Tuesday, 25 June 2013

We're not on the same page. I'm not sure we're even reading the same book.

This past week or so I've been taking the organizers of I'd Tap That to task over their decision to ban someone who reported another attendee was abusive, and to continue to allow the alleged abuser to attend parties. That, specifically, was the beginning of my issue with them, but it's grown since because I've gotten information from others, anonymously and publicly, that there have been a lot of issues with these events and the organizers' responses to concerns.

The problem is, I'm assuming that the organizers are working from an anti-oppressive, feminist framework and that their priority is above the business of making money by hosting a different flavour of party than is regularly offered in Toronto. Clearly, that's where I'm wrong.

I've been boggled by the organizers' inability to recognize that requiring one provide a police report in order to ban someone who is reported to have been engaging in abusive behaviour, including physical and/or sexual violence, puts an undue burden on the victim. The crux of my argument is that if the organization wants to be sensitive to the institutional oppressions that would prevent many of their attendees from reporting such crimes to the police, then their stance of requiring police involvement doesn't match that. Therein lies the whole problem.

I'd Tap That is not organizing their events with the intention of making them safe, accessible, and non-oppressive. Rather, they're offering a "sex-positive" space that operates slightly outside of the norm, with minor tweaks to give an illusion of safety, but that upholds a lot of the status quo.

Which explains not only their exasperation with being publicly taken to task over this issue, but their attitudes that they're being unfairly attacked and set upon. Well, of course it's going to seem unfair if the issues presented to them aren't ones they consider important or worthy of making changes. Naturally, if they aren't committed to combating sexual violence specifically, they won't be concerned with the victim-blaming and gas lighting tone of their posts and won't see any need to apologize specifically for that.

They have made some very PR-friendly statements about setting up a community advisory board, updating their training for their safety staff, and updating their complaints process. That all sounds great. Without a core value of approaching their business from an anti-oppressive, intersectional position, then these changes won't actually make any tangible differences to the culture of their parties.

Why am I being so nit-picky? What do I want from them? What on earth could they possibly do to satisfy my impossible standards since I'm such an uppity jerk?

I've been nit-picky because I was operating under the assumption they were feminist activists, and I expect other feminist activists to call me out in the same way if I'm being problematic.

I would love for them to operate their business under an anti-oppressive, intersectional framework. They allude that they are on their Mission Statement page, and I find that to be rather misleading. I'd prefer they not only amend their wording to be more honest that this is just a business to them and that most complaints or criticisms won't be acted on, but also to state more clearly that they are unwilling to ban people from events without a police report (right now it says they can't).

What can they possibly do to make me happy? At the very least, an acknowledgment that the tone of their posts has been to disbelieve survivors and to therefore make the atmosphere of their parties hostile to survivors of sexual violence. Many people aside from me have pointed this out, and they have not deigned to address it directly. But then, that's making another big assumption that they care about or want to make survivors feel welcome at their events.

In short, probably nothing. There is a huge ideological divide here that neither of us is willing to compromise on. The organizers have made statements on their personal walls that show they don't think these are serious issues and that they're feeling unfairly persecuted. I'm still offended that they're misusing the terminology of social justice to deflect criticism without internalizing any of the serious criticisms that have been put forth.

Long story short, don't worry, I'd Tap That. I'm taking this part of your Mission Statement quite seriously:
If our rules and values are not strict enough for you to feel comfortable, we also ask that you refrain from attending. 

Friday, 21 June 2013

I'd Tap That - what were your experiences?

As a follow-up to my post on Wednesday, "When Allies Aren’t Allies- My Experience With I'd Tap That", I'm posting a general call-out to participants of I'd Tap That/ Crush events, good or bad. If you want to send your experiences to them directly and not here, that's cool, you can email them here.

You can post anonymously in the comments, and I'm turning moderation off to let all comments through so all sides who care to weigh in can be heard. (I'll be keeping an eye on comments, though, because this is the internet). The reason I'm open-posting this way is that I know that sometimes there can be barriers to us feeling safe enough to bring concerns directly to organizers/ staff themselves.

