of inspiration and support. Grow with.

dreaming in sleep and living a dream aren’t altogether dissimilar for their surreality and sense of disembodiment or uncertainty. I’m not sure if what I’m talking about, whether dream is the right word, it’s like your chrysalis or your crucible. it’s the person you are beneath the person you’ve been shaped to be. it’s the inside out. it’s the second skin. the final form.

it’s not my dream. it’s my point.

Big love,
B.