Symonne Says: Creating a Culture of Consent

[editor's note: reposted with permission from the author]

Reading this woman's account has struck about 25,000 nerves. As a woman in the dance music scene first and now industry, albeit only semi-professionally and only for a short time, I feel compelled to address it. While the incident did not happen at a party as far as we know from the information shared (maybe they went to one after the initial meeting at the Standard - she doesn't remember, and he doesn't say), it is part of the whole rape culture we are currently on a mission to dismantle, and it is unfortunately a huge issue in our community. We have a lot of drinks and drugs around. We have a lot of people who do not understand (or worst case, don't care about) consent.

If we want to create a culture of consent in our dance music community, it starts with getting on the same page about a set of basic facts.

  1. This is more common than you think. I cannot count on two hands how many times this touches my life personally in a year.
  2. If you, as a man, have ever found yourself lamenting and wondering why "The Ratio" is so bad at these dance music events, it is not because women do not like this music. It is because we have very few safe spaces. You can help create them.
  3. The issue of sexual harassment and sexual assault is not limited to women.  (Keep this in mind as I write below.  The gendering of the issue is due to this specific situation.  Men can be and are victims of this as well.)
  4. Consent. Consent. CONSENT. I am angered by The Gaslamp Killer's response, but I also have had friends who are men express concern or fear to me over the years about what consent looks like: "How do you know?" "So, does this mean I can never have sex with a drunk person?" I would point everyone to RAINN's "What Consent Looks Like." If you think you had consent and someone comes forward later and tells you that you did not, you did not. 99.99% of the time. Passive consent is not a thing.  It is okay that you were not born fully knowing the nuances of consent.  It is not okay to remain ignorant (nor is it a valid legal defense).
  5. I also found this series of comics very handy a few years ago.  My personal favorite is #7.
  6. There is a reason why it took these two women four years to come forward and part of that blame falls on society, but also The Scene. This is what I want to discuss now.

These comments on the It does not matter if you thought he was cool when you met him or saw an interview. It does not matter if he was on a bender or going through a rough time. It does not matter if she was involved in the music industry. It does not matter what she was wearing. And if I hear one more "Don't accept drinks from other people"... yes, but, come on, the bigger societal demand should be: "Don't put drugs in them."

Of course, we will be talking about him, his response, the deals and opportunities he has lost or may lose, but don't lose sight of the victim. Why it is so difficult for a victim (man or woman) to come forward, why did it take years and what can we do better?

Look around at the response to this news, it took 5 seconds for it to start: The victim shaming, the burden of proof being on the victim - which means being forced to relive the ordeal and be re-traumatized in order to "prove" that it happened and still often not be believed, the pressure of pressing charges or being branded a liar, and, of course, putting something very personal and sensitive into a public forum to be dissected, along with the rest of your life. His response: "Consent is intimate," and he is "thankful [to have] been contacted by witnesses and [his] roommates at the time" who corroborate his version. Of course, they do.

What we can do: At your parties, create a culture of consent. Some venues, like F8 and The Stud in San Francisco, do a great job putting up signs, leaving ways people can signal to a bartender that they are not in a good situation and more.

Keep an eye out. It is very rare that no one notices a severely intoxicated or blacked out person. I have been guilty of not checking in with those situations when I've seen them at times. Other times, I take a second and ask the propped up woman where her friends are and see her out of the situation safely. 

Keep an eye on your friends, who unfortunately could potentially play either role. I'm not saying they are going to drug someone, but I see a lot of nonconsensual touching from the DJ booth (and not infrequently am the recipient of it too).  Between myself and friends of mine it happened 4 times - that I witnessed - in the past two gigs alone. Next time I see it at a show, I'm getting on the mic and calling people out. Let's all do that.

If you are reading this and thinking, "wow, she is using this news to speak to things that are not related" - well, first, I hope you understand they are related. Second, damn right. Understand I write this because I am fed up - it's not just this story, but so many more that go unwritten, and yes, I am most definitely using this to stand up and make a broader statement around consent and community because that's what has been triggered in me and probably many other women (and men) after this week. Third, that very self-consciousness I have that some people will read this and think I am using this news improperly to get on a soapbox is another symptom of that same rape culture. We all deserve something better.

Preaching? Maybe. Can I get a witness?