I'm not gonna lie, I'm pretty pissed off with the organizers of I'd Tap That and their response so far. They've lied, gas lighted, and responded to serious concerns with disingenuous PR Mad Gabs. But if there's an opportunity for them to improve their events to protect their participants, it's worthwhile to take it. So, let's try to bring these issues out into the daylight and see if they have any intention or ability to actually address them.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

When Allies Aren’t Allies- My Experience With I'd Tap That

This is a repost of a letter in its entirety, from a friend of mine, Kira Andry. If you are a part of the queer, sex+ community in the GTA, this is some information you may need to know to make an informed decision about attending and participating in the 'I'd Tap That' events and community.

When Allies Aren’t Allies- My Experience With I'd Tap That

**Trigger Warning: Rape culture, misogyny, victim-shame/blame, etc**

Before you read the rest of it:
Honesty, despite being strived for, tends to be a massively dividing force.
I understand that some of you won’t like what I have to say and might even unfriend me for saying it.
Go ahead.
I, as an honest person, will always tell the truth. I am not ashamed and I have nothing to hide.
I will not cover for those who have wronged me and I do not owe anyone my silence.
This is my experience and I alone own it. I will do with it what I see fit and I see it fit to warn others so that they may not be victimized as I was.
If you wish to “unfriend” me because of that then it will be of no loss to me.

          Recently I have decided that I will no longer be attending events by the group "I’d Tap That".
This decision has come from a series of unfortunate, but eye-opening, events.
Up until recently I had been a huge supporter of the organization and their mission -recommending them to many other people and sending out a flood of event invitations each month.
I liked their aim and thought it would help combat many ills in our society.

I could not have been more wrong.

          I had a friend who knew that I was struggling in life due to a horrific past and was in the process of trying to establish secure support systems.
This friend and I had very frank and open conversations and I was very upfront about my limits and requirements.
This friend ID'ed as "sex positive", "honest", and "feminist" among many other things I require in my close interpersonal relationships, so I thought he'd be safe to trust.


This friend ended up gaining my trust only to then break it and shamelessly gain my consent through fraud.
(People should know that obtaining consent through fraud is not consent at all. It is legally and technically a form of rape.)
He then went on to repeatedly and intentionally trigger me:  He used the knowledge I had shared with him in confidence, committing the most damaging acts (at his disposal) against me, knowing that I would not be able to withstand this further assault and therefore knowingly put me in a dangerous situation.

          He then involved the police for no other reason than to trigger me further, knowing I had had traumatizing experiences with cops in the past. (Any survivor that has been raked through the "justice" system is aware of what I speak) 
He had lied to them about how long we had known each other, what had transpired, and various other facts, even going as far as to say that we had been in a "relationship".
He had intended to victimize me further through my fear of the police and then get their support by reciting the over-used and widely-accepted sexist notion of "bitches be crazy" after a relationship ends.
It is important to note that we were never even in a "relationship".
 I had to correct these falsehoods and set the record straight. I even patiently explained terms like "consent", "sex positive" and "rape culture" to the officer, who was surprisingly receptive.
They tried to get me to press charges, but I could not bring myself to chance being revictimized by police again.
They said they wanted to do something to help so they ordered him not to attend the events I attended (including "Crush"), or to otherwise continue to harass me in any way.

That’s that, right? I could just go on with my life, and at least I’d have a safe space to go with like-minded people, right?

Wrong again.

          I alerted two of the organizers about what happened.  I explained the situation and asked them to not allow the person who victimized me to attend, seeing as how allowing his presence would make the event less safe and tempt him to defy police orders.
In response the first organizer denied my experience, saying that since she had been involved with him at one point, and he had not done that to her,  he could not have possibly done that to me.
She stated that he had not assaulted me, and then went on to belittle what happened calling it “relationship drama”.

Denying a survivor’s experience and belittling it because the person who victimized them had not victimized you is propagating rape culture.
I called her out on this and it was not taken well.

