Last night, the screening at Pace University exceeded my expectations. The seats were full, about 50% male, and the crowd was at varying stages of comfort and exposure to the topic of sex, consent, assault and boundaries. Once the lights went up, the hands shot up. Two passionate student leaders from Students Organized Against Rape, and a representative from the counseling center joined me on the panel. Having students tell their peers why they chose to bring THE LINE and why the film is relevant and meaningful to their lives was a great way to kick off discussion. It helped me understand what is going on for them, and allowed the students to guide the conversation. We decided to challenge what we think as private.
The conversation moved from harassment, promiscuity, risky behavior, “rape culture” and sexual exploration. We talked about bystander behavior, and what some of the barriers are to calling someone out – generally fear and shame. I asked the audience what they thought the root of rape culture is, and we discussed religion and the indoctrinated belief that sex is bad, a sin, and shameful. The students were direct, asking their male counterparts to step up and help create the solution. I have a feeling that a men’s group could blossom by next year.
One young woman asked me (and I loved it), “well, let’s say you meet someone in Times Square and you decide to go home with him, just like that… I mean…talking about ‘your line’ is something that takes time.” She’s totally right. It can take time, sleeping with complete strangers can be risky, and that provided a great moment to talk about casual sex and how it can and should still be respectful. Another student chimed in, “being young is about exploring sexuality, and we all have a right to do that and be safe, without judgment.”
Another student asked me if I said “no” loudly enough – and said, “by consenting to going to his house and getting in bed…” and someone replied: “just because someone invites you over for dinner, doesn’t mean you can steal their silverware, plates and napkin holders when you leave!”
When we finished, the line snaked through the room with people holding up stickers waiting to be photographed. It felt positively revolutionary! Check out the rest of the photos and feel free to comment!