I spoke with another organizer in hopes that something would be done but that proved to be generally useless. Accusing someone of gaining consent via fraud was too close to calling it "rape" for her liking. She felt as though I was being too harsh and that I  was victimizing him.
They just sympathized with, and made excuses for, him. They did not want to believe that their friend was capable of doing this, so what did they do instead?
They decided to make me out to be the problem.
(Nothing like revictimizing the victim to prove how much you are against rape culture.) 

          On the day of “Puppy Love” (another one of "I'd Tap That" events), I got an extremely passive-agressive letter from the first organizer banning me from all future events. She stated that she personally did not feel comfortable allowing my presence at their events, implying that I had not been respectful, thoughtful or considerate.
She stated that me calling them out on their rape culture didn’t “jive” with them.
She followed that by saying that I lacked a “healthy attitude” and a “healthy mindspace."
How she came to determine that I don’t know.. (I guess speaking up about having been victimized and expecting a self-proclaimed “sex positive” “safe space” to stay true to their mission statement is unhealthy. Noted.)

I don't quite understand how the "I'd Tap That" women thought that someone with a major conflict of interest would be the most qualified to make this decision, but I'm not going to argue with their attempt at logic.
She then gave an oozing lipservice about how "the health, safety and happiness of their patrons is of the utmost importance them" and how that included me but then explained how they did not feel that "any amount of empathy or understanding they offered me has made me feel safe." 
(That is what you call a slap in the face)

She then stated that they hoped I would be able to participate in the future once I had changed and taken their message to heart.
(Lines on the chalk board will read, "I won't speak up about being assaulted if the victimizer is well-liked or had been involved with someone in a position of power.")
The letter ended by wishing me "the happiness I deserved."
(Wow, I wonder how much that would be?)          

In the end they stopped inviting me to their events, however they did not stop inviting the person who obtained consent through fraud.

They banned a victim so that the victimizer could legally attend.
That is as far away from “sex positive” and “feminist” as you can get…

          One of my biggest issues with "I'd Tap That" is that, despite their claims, they are extremely dismissive when it comes to the safety of their patrons.  For instance, they claimed they would continue to allow the person who victimized me to attend because their aim is to "educate".
No, just no.
The importance of educating of someone who sexually victimizes others should not be placed above keeping people safe and providing a safe space for survivors.
I, as a survivor, am not pleased with the fact that they would treat us as sacrificial lambs so that predators might have a chance of being "educated".

Furthermore, exactly what education can be provided at a bar with alcohol and "sex booths"? 
Any person who actually supported consent would understand that alcohol affects everyone differently and intoxicated people cannot legally consent. 
(If you can't be driving a car or signing legal documents you should not be having sex. The only exceptions to this are circumstances in which everything is openly discussed and agreed upon ahead of time. Consent should NEVER be assumed.)

"I'd Tap That" defends this by saying the sex booths are "consent monitored". 
The people monitoring the booths didn't appear to be standing around with breathalyzers so they were just assuming people's state of intoxication. 
(You're semi conscious and smiling in your drunken stupor, hanging off someone's arm? You look into it! YOU'RE GOOD TO GO! Into the rape-er- I mean sex booths with you!)

"Consent monitored" or not, allowing these "sex booths" is extremely problematic and ultimately the organizers of "I'd Tap That" are setting up people to be assaulted.. at a self-proclaimed "sex positive" "safe space".

           Even if by some freak chance they invite me back, I refuse to attend.
I cannot, and will not, support an organization that calls themselves a “safe space” but knowingly allows unsafe persons to attend their events and therefore subjects potentially vulnerable people to predators.
I cannot, and will not, support an organization that so blithely lies about being “sex positive” and “feminist” while banning a victim so that the person who sexually victimized them can attend.
I cannot, and will not, support an organization that does not stay true to their mission statement and one that does not truly value consent.

I think the world is already plagued with enough rape culture.
I don’t know about you, but I will not support an organization that revictimized a victim.